Satellite communications ‘ideal’ for disaster-prone Philippines

BEING one of the most disaster-prone countries in Asia Pacific, US-based global satellite operator Iridium Communications believes its newest handset is ideal for disaster and humanitarian response in the Philippines.

Joel Thompson , vice president and general manager of Iridium’s terrestrial business unit, met with the Cebu stakeholders on Tuesday, particularly the Cebu Provincial Government, and some humanitarian organizations and multinational companies that maintain local operations to introduce the Iridium PTT (Push-To-Talk) handsets.

“It works exactly like land mobile radio, except it works over the satellites. In situations where you have emergencies or humanitarian efforts or disasters, terrestrial infrastructure can be damaged or destroyed, our infrastracture in Iridium is in space,” Thompson explained, referring to the 66 satellites orbiting the Earth.

Iridium Communications has partnered with a Cebu-based firm Spingine Corp. for the commercialization of the Iridium PTT in the Philippines.

The satellite communications firm commercialized the product in 2015 and Thompson said the Iridium PTT has already penetrated countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Belgium, and Argentina.

The Iridium PTT are also marketed to private firms that intend to address their communication needs in areas where there is weak presence or absence of cellular infrastructure.

“We know that only 20 percent of the world are covered by cellular communications,” Thompson said.

With the use of the Iridium PTT, one would have to select a “talk group,” and press the PTT button. Communication goes to the Iridium satellite in Phoenix, USA. It then identifies the talk group and broadcasts the voice, all in about half a second, said Thompson.

With international humanitarian groups availaing of Iridium PTT, Thompson advised local governments togain access, the Philippines being a disaster-prone area.

“If one organization comes to help, and the local government here has the PTT, even if they bought their phones separately from other locations, they can connect together,” he assured.

One Iridium PTT handset costs some $1,500. With Iridum’s partnership with Spingine Corp., the local counterpart can offer the handset and the service as a postpaid plan and come up with a monthly subscription fee spread over a two to three-year period to make the handset and service affordable to the stakeholders.

Thompson clarified that the service does not compete with the voice and data of the major telcos in the country, emphasizing that satellite communications are for more specialized operations.

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