Smart launches new satellite service here

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014


SMART Communications, Inc. (Smart) launched Wednesday the SmartSat, a highly anticipated service that brings the benefits of satellite communications to a broader consumer market.

Under SmartSat, the mobile leader now offers the SatSleeve, a portable dock that transforms a smartphone into an instant satellite device. One version is compatible with iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s handsets, while another works with Samsung Galaxy S4 units.

Smart also offers the XT, a stand-alone satellite phone unit that is specially made to withstand tough environments.

Both the SatSleeve and XT give users access to voice calls, emails, text messages and data services even in areas where cellular coverage is compromised.

SmartSAT package

Each of the devices is offered in a SmartSat package worth P38,500, inclusive of a special satellite SIM with an initial airtime credit load of about $225 or around P10,000, valid for one year.

A voice call from a remote area costs about $0.57 per minute to Smart, Sun and PLDT numbers, and $0.80 per minute to other networks.

International calls range from $0.57 to $5.75, depending on the location.

On the other hand, SMS service costs $0.23 per message, while data service is charged $0.015 for every 10kb. Contacting the customer care hotline on satellite mode is free of charge. Prepaid load cards will be available to subscribers to maintain the satellite services.

Carving out new markets

"With SmartSat, the company's satellite services arm is branching out of its niche in the maritime industry and is going into new markets to benefit from satellite communications," said Charles A. Lim, Smart EVP and head of Wireless Consumer Business.

"Smart targets critical and demanding fields such as the media, the military, and the country’s disaster and emergency response agencies. We are also catering to business groups and even private individuals who need the security of having a back-up or enhanced mobile coverage," he added.

Vital lifeline

SmartSat seeks to empower Filipinos with boundless connectivity and addresses a need that was dramatically highlighted by recent disasters," said Orlando B. Vea, Smart chief wireless advisor.

Vea cited the country's experience in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda, which toppled power and communication lines and rendered many parts of Eastern Visayas out of reach for days except through the use of satellite devices.

"The disaster brought about greater awareness of satellite communications as a vital lifeline in extreme scenarios," said Vea. "The benefits of satellite communication became perceptible, setting off a demand for this technology to be made available to a wider public and fast."

Satellite coverage

"The advent of compact satellite devices like the SatSleeve and XT with affordable service rates reinforces the case to owning a personal satellite device,” said Tina Z. Mariano, head of Smart Global Access group.

Smart offers both devices under its strategic partnership with mobile satellite services provider Thuraya Telecommunications Company (Thuraya), which was forged in September last year.

The deal expanded Smart’s satellite coverage to over 160 countries or two-thirds of the world, including major sealanes in Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Indian Ocean.

Following its partnership with Thuraya, Smart's satellite business arm launched 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 has since deployed Marino PhonePal terminals to over 1,000 vessels and forged deals with over 100 manning agencies, maritime organizations, schools, and training centers to promote the service.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 06, 2014.

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