05 Dec2013

Satellite Phone…

by Marketman


Yup, that’s what a satellite phone looks like. If only we had the foresight to stock a dozen of these at a government office (or MalacaƱan) or disaster control center so that officials headed to places about to be struck by a storm could more readily communicate with the rest of the world when local communications lines are down and out. I first laid eyes on this type of phone when a close family friend, a renowned surgeon from a famous Boston hospital, came for a visit and were our house guests at the beach. The doctor had this phone so that his office could reach him or vice versa, if some incredibly sensitive medical procedure needed his input, wherever he might be in world, literally. He tried it while on a boat between Bohol and Cebu and it worked like a dream. The actual phone unit has gotten smaller since, but it is still much larger than all the snazzy cellphones folks own these days.

At roughly $1,500(?) or so, it’s pricey, but not really when you consider what value it would provide in that real emergency. I hope folks learn from the recent disaster and acquire a few of these and keep up the monthly subscription. It sure as heck is a better use of our taxpayer money than billions of pork barrel funds that have gone “poof!” before our eyes. I had to hand carry this particular unit back to Hong Kong for a friend, so it could be replaced or fixed, as one or two of the functions didn’t work as planned. When stopped at customs (xray) in Manila and asked to explain why my phone was “SO BIG” I plainly said it “was a satellite phone, and it’s been to Tacloban and the coast of Leyte for the past two weeks, do YOU have a PROBLEM with that?!?” and I was quickly let through. I said “thank you”. :)



  1. netoy says:

    MM – ang taray! (^_^)

    Dec 5, 2013 | 11:54 pm


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  3. Malou says:

    Now what value would a customs officer get from asking why a phone is “so big”? Like what does he care?! If it’s big, does he want to impose customs duties on it?


    I have not been back in Manila in years and it’s inane questions like this at the airport that you can’t ignore and must answer that make me dread making the trip in the first place.

    Dec 6, 2013 | 12:02 am

  4. Monty says:

    Smart has had a sat phone on the market for maybe a decade. Nobody buys it because the usage charges are quite high, but in super typhoon situations it is critical to have these on hand. Why Mar Roxas didn’t have one is beyond me. He knew regular communications would fail, and yet he didn”t seem prepared for it. You know who used to use a sat phone on a regular basis – Abu Sabaya of the Abu Sayyaf. Maybe the DILG should take lessons in communication preparedness from the bandit group.

    Dec 6, 2013 | 2:12 am

  5. natie says:

    I still use that in the Philippines..some oldies Are goodies..

    Dec 6, 2013 | 4:39 am

  6. crabbychef says:

    It looks like a Nokia 5110!

    Dec 6, 2013 | 7:04 am

  7. Marketman says:

    Netoy, hahaha, I must say, that was the reaction I was going for when faced by the imperious xray guy. I have had problems with xray folks before, like when they refused to let me bring organic sea salt from Cebu in my hand carry… Or when the same folks banned us from selling pure lard in the departure lounge of the Cebu airport because they felt it was a “safety and security risk”… Or when salt and vinegar powder in the my check-in luggage from Manila was stopped dead cold in its tracks, the security guys convinced it was illicit drugs, so I told them to TASTE it. :)

    Dec 6, 2013 | 7:19 am

  8. pits, manila says:

    remembering an alcatel phone from long ago and far away …

    Dec 6, 2013 | 8:36 am

  9. ami says:

    Ah yes, why Mar Roxas didn’t bring one to Tacloban is such a lack of foresight.

    Dec 6, 2013 | 8:59 am

  10. Angie says:

    ahhh memories… Iridium was my second client when I was starting in the IT industry, late 1990s. Worked at their Virginia office.That was when mobile was just starting and people thought and was promoting this to be the next big thing. Unfortunately, it didnt turn out to be as big as they hoped it would be as mobile grew and grew.
    That phone now is actually a lot smaller compared what they had back then. The antenna then was as long as the handset and quite fat (around 1 inch in diameter) and had to be folded.

    Dec 6, 2013 | 9:29 am

  11. Marichu says:

    $1500 per handset, huh? Papaano na yung mga querida ng mga honorable politicians natin? Tapos may monthly maintenance pa kamo. Paano na yung budget na pampadulas ni Honorable Politico? Naku, ang hirap i-prioritize nyan. Next year pa naman ulit ang super typhoon e. Pwede siguro kung bawasan ang education budget, defense budget, disaster relief budg– ay, mali. Malapit na ba ang eleksyon? Kailangang magbudget para sa celebrity endorsers. Taas kaya nang talent fee! Tapos syempre kailangan ni Misis, Junior, at Iha magshopping abroad para bongga ang hitsura nilang mangampanya. Paano mananalo si Honorable Politico pag mukhang sa Shangrila bumili? Huwag nating kalimutan ang Christmas. Mahaba ang pila sigurado. Hay naku, bahala na. Malapit naman na matapos ang term ni Senior Honorable Politico. Kay Junior Honorable Politico na lang ipamana ang sakit ulo na yan.

    Dec 6, 2013 | 10:04 am

  12. Rona Y says:

    “I first laid eyes on this type of phone when a close family friend, a renown surgeon from a famous Boston hospital, came for a visit and were our house guests at the beach.”

    Is it “renown surgeon” or should it be “renowned surgeon”?


