You’ve probably heard of satellite phones, and most of you would probably associate the product with big bulky phones that you take if you’re disappearing into the bush or something, not something that might be useful to the more common, average person. If you’re like me, you probably don’t disappear off the beaten track too often, but even so, there’s plenty of places around Australia where mobile signal just isn’t reliable (or even present) … and if you need to communicate when you’re in one of those places, a satellite phone might be one of very few options.
Satellite has always been kind of expensive (and let’s face it, it still is) but it’s getting more affordable, and this week’s announcement by Pivotel of their new Big Bundle satellite plan will be welcome for those who need coverage in places where there isn’t any from traditional mobile networks, but who don’t want to run two separate mobile plans to cover their needs
What is it?
Pivotel’s Big Bundle is a hybrid mobile and satellite plan that brings together the best of both, and most importantly, brings typical mobile network pricing to the traditionally more expensive satellite networks.
Pivotel CEO Peter Bolger said the new solution aims to help Australians stay in touch with friends and family from anywhere in the country, including notorious black spots areas, without the fear of satellite bill shock while providing them a single account for their mobile and their satellite services.
“Satellite phones have most commonly been used for emergency calls only as the cost per minute to talk is generally considered high compared to what we are used to with current mobile phone plans.
For the first time in the satellite communications industry, we have engineered a new way to deliver a complete coverage solution, with customers enjoying unlimited voice and SMS to standard numbers while using the mobile service and having peace of mind that they have a very large satellite value bundle to use when outside of mobile coverage.”
The service allows Pivotel customers to forward their normal mobile service to the Pivotel satellite service when outside coverage areas, meaning family and friends need only remember one number, and they’ll get through no matter what.
How much is it?
For $99 a month, Big Bundle customers receive two sets of inclusions:
- Unlimited calls and SMS, with 2GB data to use on the cellular service
- $400 worth of value for voice, SMS and data when on satellite service
Pivotel have confirmed their pricing for the included $400 value as follows:
- Calls will be charged at $0.99 per minute
- SMS at $0.50 per message
- Data at $5.00 per megabyte
Depending on how customers use that included value, that’s up to 400 minutes of calls, 800 SMS, or about 80MB of data. Now, you might not think that’s an awful lot, especially when it comes to the data, but satellite data is very expensive to provide, and thus it isn’t cheap for the customer either.
However, those inclusions could be more than enough to stay in touch while off camping for a week, to deal with a few urgent emails, upload a few photos to Facebook, and allow the kids to speak to their grandparents while you’re in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
Convenience to one side, this offers significant peace of mind for those who do travel widely, because the service would allow people to stay in touch by calls and SMS wherever they are, quite easily. Suffered a vehicle breakdown and hundreds of miles from help? Fire up the satellite phone and call it in. Lost in the bush and can’t call for help? With this, you can.
How does it work?
Pivotel’s Big Bundle satellite service is delivered using the Thuraya network. It doesn’t quite have global coverage, but it does have coverage across Australia, New Zealand, throughout Asia, Europe and Africa. You use your existing smartphone, along with a product called the SatSleeve, which pairs with your Android or iOS device using WiFi. When connected, you can use your smartphone like you normally would, and make / receive satellite calls and SMS easily.
Of course, the SatSleeve is a bit bulky, so you probably wouldn’t use it on a daily basis, but you can easily clip it onto your phone when in the wilder parts of Australia for use when needed.
When you’re not using the satellite part of the Big Bundle, of course, you just use your smartphone as you normally would.
We have a Pivotel SatSleeve and service in the Ausdroid office, and we’ll be trying it out over the next few weeks for a bit of a review.