A satellite phone is used where there is no mobile phone network. It’s most common in the army and the emergency search and rescue services, where forbidding terrain or off the grid activities require either that the satellite phone is used because there’s no cell network, or that it is used so it can’t be heard on a cell network.
You can buy a satellite phone if you have a massive wedge of money to spare. If you don’t – well you no longer have to worry about getting stuck up that mountain. Because the iPhone can be turned into a satellite phone with very little trouble. Meaning your fun, funky fashion item is now also a truly global communicator!
The idea springs from consultations with industry boffins, who’ve been trying to work out how mobile phone providers can get worldwide coverage without having to spend a fortune. The final solution: a satellite uplink, which connects your phone to the existing satellite network.
It all started with the “SafeCell” – a product developed by ASiQ to enable iPhone users to safely call while on aeroplanes. The SafeCell is an uplink device that puts the iPhone through the plane’s own satellite phone system and sends the call out through that route. It’s now reasonably common on flights from certain carriers – you’ll know if you are on a plane with SafeCell because you will be told before you take off.
Mind you, buying the App isn’t cheap – at twelve and a half thousand dollars, it’s the most expensive iPhone App on the market. You’d have to make some pretty business critical calls in midair to justify even a tenth of that figure.
ASiQ has pointed out that the SmartCell technology is Bluetooth compatible, which means that it is suitable for use with BlackBerry, Nokia and Symbian based devices. An Android App will be developed at some point in the near future.
For earthbound travellers, there’s a much more cost efficient way to make calls on the satellite network – a SPOT Connect, a device that synchs with your iPad or iPhone. The SPOT Connect is in direct communication with the Globalstar satellite network, allowing ground-bound iPhone owners to make calls over the network for as little as USD 99.99 per year (with an initial cost for the SPOT Connect device as well, of USD 169.99).
Typically, the people who may really need to use SPOT (people in remote locations where there is no guaranteed cell phone service) will have to pay more, for a service called SPOT Adventure (as yet no price advertised). Presumably the cost will still come in at way less than actually buying a satellite phone.
So here’s another alternative – Iridium have now brought out a genuine satellite phone, which isn’t connected to any specific contract and which costs about the same as a brand new iPhone. The downside: calls to landlines could cost as much as a tenner per minute, which seems to be a lot just for the privilege of phoning someone up from the North Pole to tell them you have just been bitten by a penguin.
As with anything, it all comes down to what you like, what you want and what you can afford. The need for anyone to make a phone call from a plane ever is entirely beyond me, unless of course you’re going down in flames and you want to talk to your loved ones one last time before you hit the ground. The only people I can imagine really needing to get in touch with work while they are in the air are the kind of people who hire private jets where a satellite phone is already part of the service.
On the other hand, for bragging rights alone (you have to have some pretty serious capital behind you if you’re going to spend USD 12,500 on an iPhone App), then why the heck not? Who knows what they’ll bring out next – maybe you will be able to hook up directly with the Hubble Telescope for a couple of million too!
About the Author:
The above article is composed and edited by Eva K. She is associated with many Technologies communities as their freelance writer and adviser. In her free time she writes articles related to social media, wireless broadband etc.