[10 July 2014] Amid growing concerns over natural calamities hitting the country, local government units and agencies are acquiring satellite devices as an essential component of their disaster preparedness efforts.
Amid growing concerns over natural calamities hitting the country, local government units and agencies are acquiring satellite devices as an essential component of their disaster preparedness efforts.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management (NDRRMC), which promotes disaster consciousness this month with the theme, "Kahandaan at Kaligtasan ng Pamayanan, Pundasyon ng Kaunlaran," aims to provide six satellite phones in every region to beef up its communication capability in times of disaster.
On the other hand, the city government of Manila, among others, has obtained satellite phones for their team of responders’ back-up means of communication during calamities.
Dependent on a network of satellites above the earth for the transmission of communication signals, satellite devices provide a lifeline in situations when cellular coverage is compromised, such as after a strong earthquake or typhoon.
Satellite technology for the public
“After the earthquake in Bohol and Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas, there has been a greater appreciation for the role of satellite technology in disaster response, and a demand for satellite devices to be made available to the public,” said Tina Z. Mariano, head of the Global Access Group of wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart).
To address this demand, Smart launched early this year SmartSAT, the country’s first and only satellite-powered communication service that brings the benefits of satellite technology to the wider public.
With this new service, firms, agencies and individuals may avail of the SmartSAT SatSleeve, a device that turns an iPhone 5, iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxy S4 into a satellite phone instantly. Also available is the XT, a stand-alone satellite phone unit that is ruggedized to withstand tough environments.
Using SmartSAT, anyone can send messages, make voice calls, and access data even when cellular networks are down. “SmartSAT serves many purposes, but on top of everything, it provides a back-up means of communication in case of emergencies and is a must-have in every disaster preparedness kit,” Mariano said.
“Aside from government agencies, business firms have also tapped SmartSAT for their business continuity plans, and even individuals have acquired a unit for their family’s own preparation,” Mariano added.
Wide satellite coverage around the world
SmartSAT taps the wide satellite coverage of its partner, Thuraya Telecommunications Company, whose coverage spans 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.
A SmartSAT package is worth PhP38,500, inclusive of the device and an initial airtime credit load of US$ 225, valid for one year.
With the SatSleeve or the XT, a voice call made within the coverage area costs $0.57 or about PHP25 per minute to Smart, Sun, and PLDT numbers, and $0.80, equivalent to around PHP35, per minute to other networks. SmartSAT users can also make calls to more than 100 of the most frequently called countries for only $0.57, or PHP25, per minute.
On the other hand, SMS service costs $0.23 or PHP10 per message, while data service is charged $0.015 or seven centavos for every 10kb. Contacting the customer care hotline on satellite mode is free of charge. Prepaid load cards at 35, 100, and 250-unit denominations are available to subscribers.