Smart unveils service that turns smartphones into satellite phones

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By Tom Noda Underscoring the importance of satellite communication after Super Typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc in the Philippines last year, Smart Communications has launched a new service that instantly transforms smartphones into satellite phones. [caption id="attachment_16218" align="aligncenter" width="620"]From left are Thuraya vice president of distribution Bilal El Hamoui, Smart Global Access group head Tina Mariano, and Smart public affairs head Ramon Isberto From left are Thuraya vice president of distribution Bilal El Hamoui, Smart Global Access group head Tina Mariano, and Smart public affairs head Ramon Isberto[/caption] Orlando Vea, chief wireless advisor of Smart, cited the importance of satellite communication, recalling how typhoon Yolanda toppled power and communication lines and made many parts of Eastern Visayas out of reach for days except through the use of satellite devices. ?The disaster brought about great awareness of satellite communications as a vital lifeline in extreme scenarios,? Vea said. ?The benefits of satellite communication became perceptible, setting off a demand for this technology to be made available to a wider public and fast.? The new service, branded as SmartSAT, is a combined airtime voice services and handset offer. It is bundled with mobile satellite handsets called SatSleeve, a portable dock that has versions compatible with iPhone 5 and 5s, and Samsung Galaxy S4 units. Included also in SmartSAT is the XT, a rugged stand-alone satellite phone unit designed to withstand tough environments. SmartSAT is part of Smart?s multi-year deal with company partner Thuraya Telecommunications, a UAE-based mobile satellite services provider. Smart used to only offer the SatSleeve and XT satellite devices in the maritime industry after forging the deal with Thuraya in September last year. According to Smart Global Access group head Tina Mariano, the deal Thuraya expanded Smart?s satellite coverage to over 160 countries, including major sea lanes in Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Middle East, Africa Europe, and Indian Ocean. [gallery type="slideshow" ids="16220,16219"] Charles Lim, Smart EVP and head of wireless consumer business, said that with SmartSAT, the company is branching out of its niche in the maritime industry and now heading into new markets for satellite communication. ?With SmartSAT, Smart targets critical and demanding fields such as the media, the military and the country?s disaster and emergency response agencies,? Vea said, noting the company is also catering to business groups and even private individuals who need the security of having back-up or enhanced mobile coverage. Smart?s early satellite business is the Smart Marino PhonePal, a prepaid, IVR PIN-based calling service that allows seafarers to make voice calls from their ships with the lowest satellite rates at P18 per minute. Smart reported that Marino PhonePal terminals are now deployed to over 1,000 vessels after forging deals with 100 manning agencies, maritime organizations, schools and training centers to promote the service. ]]>

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