Turn iPhone or Android a Satellite PhoneNot long ago, buying expensive satellite phones is the only means to send mobile calls or emails in “dead signal zone” which is beyond the coverage of cell sites. Carrying a satphone in addition to iPhone doesn’t sound a good idea considering the huge price of the two devices. So what’s the better alternative for tourists who need wireless connection in jungles, mountaintop residences or remote islands?

Recently, Apple,  ASiQ and SPOT came up with breakthrough technologies that “convert” smartphones into a satellite phone.  By integrating cellular phones with a satellite uplink device or terminal, these applications solved the biggest obstacle to worldwide coverage of mobile communication providers – cost.

ASiQ ‘s SafeCell for Inflight Calls

Late last year,  ASiQ Ltd of Australia introduced  SafeCell,  a proprietary software which enables an iPhone to connect to a satellite uplink terminal in an aircraft via Bluetooth. By simply installing the $12,500(it’s world’s most expensive cellphone application) SafeCell App, iPhone users can instantly turn their phone into a satellite-enabled handset without ruining its chic design with long antennas commonly found in satphones.

ASiQ Limited CEO Ron Chapman boasted about SafeCell’s compatibility with Bluetooth technology. This is one of the most remarkable features of SafeCell technology, which makes it functional in other smartphones like Nokia,  BlackBerry and all Symbian-based units and PDAs. The Australian firm is yet to launch an Android version.

iPhone users who installed SafeCell App will enjoy quality, low-cost air to ground services aside from voice calls. Satellite broadband,  MMS, SMS and entertainment applications are possible while on board. Passengers can retrieve the latest news, watch sports events and book a hotel room via satellite broadband.

The SC-AP terminal will interface with an existing SATCOM  system which is covered by Inmarsat and Thuraya networks and Iridium (however, only SMS and Text Email  are available for Iridium). The conventional mobile phone systems used by airlines cost hundreds of dollars and millions for some. But with SafeCell, any iPhone users boarding an airplane with SATCOM system can send calls.

SPOT Connect for Ground Calls

In May 2011,  Spot LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Globalstar Inc., introduced its SPOT Connect App. Specially designed for iPhone, iPad and iPod, the software creates a direct Bluetooth wireless connection between the phone or palmtop  and the SPOT Connect device. This portable device communicates directly with the Globalstar satellite network.

The SPOT Connect App can be downloaded for free from Apple. It is compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, iPod touch (2nd-4th generations), iPad and iPad 2. However, the device costs $169.99, while the SPOT Basic Service subscription fee starts at  $99.99 per year.

By communicating with the Globalstar satellite network, the user´s selected contacts will get a custom ‘Type′ and ‘Send′ or ‘ Predefined′ message in SMS format or email. A maximum of 14 predefined messages and 10 personal contact groups with 50 contacts each can be stored. With SPOT Connect, iPhones, iPads and iPods can access Facebook and Twitter sites. However, a more expensive service, SPOT Adventures, will be needed to send location-based messages from more isolated regions like mountains and island resorts.

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Author: 

Bradley Zarich keeps an eye on  satellite broadband trends and emerging technologies in the mobile backhaul industry. As a manager for eServe BPO’s web services accounts, he keeps the blogging community updated with the latest developments in satellite communications, consumer electronics and other industries.