Optus claims 100 percent mobile coverage with SatSleeve+

Alex Kidman 5 November 2015

Optus’ SatSleeve+ will radically change your mobile coverage, and your mobile speeds.

There are few things more annoying than having a call cut out on you, text fail to send or data session suddenly terminate because your mobile phone has moved outside of the range of the nearest mobile tower. It’s a perennial problem for mobile services, but Optus’ latest solution claims 100% Australian coverage... sort of.

The SatSleeve+ and SatSleeve Hotspot products work with a range of existing handsets, acting as satellite connectivity sleeves to enable voice, text and data connectivity anywhere you’ve got a line of sight to a satellite. That means that while there’s theoretically a few places you wouldn’t get coverage, such as some long tunnels or down mines, but for the majority of Australian mobile users it should be effectively everywhere they’re likely to be.

The core idea is that you’d use them if you knew you were regularly in an area with patchy reception, rather than utilise them all the time every day. That’s because they utilise Thuraya’s existing satellite network, so when you’re using the sleeve, you’re actually roaming internationally.

OptusSatSleeve

The SatSleeve+ and SatSleeve Hotspots connect via Wi-Fi to the device of your choice. As the name suggests, the SatSleeve Hotspot is a standalone unit with its own base and battery, while the SatSleeve+ resembles a mobile phone holder with the kind of chunky antenna you probably haven’t seen on a mobile this century. Here’s the full specification rundown:

OptusSatSleeve+SatSleeve Hotspot
Dimensions138 x 69 x 42mm142 x 69 x 38mm
Weight256g290g
Connectivity3.5mm headphone, microUSB/DC charging3.5mm headphone, microUSB/DC charging
Battery2440mAh2440mAh
Talk TimeUp to 3 hoursUp to 3 hours
Standby Time10 hours with Wi-Fi on, up to 50 hours with Wi-Fi off10 hours with Wi-Fi on, up to 50 hours with Wi-Fi off

Why doesn’t everyone just do this all the time?

Connectivity everywhere sounds great, but there are a couple of very important limitations to be aware of with satellite-based telephony.

Firstly, there’s the issue of speed for data. Thuraya advises that the maximum download speed on these devices is only up to 60kbps for downloads and 15kbps for uploads. Compared to the rates you’re probably used to on 3G and 4G networks, that’s going to be remarkably slow.

Then there’s the issue of cost. Optus charges $899 for either the SatSleeve+ or SatSleeve Hotspot plus a minimum $15 per month access fee for Optus’ Sat15 plan. Call costs are not included, and sit typically at $3 for a 2 minute call, 75c per SMS and 9c per 10KB of data used in satellite mode. Calls to your mobile do not attract a charge, however.

If you're still keen at those rates, you can check out Optus' satellite offerings here.

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