Satellite Hotspots

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 XT-hotspot or Iridium AxcessPoint.

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.

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GEOS: Are you ready for a crisis while traveling abroad?

What is GEOS?

Imagine that an Iridium 9575 EXTREME satellite phone user is traveling in a foreign country.  Unexpectedly a medical emergency occurs.  Our Iridium user is prepared.  By simply pressing the S.O.S. button on his Iridium phone, emergency personnel half way around the world receive an emergency alert containing his current GPS position.*

The Iridium user is also immediately connected with a highly trained professional at GEOS that gives him critical guidance for the emergency situation.  If needed, Search and Rescue (SAR) authorities near the Iridium user are contacted to provide additional assistance.

All this is done through the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC) in Houston Texas.  The IERCC is equipped with translation capabilities for up to 200 languages and is staffed with qualified first responders including police, firefighters, paramedics and former military personnel.  These are highly qualified professionals who have handled emergencies first hand.  During the crisis, GEOS provides a critical liaison function between family members, first responders and if necessary the Iridium user’s embassy so that all parties are kept up to date with location, medical and other pertinent information.  The liaison service remains in place until the SAR mission is resolved.

GEOS is able to respond worldwide and render aid in the rescue of savable lives on land, in the air, or at sea.  Thousands of responses in over 100 countries have been coordinated since the company was founded in 2007.

How much does it cost?

The Iridium GO! and Iridium 9575 EXTREME were specifically designed with an S.O.S. button that the Iridium user can push to quickly communicate their emergency and their GPS position.  This S.O.S. button function is programmable so that the Iridium user can define a list of people who would receive the emergency notification, either by text or email.  Also, one emergency contact can be programmed to receive a phone call.  All of this happens at the touch of a button.

Sending the S.O.S. alert notification to your friends and associates is one choice.  If you want reliable 24/7 monitoring from trained emergency response professionals, it is a better idea to configure your Iridium S.O.S. button for GEOS.

Basic service is free to all Iridium 9575 EXTREME and Iridium GO! users with a valid active Iridium SIM card.  The only cost would be standard Iridium usage charges for phone calls or SMS messages used by the S.O.S. function in communicating with GEOS.  To register for the basic service online go to: www.geosalliance.com/iridium

After registering successfully, the S.O.S. button function on your Iridium phone becomes integrated into the GEOS emergency response service.

Are medivac and repatriation services included?

The basic service plan relies on local authorities and emergency response services and does not include enhanced paid SAR, medical evacuation or repatriation services.  Customers can opt for these optional GEOS services for additional fees.  

What if you need non-emergency customer support?

Occasionally Outfitter Satellite's customers need assistance with configuration of the S.O.S. button on their Iridium phones.  The GEOS services discussed here are not offered through Outfitter Satellite so we cannot offer direct assistance. If you are in the US, you can call GEOS at 1-888-460-4554 (US only).   International callers can call GEOS at +44-203-397-2448 (London, UK).  GEOS assures a 24-hour response time on this type of customer service inquiry.

#nocellservice


*The GEOS services discussed in this article are offered and provided exclusively through GEOS and not by Iridium or Outfitter Satellite which are separate unrelated companies. The benefits described in this article (and the linked pages) require that the Iridium user register and contract separately with GEOS.  Other terms and conditions and limitations of liability are found in the Iridium 9575 EXTREME User Manual and Iridium GO! User Manual.  Outfitter Satellite cannot guarantee any Iridium user that an S.O.S. call to GEOS will succeed every time that is attempted because it is possible to have Iridium network and other technical difficulties.  The prices, terms and conditions mentioned in this article are correct as of September 15, 2015 but are subject to change without notice.

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Iridium iPad Internet Access Made Easy

Outfitter Satellite offers a lot of choices for computing over satellite.  Whether you have a PC, a Mac or tablet device like an iPad we know how to get an internet connection for you.  This article focuses on narrowband internet connections for the iPad.


The Optimizer Hotspot is an agnostic Wi-Fi hotspot that can be used to give iOS devices like an iPad access to the internet through an Iridium 9555 or 9575 satellite phone.  The Optimizer also supports Macintosh computers, most Windows platforms, and Android devices.


