MANILA, Philippines – Smart Communications Inc. – a subsidiary company owned by PLDT (Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company) – recently announced a team-up with Dubai’s Thuraya Telecommunications Co., setting aside US$20 million in effort to build a better satellite service infrastructure system, as well as acquiring the needed equipment.
According to Orlando Vea, chief wireless advisor for the aforementioned telco, the tie up with Thuraya “will more than double or triple the number of users. Smart was looking for innovation and Thuraya was there. It is actually mobile meets satellite.”
Two products were shown off as part of the team-up of the two companies: the Marino Phonepal and the SatSleeve.
The Marino Phonepal is a prepaid, IVR PIN-based, satellite voice calling service, providing satellite communications while at sea. The “call home” rates for Marino Phonepal calls are currently set at Php18 per minute.
Tina Mariano, Smart Communications’ head for its global access group, said that the partnership aims to reach the 700,000 Filipino seafaring workers around the world. Mariano added that the seafarers remitted $4.825 billion last year, accounting for 22.5% of remittances by Filipinos working overseas in the previous year. The Marino Phonepal service will also attempt to target other industries, such as the mining, military, tourism, and media sectors.
The SatSleeve, the second offering of the said wireless carrier, is a portable dock that turns iPhone units into satellite phones, allowing users to switch their phones from cellular to a portable satellite mode by docking the phone onto the device.
Smart Communications is also partnering with rescue organizations, NGOs and humanitarian groups, such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) allowing them to use the SatSleeve as means of emergency communications as an additional form of disaster preparedness in the country.