Using a Bluetooth connection, Thuraya SatSleeve enables a smartphone owner to adapt the phone to satellite coverage and so use it anywhere in the world.

SatSleeve Puts Satellite Technology in the Hands of Smartphone Users

Up to now satellite phones have not been very much used by the average consumer. They have been reserved mainly for use in emergency situations in regions of the world where terrestrial network coverage is lacking. As well as being uncomfortably chunky, these phones are usually steeply-priced. Now Thuraya, the international mobile satellite services provider based in Dubai, has set out to change that with its SatSleeve product. SatSleeve, as the name implies, looks like a protective case, but is in fact a satellite docking station which transforms your smartphone into a satellite phone using a Bluetooth connection. The adapter is linked to the Thuraya satellite network and thus allows you to use call and SMS functionality wherever you are in the world.

Switching your iPhone to satellite phone mode

The Thuraya engineers have met the challenge of building a pocket satellite-equipped device. Your smartphone fits into SatSleeve as it would into any other standard protective case. The adapter-docking station comes with its own SIM card, plus antenna, earpiece and microphone, together with a 2,400 mAh Lithium ion battery which acts as a backup for the iPhone, thus enabling you “to operate for longer periods of time without worrying about power running out”, claims Thuraya. In addition, Thuraya SatSleeve comes with a dedicated red emergency call button for users to make a voice call to a predefined number in an emergency situation, even when the iPhone is not docked. To get up and running with SatSleeve you just need to download the Thuraya app onto your smartphone – from the Apple App Store – which enables the sleeve to link its own SIM card to that of the iPhone and connect the phone via Bluetooth to Thuraya’s satellite network.

Current limitations

Thuraya has two satellites which provide cover in Europe, Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Australia. The company has now extended its reach by partnering with various operators worldwide, such as AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States, for roaming services. As a Thuraya SatSleeve user you can therefore stay connected almost anywhere in the world. However, as SatSleeve works with a satellite network, its founders recognise that it cannot match the fastest Internet speeds. So while they claim that you can still use social media, receive emails and download photos, they acknowledge that video streaming could prove difficult at the present time. Moreover, for the foreseeable future SatSleeve is only available for the iPhone, although Thuraya has expressed its intention of developing an Android version further down the line.

By Pauline Trassard