Satellite-based communications in the Philippines is still a niche service, used primarily by people engaged in disaster response, sea patrolling, military mission and in situations where reliable communication is required.
Soon this will change with more people having access to the service via two products Marino PhonePal and SatSleeve. The Marino PhonePal is the only local satellite voice call service that can provide true satellite coverage while at sea, while the upcoming SatSleeve which can transform a regular iPhone into a portable satellite phone unit in seconds.
The two products were unveiled during an event where Smart Communications, Inc. announced its partnership with Thuraya Telecommunications Company, a world-leading mobile satellite services provider.
The partnership aims to make satellite communications services “more accessible, affordable and relevant” to a wider market.
“With this enhanced mobility and accessibility of our satellite services, we can serve better not only the maritime market, but also other critical and demanding fields such as the media, the military and the country’s disaster and emergency response agencies,” said Orlando B. Vea, chief wireless advisor for Smart.
With Thuraya, Smart has expanded its satellite footprint to cover two-thirds of the world.
Smart Satellite Services are now accessible in the land areas and major sealanes in Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Indian Ocean.
“Aside from giving us broader coverage, our partnership with Thuraya enables us to offer our customers a broader range of services, including text messaging and mobile data applications” said Charles A. Lim, Smart’s EVP and head of wireless consumer business.
The Marino Phonepal is a prepaid, IVR PIN-based calling service that enables seafarers to make voice calls from their ships, even while in the middle of the sea. It offers the lowest “call home” satellite rates at P18 per minute.
Smart has already provided free Marino Phonepal units to ship managers in several ships with Filipino crewmembers to allow the crew to call their families at home.
Soon to be available, the SatSleeve is an interesting new product. It is a portable dock that allows iPhone users to switch from cellular to satellite mode just by mounting the phone into the device. It has call, SMS and mobile data capabilities allowing users to use the phone just as they would in a cellular network.
“This makes satellite communication simpler and more accessible to people in the media, military, mining, tourism and more,” said Vea. “With Smart’s widest cellular coverage in the country and Thuraya’s satellite footprint that reaches even the remotest areas in the Philippines and beyond, a communications dead spot is now a thing of the past for mobile users.”
Smart is also now partnering with national agencies and select humanitarian and rescue organizations for the use of the SatSleeve in disaster preparedness and emergency communications.
“In a disaster-prone country like ours, we should be always ready for calamities and emergencies. Smart Satellite Services provides emergency agencies greater flexibility in responding to calamities,” said Vea.
Marino Phonepal and SatSleeve are just two of the products lined up in the portfolio of Smart Satellite Services. Company officials are optimistic to grow the satellite business with the inclusion of other industries and the distribution of products and services to international markets.
Smart Satellite Services currently serve the local maritime industry of more than 700,000 registered Filipino seafarers who comprise the largest nationality group in the worldwide seafaring workforce. Smart has also established partnership with 200 accredited manning agencies and leading maritime organizations, schools and training centers.