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SciTech

Smart Communications, Dubai's Thuraya enter satellite service deal


Smart Communications Inc. and Dubai-based Thuraya Telecommunications Co. are into a business deal for the Philippine telco to expand satellite coverage to two-thirds of the world.
 
Thuraya owns and operates a satellite over Europe and East Africa and another over Asia Pacific. These hardware would allow access to Smart Satellite Services from land areas and major sealanes in Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Indian Ocean.
 
Orlando Vea, Smart chief Wireless Advisor, told reporters in a briefing the company allocated $20 million for the tie up with the Thuraya to build the infrastructure and pay for the equipment.
 
The latest and exclusive tie-up is expected to double or even triple the number of users of Smart satellite services through Smart Link, Vea noted. “Smart was looking for innovation and Thuraya was there. It is actually mobile meets satellite,” he said.
 
One of the products unveiled at the briefing was the Marino PhonePal, a satellite voice call service that can provide satellite coverage while at sea.
 
Tina Mariano, Smart Global Access Group head, said the Marino Phonepal was an expansion of the Smart Link services which primarily covered only Asia Pacific. “Quality-wise, it’s a world of difference between the existing service and the Marino Phonepal,” she noted.
 
“The Marino Phonepal is powered by an active antenna which means that the antenna will follow the satellite even as a ship moves,” Vea said. 
 
Mariano told reporters the partnership targets the 700,000 Filipino seafarers working around the world. 
 
The Philippines accounts for about 30 percent of 1.2 million seafarers worldwide.
 
To be released in October is Thuraya SatSleeve — a portable dock which can transform a regular iPhone into a portable satellite phone unit. Mounting the iPhone into SatSleeve switches the handset to satellite mode, allowing users to make calls, send SMS, and access mobile data even in places without cellular signal.
 
"This makes satellite communication simpler and more accessible to people in the media, military, mining, tourism and more. With Smart's widest cellular coverage in the country and Thuraya's satellite footprint that reaches even the remotest areas in the Philippines and beyond, a communications dead spot is now a thing of the past for mobile users," Vea said.
 
"You have to understand that it works with an iPhone, so the specs needs to match with the product,” Bilal El Hammoui, Thuraya vice president of Distribution noted. 
 
While also serving as a backup battery for the iPhone, the device features a programmable SOS button that can be used in case the iPhone breaks down. — VS, GMA News
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