Here's a way to stay connected when traveling outside your wireless carrier's network.
Last week Globalstar introduced Sat-Fi, an upcoming voice and data solution that allows consumers to access the Internet, make calls and send texts with their own Wi-Fi devices when outside their wireless carrier's range. The new service is compatible with smartphones, tablets, laptops and so on thanks to a hot spot device and app.
According to the company, two billion people live, work or play beyond the range of terrestrial networks. These include emergency responders, recreational or commercial boat owners, avid outdoor recreationalists and so on. Needless to say, there's a market for satellite-based networking.
"Whether on land or at sea, Sat-Fi subscribers will be able to maintain constant, reliable connectivity when traveling in and out of cellular coverage with seamless handoff capabilities, while permitting numerous individuals to communicate through a single Sat-Fi hot spot using their existing devices and phone numbers," reads the company's press release.
Unfortunately, the details are slim for now. Based on the description, users will receive a hotspot that connects to the company's new satellite constellation. How many simultaneous connections the hotspot can handle is unknown at this point, but the app will likely provide the calling (VoIP?) and texting aspect.
"Now that we have completed the deployment of our new constellation, Sat-Fi will have global appeal to those who need reliable connectivity beyond the cellular grid," says Jay Monroe, Chairman and CEO of Globalstar. "As we continue to seamlessly integrate our satellite services into the everyday lives of our increasingly expanding subscriber base, this scalable technology represents a giant leap forward in achieving this fundamental goal."
However, don't start writing hate mail to your wireless carrier just yet. Globalstar still needs a final FCC certification, which is expected to be granted in 2Q 2014. After that, the company will market and sell the product offering through its enterprise, government and consumer distribution network.
Do we really need satellite-based networking? Will users be able to dump their existing wireless carriers? Globalstar isn't pitching the service as a replacement, but as a secondary connection. However, there's a good chance that prices may keep customers from leaving their carriers completely. We'll find out this spring/summer.