Australia can be a pretty dangerous place for the keen adventurer. It’s earned a reputation for being one of the most remote and desolate regions this side of the planet. And with everything from saltwater crocs to some of the deadliest creepy crawlies in the world calling this place home, it makes perfect sense to have some kind of plan B when you’re out and about exploring.
We all know mobile phone coverage can be pretty patchy once you break free of the big smoke. In fact, believe it or not, the majority of Australia doesn’t have 3G or 4G mobile service at all. So how do you ensure you have a reliable means of communication if trouble should strike in the middle of nowhere? Traditionally, there have been two options; purchase a dedicated satellite phone or invest in a High Frequency radio system, both of which will set you back thousands of dollars. The problem is, if you aren’t travelling all the time, it can be hard to warrant the hefty price tag. I mean, we’d like to think that money is no object when it comes to safety in the outback, but the fact of the matter is it’s hard to see the value in an expensive communication system that you don’t need on a daily basis.
But, finally, there’s a third option that’s pretty hard to resist. It’s affordable, extremely useful and offers the kind of peace of mind you’ll need to travel anywhere in the country with 100 per cent confidence and 100 per cent coverage across Australia, as long as you have line of sight to the satellite.
This revolutionary device is called the SatSleeve+ from Optus. Long story short, it turns your everyday smartphone into a fully functioning satellite phone, providing your mobile is compatible. Simply dock your smartphone into the universal adaptor and you can walk and talk like normal in satellite mode. But, as you can imagine, it does become a bit bulkier than usual.
The SatSleeve+ links up to your smartphone via the SatSleeve’s wi-fi connection, making it quite user-friendly and extremely effective. As long as you’ve got line of sight to the satellite, you’ll be able to communicate with the rest of the world from anywhere in the country (although roaming charges do apply if you’re calling internationally).
There’s a whole swag of benefits for turning your existing phone into a satellite phone, as opposed to purchasing a completely separate unit. The first and most obvious reason being the price. The SatSleeve+ will set you back around $888, which is a relatively small amount to pay for peace of mind.
If you’re not very technically-minded, you’ll find another major benefit is its usability. You already know how to use your existing phone, right? I mean, there’s nothing worse than being in a stressful situation and having to learn how to use a completely different phone on the spot.
Once you have the SatSleeve+ unit, all you’ll need to do is purchase an Optus satellite sim for the unit itself, which basically links you to the satellite network. Then download the SatSleeve Hotspot app from the App Store or Google Play and you’re pretty much ready to go. It’s that easy.
To make a call once you’ve connected the SatSleeve to your smartphone, simply link your phone to the unit via wi-fi, open the SatSleeve HotSpot app and wait for it to connect to the satellite network, which only takes a minute or so. From then on, you can drive it like you normally use your smartphone.
The SatSleeve+ can be used for so much more than just emergency situations. You’ve still got the ability to send text messages, so you can flick an SMS to a friend or loved one to let them know you’re okay, or even keep them up to date with your travel plans. You can also access the internet. So you can be in the middle of the Simpson Desert and still check the weather radar, or even your emails. The same goes for your social media and the rest of your apps, too!
You’ll also still have access to all of your existing contacts that are stored in your smartphone, which makes life easy if you need to contact a specific person for some reason or another; no more fidgeting around trying to copy numbers over.
I mentioned earlier that you’ll need an Optus satellite SIM to access the satellite network. Optus has a casual and low-cost monthly plan available, and the good thing is, the SatSleeve+ works with any mobile provider, so your smartphone doesn’t have to be with Optus for it to work. In short, the SatSleeve+ has its own SIM card and satellite mobile number, which connects directly to the Thuraya satellite network. That also means it will work anywhere in Australia as well as 160 other countries across the world.
The Optus plan is available from $15 per month, with zero cancellation fees and reasonable call rates. We’re talking about 50c for a text message and $1.90 per two-minute call to any mobile in Australia. Another major positive is that it’s free to receive calls! And you’ve even got the option to forward calls from your smartphone to your SatSleeve, so when you’re out of mobile coverage, you can still be contacted on your mobile number – now that’s handy!
Well, let’s face it – you just can’t put a price on peace of mind. Don’t get me wrong though, it doesn’t mean we can’t find cheaper alternatives, does it? For years, we’ve been roaming the countryside with no means of reliable communication and, to be perfectly honest, we’ve grown accustomed to it. But these days, it simply doesn’t have to be that way, not with the technology now available. In fact, in this day and age you’d be mad to travel anywhere that’s even remotely isolated without some form of satellite coverage at your fingertips.
So, if you’re adventurous at heart and plan on hitching up the camper trailer and exploring your backyard, make sure you check out the SatSleeve+ from Optus. At the very least it’ll free you up to enjoy your travels with the whole family. At the most, it could save your life – and that’s no exaggeration!
Check out the full feature in issue #110 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.