Stock smartphone-to-satellite kit provides anywhere internet

Inmarsat's new satellite hotspot is out. Here's what you need to know.

isathub lead image
Credit: Satellitephonestore.com

For those itching to pick up the new Inmarsat IsatHub satellite hotspot, I’m assured by salesperson Callie at SatellitePhoneStore that it is indeed available for order now. It also shows up on Global Telsat Communications website as available to order in the UK.

For those unfamiliar with just what this product is, I can explain—it’s basically a way to use your existing smartphone or tablet seamlessly with a satellite link. In other words, you can talk and use the internet with existing stock smartphone apps even while out of range of cellular or fixed service. No satphone required either.

Inmarsat is a major satellite communications provider.

For those of us who try to get work done out of range of normal mobile phone service—like out in the boonies—it’s an attractive proposition. If you can afford it.

What you get

Global service includes IP data at 240 kbps send and 384 kbps receive. That’s obviously nowhere near the speeds offered by cable service in the city, but comparable to, if not a bit better than, wireless 3G and iffy 4G LTE.

So it will be perfectly acceptable for emails and a bit of text-oriented web browsing. A dedicated circuit-switched voice line is included, as is SMS-style texting.

Speeds depend on how many people are using the service at the same time.

How it works

The idea is that you download a “control” app to your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Android device. The app provides setup and lets you control data access and see how much data you’ve used. A voice app lets you make calls. It works even with a Wi-Fi-only smartphone or tablet device.

The app handshakes the smartphone to the IsatHub terminal, which in turn connects to the same constellation that Inmarsat satphones connect to.

I use an Inmarsat satphone. It works fine.

As with Inmarsat’s other products you can connect anywhere that you have a view of the sky, except at the poles.

The terminal

Addvalue’s 7x6.5x1-inch Wideye iSavi comprises the Wi-Fi hotspot terminal. It’s about the size of a paperback book, if you remember those. It’s also about the size of an e-reader.

Battery life, in-use, is 2.5 hours and eight hours standby, and Wi-Fi range for connecting to a smartphone is 100 feet.

It comes with an included charger, but inconveniently, it doesn’t use USB for charging—unlike Inmarsat’s phones. Weight is a bag-of-sugar-like, a little over 1 ¾ pounds.

Plans

As you might expect, pricing isn’t particularly easy to swallow.

The entry level plan at SatellitePhoneStore comes in at $59.99 a month for just 10 MB, with additional megabytes at $5.99. Voice minutes are $1.78. Roll over is available for $10. And a U.S. number, rather than sometimes-expensive-to-call satellite number, is available for $10 a month.

A more expensive plan, at $499.99 a month, will give you 300 MB, with adjustments to the voice minutes, too.

GTC, another supplier, has other plans, including one with no included megabytes for $18.50 and then $3.75 a MB. More complicated shared plans are also available.

Don’t forget to add the terminal at $1,499 from SatellitePhoneStore in the U.S. and GBP 795 from GTC in the UK. Other suppliers exist too.

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