April 18th, 2010

IsatPhone Pro

Posted by Ben in Communications, Gear, Satphones

Inmarsat have announced a new handheld satphone seemingly designed to compete with Thuraya’s handheld offerings, such as the Thuraya XT and other such robust weather and dust resistant devices.

The IsatPhone Pro offers features such as satellite telephony, voicemail, text/email messaging, GPS location data, a claimed up to 8 hours talk time and up to 100 hours standby time, Bluetooth, and worldwide coverage.

Bear in mind that both Inmarsat and Thuraya’s handheld models are geared for voice, not data, capability. Inmarsat says the IsatPhone Pro will not initially offer a real data connection, although it does say it can receive SMS and short emails on the phone itself, and that “a circuit-switched data service at 2.4kbps is expected to be available … by Q1 2011”. The Thuraya XT on the other hand does offer data capability but only at the still-relatively-slow 15/60 kbps upload/download.

So if you’re looking for a robust and weatherproof satphone (both are IP54 rated) to use for voice calls in remote areas, then these models look good. If however, you’re looking for a satphone to use for photo transmission and/or general internet use, then you will probably want to be looking at a BGAN instead, which are capable of up to 492kbps (send and receive).

A full brochure of the IsatPhone Pro is available to download here as is a Q&A document

August 23rd, 2008

Photo transmission through the years

Wade Laube, a London-based contract photographer for The Sydney Morning Herald, has written an article on the paper’s website about how the process of filing pictures has developed through the years.
Longtime professionals won’t find much to surprise them there, but it’s a useful introduction for newcomers to the industry.
ZTerm, happy days…

October 17th, 2007


Posted by Ben in Communications, Gear, Satphones


Inmarsat has brought out a new handheld satphone aimed to compete with the popular Thuraya models.
The Isatphone is a dual-mode satellite/GSM phone also capable of data use at 2400bps (satellite) and 9600bps (GSM). With these specs I don’t see it comparing that favourably to the Thurayas, especially the newer models such as the SG-2520, but it’s always good to have more competition and choice in this already narrow market.

Isatphone handset details
Isatphone brochure [PDF]
Isatphone coverage map [PDF]

November 13th, 2006

New Thuraya satphone shipping

Posted by Ben in Communications, Gear, Satphones

New Thurayas

According to this press release the new and catchily-named Thuraya SO-2510 satphone (at left) is now shipping. They’ve dubbed it “the world’s smallest and lightest satellite phone ever made”, although Globalstar have just come out with a pretty small one – the equally memorable GSP 7100.

Either way it looks pretty nice and can be found at retailers like GMPCS for around $800-$900. Probably more interesting is the Thuraya SG-2520 (at right) which should also be coming out sometime soon.

June 26th, 2006

New Thuraya satphones

Posted by Ben in Communications, Gear, Satphones

New Thurayas

Thuraya have released more details including pictures of their next-generation handsets, which they say will be available in October 2006. The SG-2520 is clearly the most appealing handset for photographers, given its data abilities.

The SO-2510 handset (left) is designed to be the smallest handset available yet – weighing in at just 150g and measuring 118 x 53 x 18.8 mm. It is satellite-only (no GSM) and is said to support GPRS. This is interesting because it implies Thuraya will begin offering GPRS type functionality over its satellite link – and therefore pricing based on the amount of data transferred, rather than per-minute pricing as now.

The SG-2520 “smartphone” handset (right) is designed with an advanced feature-set in mind. It has a 1.9 inch 262,000-pixel colour screen, Tri-Band GSM functionality for global coverage, GPRS data abilities on both satellite and GSM, 1.3 megapixel camera with 5x digital zoom, built-in advanced SMS, MMS and Email applications, SD memory card slot, GPS navigation capabilities, and Bluetooth, Infrared (IR), and USB data connectivity.

Both models have user-interfaces in 10 languages including Arabic, English, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Spanish, Russian, Urdu and Turkish.