The main complaint against the Optimizer is that it does not have its own built-in battery.  This means you need external AC power. To resolve this drawback, Outfitter Satellite rents and sells a  Battery Pack and Solar Charger that can be used to power the Optimizer and recharge most satellite phones, smartphones and tablet devices.

Computing over satellite: Iridium Ipad internet connections require power. Outfitter Satellite offers solar chargers and external battery packs that can recharge your Iridium phone, iPad, and can directly power the Optimizer.


Iridium iPad internet data speeds are roughly 2400-2800 bps which is too slow for web browsing.  Light email communications with attachments no larger than about 100 KB work well with Iridium iPad internet.  Photo-sharing is another good application. By default, XGate compresses any photo to 300 pixels wide making it small enough for effective transmission over the Iridium network.  The XGate app allows you to control the amount of compression that is used so you can send higher resolution photos if necessary.

Physical Setup of the Optimizer and the Iridium 9555

This article assumes that you have an active Iridium SIM card through Outfitter Satellite, and that you have already downloaded the XGate email app onto your iPad.  Please call Outfitter Satellite at 615-889-8833 for a free XGate username and password.

Before you install the XGate email app on your iPad, make sure the satellite phone and Optimizer are powered up. Your Iridium satellite phone should be registered on the Iridium network and have at least 4 to 5 bars of signal. To reliably get a good signal, you should be outside in an open space well away from buildings and trees.

Connect the Optimizer to the Iridium satellite phone via Micro-USB data cable that came with the Iridium satellite phone kit.

Plug the Optimizer’s AC power adapter into a 100-240 VAC outlet and connect to the Optimizer’s  PWR port. If you have our optional Solar Charging System, select 12V on the slider switch and then connect the DC-to-DC barrel plug output cable to the Optimizer’s PWR port.

Connect your iPad via Wi-FI to the Optimizer. The Optimizer’s SSID is  wxa-102-XXXX where XXXX is the last 4 digits of the MAC address found on the bottom of the Optimizer.

Installation of XGate on an iPad :

  1. Download the XGate app from the Apple Store.

  2. Go to your iPhone or iPad’s SETTINGS and select Wi-Fi. Connect to the Optimizer’s Wi-Fi SSID which will have the form  wxa-102-XXXX.

  3. Run the XGate app. The Registration screen will ask for the SpeedMail Account Details which Outfitter Satellite provided. Remember that the password is case sensitive.

  4. Tap Save.

  5. You will be asked for additional configuration information. For Connection, use the scrolling selector to select Optimizer Iridium Handset.

  6. Tap the blue <XGate link to return to the XGate home screen.

  7. You should now be ready to send and receive email via Iridium iPad Internet.

How Iridium iPad Internet Users Use the XGate app to Send Email:

  1. Starting from the XGate Home Screen, you will see Mail, Web, Send Photo, Social Media, Weather, and Connection Control. There is also an extensive Help file.

  2. Tap Mail.

  3. For each email that you wish to send, do the following:

  1. From left to right, the iPad symbols  needed by Iridium iPad internet users are: Send/Receive Email Icon;  Create Additional Folders; Compose Email; and Attach a Photo.In the bottom right there is an icon of a box with a pen in.Tap it. Giving XGate access to your contact list is not necessary but can make sending emails easier.

  2. Enter the destination email address(es) into the To: field.

  3. Enter the subject and body text.

  4. To send an optional photo attachment, tap the Camera icon on the subject line. Select a photo from your camera roll. The high quality images in your Camera Roll will be automatically compressed by XGate to reduce transmission time. A compressed 300 pixel width image can be as small as 37KB and may typically transmit over the Iridium network in around 4-5 minutes if signal conditions are good. To send higher quality images, you can go to the XGate home screen and click Settings : Images.

In the upper right you will see Send to Outbox. Click it.

  1. Tap the blue <XGate link in the upper left corner to return to the XGate home screen. Tap on Mail again when you are ready to send/receive email.

  2. In the bottom left corner of the Mail screen, there is an icon of a box with an up arrow. Tap it. Then tap Send/Receive Mail.

  3. When the mail transfer is finished, a blue DONE link will appear at the bottom of the screen. Tap it.

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