Satellite phones have certain advantages over traditional cellular phones, primarily because they can be used anywhere, even when there isn’t a cellular tower located in a few thousand miles. For anyone who needs to be in a remote area where cellular coverage isn’t available — or service is inconsistent at best — a satellite phone can serve as a lifeline to help in an emergency or as peace of mind to friends and family back home.
For someone used to using a smartphone, though, a satellite phone may feel clunky and underpowered. Technology has advanced to the point where users can communicate via Facebook and Twitter via SMS text message, and by using a data cable or terminal it’s possible to access the Internet on a tablet or laptop using the satellite phone’s connection. Unlike a smartphone, though, a satellite phone does not provide access to a wide array of applications or the Internet in the palm of your hand. When you’re used to tapping a screen to be connected to the entire world, the limitations of a satellite phone may frustrate you.
Satellite provider Globalstar aims to change all that with the introduction of Sat-Fi.
A Smartphone and Satellite Phone In One
Sat-Fi, when the FCC approves it, will revolutionize the way smartphone owners use their devices. Essentially, Sat-Fi is a service that creates a satellite hotspot for any Wi-Fi enabled device. Subscribers can use an application to create a hotspot that allows any smartphone, tablet or computer to connect to the Globalstar satellite system, and have voice and data connectivity even when there isn’t cellular service nearby.
The new Sat-Fi service presents several advantages to traditional wireless and satellite communications. For those who need to make calls via satellite, Sat-Fi will allow them to use their existing phones and phone numbers, reducing the confusion and inconvenience of managing several devices. The connection can also be used across devices, allowing for seamless integration of voice and data communication. For example, a business person working overseas or in remote locations can stay in touch with the home office via phone while simultaneously connecting to the office network via laptop.
A Coming Attraction
Sat-Fi will most likely contribute to the developments in the satellite communications field, but it’s not ready for prime time yet. The FCC still needs to approve the service, which is not expected to happen until sometime in mid-2014, and post-approval, it will take several months to bring the service to the consumer market. In the meantime, those who need satellite communication will need to buy or rent devices from a site likehttp://www.globalcomsatphone.com/rentals.html to stay in touch when cellular coverage is not available.
While Globalstar is touting the new service as the beginning of a new generation of combined satellite and terrestrial communications, opponents to the service do have some concerns. Currently Globalstar uses a 5.1 GHz spectrum to create the feeder links between terrestrial connections and satellites. Other companies want access to this spectrum for high-powered outdoor Wi-Fi equipment, and argue that doing so will not interfere with the mobile satellite services offered by Globalstar. Globalstar counters that adding additional outdoor Wi-Fi devices to the spectrum will negatively affect the level of service it is able to provide. As a result, the FCC is reviewing the regulations to determine whether to allow access to the spectrum Globalstar intends to use, but the company expects a ruling in its favor that will bring Sat-Fi to the consumer and enterprise markets.
Once Sat-Fi hits the market, it’s expected to be well-received by consumers. Globalstar predicts the service will appeal to the wide range of customers who currently use satellite phones, including emergency first responders, outdoorspeople, boaters, oil and gas workers, and industrial workers in remote sites. It’s also expected to be popular among journalists who need reliable, fast data connections to report from volatile or remote locations.
Currently, only about 10 percent of the world has access to cellular communications. Expanding access to satellite communications allows people in even the most remote or underserved areas to have the same access to communication and data, and Sat-Fi promises to be the start of a new era in truly global communication.
About the Author: Texas-based entrepreneur Steve Manley is passionate about communication and technology. He combines his love of both as the owner of Globalcom Satellite Communications, a leader in the satellite phone rental and sales market.
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