Satellite hotspots enable the iPhone, iPad and Android to connect from the remotest places on earth. This article covers the newest satellite hotspots for Iridium, Inmarsat, Thuraya and Globalstar. Some of these satellite hotspots provide broadband internet while others only allow texting and light email or photo-sharing. But, which is the best fit for you?
Stand-Alone Satellite Hotspots
The Wideye iSavi uses the new Inmarsat IsatHub service. It is designed to be lightweight, very user friendly, and wireless. In fact, the only cord most people would ever use is the power cord. Its internal battery provides about 2.5 hours of use or about 24 hours of standby time.
Smart phones and tablets can make calls, send texts, and access the web using a free app. Laptops use a straightforward web interface to control iSavi satellite hotspots.
The ultralight 1.94 lb iSavi has a best effort data speed of 240 kbps up / 384 kbps down meaning it is much faster than Iridium, Globalstar or Thuraya. It has a similar speed performance to a class 3 Inmarsat BGAN. A built-in firewall lets you control the types of traffic that are passed. There are some downsides to the iSavi, though. At the time of this writing, no true prepaid service has been developed.
The Iridium GO! Satellite Hotspot is a stand-alone device for use with iOS and Android smart phones and tablets. Iridium GO! is a great choice for making voice calls or sending texts from your smart device. At 0.65 lbs, it is much lighter that the iSavi. In fact, it will fit in your shirt pocket. Its major weakness is its slow 2.4 kbps data speed. Clearly, it is not a broadband internet device like the iSavi, but we found it good enough for sending emails with attachments under 100KB. Web browsing is positively painful via an Iridium GO! and Outfitter Satellite does not recommend Iridium GO! to users expecting to browse the web.
Iridium GO! service plans with unlimited texting and unlimited data are available for a very reasonable monthly fee. One really great feature of the Iridium GO! is an SOS button. Just press it and it will notify a pre-defined text recipient of your emergency situation and your GPS location. Another advantage of the Iridium GO! and all Iridium products is global coverage even including the polar caps.
Outfitter Satellite offers special solar charging equipment for the Iridium GO! making it ultimately portable. For more information, see our Iridium GO! review article.
The Thuraya SatSleeve+ and SatSleeve Hotspot can be used with iOS and Android smart phones. Thuraya pioneered satellite hotspots. The original SatSleeve used Bluetooth connectivity. The new SatSleeve+ and SatSleeve Hotspot use a more reliable Wi-Fi connection. They provides Thuraya users with access to phone calls, emails, instant messages and popular social media apps right through their regular smart phone using Thuraya satellite mode with coverage across much of Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.
Wi-Fi satellite hotspots for use with stand-alone satellite phones
The Optimizer Satellite Hotspot is a peripheral device that lets you use a stand-alone satellite phone or terminal to create a satellite hotspot.
The Optimizer Satellite Hotspot works with the Iridium 9555, Iridium 9575 EXTREME, Globalstar GSP-1700, Thuraya XT, Inmarsat GSPS, or Inmarsat BGAN to use as a satellite hotspot.
If all you need is web browsing and email communications with tight control over wasted traffic, the Optimizer Satellite Hotspot is a great choice.
By default, the Optimizer Satellite Hotspot is configured to block all traffic except its own XGate email and XGate web browser software. The XGate email program automatically detects inbound emails with large attachments and allows you to make a decision as to whether you want to merely read the text of the email or download the attachment. The XGate web browser uses compression graphics in order to reduce data usage.
We recommend the Optimizer Satellite Hotspot over network specific satellite hotspots like the Thuraya
One irritating draw back of the Optimizer Satellite Hotspot is that it requires external AC power or +12 VDC power. Outfitter Satellite rents and sells a 10-Watt Solar Charging System that can be used to power the Optimizer Satellite Hotspot.
* The unlimited Globalstar plan referred to above applies to unlimited Basic Rate voice calling which does not include roaming calls or calls to international destinations. Please see complete details in the service agreement. The service plans discussed in this article exist as of the time of this writing but rates and availability of these plans are subject to change without notice.