The specifications of the SG-2520 give an idea of what sort of data speeds one may be able to get with the new handset:

GPRS capabilities – Satellite mode:
Downstream: up to 60 Kbps*
Upstream: up to 15 Kbps*

GPRS capabilities – GSM mode:
Downstream: up to 85.6 Kbps*
Upstream: up to 42.8 Kbps*

* Depends on the operator network configuration and radio access technology used.

Looks good to me…

January 14th, 2006

Very low bandwidth web browsing

Posted by Ben in General, Satphones

Google Minimal

Google has a very useful service for those of you in the field on low-bandwidth connections. Primarily designed for browsing websites on cellphones, it will also be of great use for those using laptops but with a very slow connection – e.g. standard GSM data connections and satphones. Even those using relatively fast BGANs will find it of use because the data transferred will be a lot less – thus saving on your satphone bill.
The ultra-minimalist Google site acts as a proxy that strips out all the fancy stuff and reduces the chosen website to either pure text, or text & images. Give it a try – you’ll find it here or click on the image above. Or to see how this site looks in pure text form – click here

October 27th, 2005

Next-Generation Thurayas

Posted by Ben in Communications, Satphones

thuraya-icon1 thuraya-icon2

Thuraya has announced the next-generation of handheld satphones that it says will become available in early 2006.
Here’s a few excerpts from the full press release about the new cellphone-sized handsets:

“The sleek and stylish satellite phone combines satellite, GSM and GPS, with built-in GPRS, MMS and JAVA features. The GPRS feature allows an always-on access to internet. Users will be able to download and upload information using Thuraya’s satellite network anywhere in the coverage area. Similarly, the GPRS capabilities can also be enjoyed on the GSM mode.”

“Additionally, the new satellite phone has a tri-band GSM system that allows it to operate on different GSM networks (900, 1800 and 1900 MHz) and it also has many high-end GSM features such as a built-in camera, video, a high resolution colour screen and a multi-language support.”

“The new phone comes in three versions: a satellite-only version designed for those requiring mobile connectivity in areas beyond terrestrial networks, and a Satellite/GSM version that is geared towards existing GSM users requiring mobile connectivity and roaming in areas beyond terrestrial networks. Both come with superior GPS navigational features that allow users to find locations and reach destinations safely and quickly. The third version is a satellite modem that is designed for integration and use with other devices.”

They haven’t released any pictures that I could find, except a brief glimpse in this advert on their website and Thuraya CEO Yousuf Al Sayed describes them in this video.

October 21st, 2005

Wired Inmarsat article

Posted by Ben in Communications, Satphones


If you’ve ever wondered exactly what it is up in space that you are pointing your satphone to – Wired has a good article all about the new Inmarsat-4 satellites that will provide the next-generation of BGAN coverage for satphone users.

August 3rd, 2005

BGAN coverage hole over West Africa

Posted by Ben in Africa, Communications, Satphones

West Africa

Since the switch over to the new Inmarsat-4 F-1 Satellite BGAN satphones can now be used all the way down to South Africa which is good news. But the switch has also left a gaping coverage hole over parts of West Africa (plus northern England and Portugal) that will only be filled once the Inmarsat-4 F-2 satellite becomes operational over the Americas sometime in 2005/2006. Until that happens, it seems that you will not be able to use BGANs in these West African countries:

Western Sahara – Mauritania – Senegal – Mali – Guinea – Gambia – Guinea-Bissau – Sierra Leone – Liberia

July 29th, 2005

New BGAN satphone models pricing

Posted by Ben in Communications, Satphones

U.S. satphone outlet GMPCS has published a pdf flyer comparing some of the different models of new BGAN satphones expected later this year. In it, they reveal their approximate pricing (and at this stage it is likely just that) of the different models, which are all (expectedly) a fair bit more expensive than the current regional-BGAN satphone… but then they do a whole lot more, and much faster.

AddValue Wideye Sabre: Approx. Price: $1,795
Nera WorldPro 1000: Approx. Price: $2,550
Hughes HNS-9201: Approx. Price: $3,550

Hughes Original R-BGAN
: Approx. Price: $499

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