Activ8me eyes Globalstar and Iridium satphone users

By Ry Crozier on Feb 6, 2009 8:01 AM
Filed under Communications

Satellite broadband provider Activ8me will take on the ageing Iridium and Globalstar satellite phone networks by selling Optus Thuraya mobile satphone services and handsets.

The company, which already has a wholesale arrangement with the IPSTAR satellite for broadband access, said it has inked a three-year wholesale deal with Optus to sell services and handsets that operate using the Thuraya-3 satellite.

Thuraya-3 was launched in January 2008 and extended the Thuraya coverage network to include Australia for the first time.

Existing satphone offerings in Australia operate on either the Iridium satellite network (available through Telstra and Pivotel) or the Globalstar network (also available via Pivotel).

"Until Thuraya-3 launched, there was no Thuraya network coverage in Australia so people were stuck with using the Globalstar network or Iridium handsets that are like bricks," Bob Hinrichs, product manager at Activ8me, told iTnews.

"Satphones used to cost a minimum of $2,000, and even with government subsidies upfront costs were still a fair chunk of money. By the time you put the subsidies on Thuraya phones, the upfront costs are comparatively modest."

Government-subsidised Thuraya handset costs can be as low as zero dollars upfront and $20 per month, Hinrichs said.

"Up until the end of March, we're also offering a $300 cashback to people who trade in a Globalstar phone," he said.

Hinrichs said that while the Federal Government's satellite phone subsidy scheme was useful for promoting take-up, his and other firms had yet to see the government re-commit to funding the scheme past June 30.

"It's only funded until the end of June and the government won't take any new subsidy applications after May," Hinrichs said.

"We haven't seen any announcements on whether there will be a new scheme, even though the Glasson enquiry recommended it continue to be funded and the scope extended. A significant portion of people who have bought satellite handsets in the past have availed themselves of the scheme."

Hinrichs called on the government to extend the scheme to enable regional and rural satellite phone users to get affordable access to newer handset technology.

"The new satphones we're offering are more compact than older handsets, and have things like Bluetooth and support for Windows CE applications," Hinrichs said.

"These new capabilities should be made available to people, and modest government subsidies can bridge the divide. Satphone users shouldn't be left stranded with 10-plus year old technology - it's a bit like saying people should be happy with dial-up rather than give them broadband."

Hinrichs said he expected IPSTAR subscribers and satphone users on other networks would be primary growth channels for the new offering, but he also said targeting new verticals such as the aviation, 4WD, and fishing markets, was also in the rollout plans.

The company will seek to appoint resellers to target those recreational markets, he said.

 
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