No matter how powerful our smartphones are, and what advanced 4G services they can access, their usefulness takes a nosedive when you can’t find a data signal. Thankfully, we can usually get by with the likes of GPRS or another slower-speed connection, but sometimes even that signal’s not available. When you’re going to be out in the middle of nowhere, there will soon be a way to get your smartphone online even then, but there are some pretty huge caveats to consider.
Satellite communication provider Iridium offers globetrotters reliable communication via its hand-held satellite phones. Now it plans to extend those services to providing satellite-based WiFi hotspot connectivity through the Iridium AxcessPoint.
The $200 AxcessPoint connects to a separate Iridium satphone for communications, making it pretty expensive for an accessory that can’t even get online by itself. Those phones are in the $1000 range, and then the actual data service is a little over a dollar a minute.
For that kind of money, it must have some pretty impressive performance, right? You’d better dissuade yourself of any dreams of watching Netflix from a mountaintop, because we’re looking at data speeds around 26-27Kbps that’s roughly 1000 times slower than modern LTE, and slower than nearly all dial-up internet connections.
Getting your phone online through the AxcessPoint will be slow, expensive, and require lugging around a bunch of extra hardware. On some occasions, though, there just aren’t any other options. The Iridium AxcessPoint will be out sometime in Q4 2011.