    Dec 6, 2013 | 10:51 am

  13. Marketman says:

    Rona, thanks, revised. I don’t have spell check on this platform… my lame excuse… :)

    Dec 6, 2013 | 10:58 am

  14. pixienixie says:

    I confess I don’t have any idea what a sat phone is. :(

    Dec 6, 2013 | 12:36 pm

  15. ricky gonzalez says:

    what was lacking was the HF (amateur radio groups) people. Usually, una sila sa mga disaster, setting up repeaters, mobile stations and antenna. I guess archaic na rin itong technology na ito, replaced by packet radio and cell communications.

    Dec 6, 2013 | 1:12 pm

  16. jonquiogs says:

    MM, how much is the monthly plan on one of those things?

    Dec 6, 2013 | 1:37 pm

  17. besYS says:

    Astig ka MM! hahaha!

    I know Ex- Pres. Joseph Estrada has satellite phones.
    My husband had a total knee replacement in 2006 and 2007, Erap and my husband had the same Surgeon. One time we were in this Surgeon’s office in CA. for post-op, his asst. handed him a phone and Erap was on the other line ( lakas ng boses!) After that call, the Surgeon told us that Erap gave him that Satellite phone, said that they are friends. He showed us pictures of Erap with him and several Phil. artistas and politicians. He said Erap calls him for consultation and referral.
    On our way out, ex-Senator John Osmena was there too for consultation. I learned later that Osmena backed out, natakot raw. :-)
    That Surgeon is a very nice guy and quite popular in Orthopedic Surgery.

    Dec 6, 2013 | 3:06 pm

  18. Papa Ethan says:

    Ricky, sometimes archaic or “obsolete/primitive” technologies are precisely the solution for high-tech problems. That was one of the lessons of Ondoy: despite the fact that everybody had cell phones, these were practically useless at that time for the simple reason that there was no electricity. The hand-cranked backpack radio sets of World War II vintage proved to be more useful than the latest cell phone models.

    During this recent catastrophe, some of us friends gathered to brainstorm on possible ways that simple citizens could help when the next calamity happens. We deliberately tried to think “out of the box,” on the premise that sometimes the craziest ideas merit the most sense especially in bizarre situations like the post-Yolanda scenario (where even top cabinet men enter a disaster site without sat-phones).

    One of the suggestions was to develop and institutionalize the custom/hobby/sport of pigeoning. The idea is to organize a nationwide network of clubs of pigeon enthusiasts in as many municipalities as possible in every region. These could then be mobilized as first responders in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic event wherein high-tech communication systems are sure to be dysfunctional for a few days. Since pigeons can be trained or conditioned to fly to specific destinations, the birds could be dispatched with vital items — like fully-charged cell phone batteries, vials of life-saving medicine, or simple pieces of paper with urgent data — on custom-made backpacks which could be strapped onto their bodies. The pigeon squadrons could then fly into a relay, from one municipality then on to the next, depending on the distance between the disaster site and the source of relief.

    This idea of developing a “Pigeon Air Force of the People (PAF-P)” sounded so ludicrous at the start, but it became more sensible as discussion progressed. This is one area where the youth can participate enthusiastically, thereby giving them an opportunity to perform a vital service in times of calamity. As the saying goes, “it sounds so crazy it just might work.”


    Dec 6, 2013 | 3:40 pm

  19. Marketman says:

    jonquiogs, honestly, I don’t know, but I gather it is quite pricey.

    Dec 6, 2013 | 5:34 pm

  20. Monty says:

    I think the per minute charges are $0.40, and they have prepaid cards to cover the usage. This means no monthly fees, although I don’t know if the prepaid load eventually expires. The sat phones are available from Smart, but I should think it would be less than $1,500. The model they have on their site is almost 14yrs old, understandable for a phone hardly anyone buys.

    Dec 6, 2013 | 9:25 pm

  21. ros says:

    YES!! It’s precisely what I’m screaming for in front of the TV while watching the coverage of the disaster! And everybody is reporting on losing contacts/communication on every disaster area. Heck it seems like even local TV networks(with their insane profits) didn’t have the foresight of investing on one. Despite us living in a mountainous archipelago.

    Also Iridium Flares for the sky watchers out there:



    Dec 7, 2013 | 12:21 am

  22. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    I remember in the 90’s, satellite phones had those inverted umbrella’s as antennas

    Dec 7, 2013 | 12:22 am

  23. Ariel Nievera says:

    There are sets that you can use for text messaging and email. You would not like to use this for regular calls very expensive rates

    for audio communications:

    You can get a 2 meter handheld which will be cheaper with a phone patch. Before my older brother had a business that did communications for local government

    I am surprised the local ham radio club did not help establish basic communication. Before cell phones my father used his portable single side band radio to communicate with his friends world wide

    Dec 8, 2013 | 5:42 am

  24. Ariel Nievera says:

    Dec 8, 2013 | 6:03 am

  25. yosemitehill says:

    I like the folks who have visited in this site coz, they seem to be very friendly, cordial, matulungin sa kapwa tao, very educated and informative.

    Dec 8, 2013 | 12:19 pm

  26. MP says:

    When i was in Aceh for the emergency ops, all senior managers that went to the province immediately after the tsunami were required to carry sat phones 24/7! It helped us organize our logistics and operations tremendously but we were shocked when we got the bill. We were charged $22/minute! I say, it was well worth it.

    Dec 13, 2013 | 5:53 pm


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