How to use Satellite-Phones in Egypt

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Satellite phones operators have their network works through satellites and not masts on buildings like other GSM mobile operators. This enables them to work internationally and in oceans (and deserts!) with the same handset for their users.

Thuraya, Inmarsat, Iridium are examples of such operators but we depend on Al-Thuraya in the middle-east, and therefore the rest of this article is heavily explaining it.

Pricing

There are two (2) ways of prices to using Thuraya in Egypt.
FIRST and most rare option, is to use AlThuraya SIM in the phone which will apply their 'local' price-tariffs on calling any other Thuraya phone. In this case you receive a dial number starting with +882-16 and every caller who tried to reach you will have to get this number to reach you and will have to initiate it on their phones as an international call. This is little used.

SECOND --and more common option-- is to use one GSM SIM card (such as MobiNil, Vodafone, or Etisalat) in the AlThuraya handset. The callers who try to reach you will keep calling on your normal number which is local to them. The SIM line then sends or receives calls on this handset as if roaming abroad and you can be charged less by just receiving it. The prices per minute and SMS for each mobile Operator is as following:

  Etisalat
(All Prices in EGP as of 2012-5)  Receive Calls from Calling Receives SMS Sends SMS
Etisalat/ Vodafone/ MobiNil Numbers 1.15 21 Free 2.3
Thuraya Numbers 1.15 6.9 Free 2.3
International (other Non-Satellite Operator; eg, Mobily of Saudia) 1.15 21 Free  2.3 
Other Satellites (Inmarsat, Iridium, etc.) 1.15 39.1 Free  2.3 
  MobiNil
(All Prices in EGP as of 2010-10)  Receive Calls from Calling Receives SMS Sends SMS
Etisalat/ Vodafone/ MobiNil 1.15 34.5 Free 2.9
Thuraya (local) 1.15 8.63 Free 2.9
International (other Non-Satellite Operator; eg, Mobily of Saudia) 1.15  40.25 Free  2.9 
Other Satellites (Inmarsat, Iridium, etc.) 1.15  8.63 Free  2.9
  Vodafone
(All Prices in EGP as of 2010-10)  Receive Calls from Calling Receives SMS Sends SMS
Etisalat/ Vodafone/ MobiNil 23 32.2 Free 2.3
Thuraya (local) 23 6.9 Free 2.3
International (other Non-Satellite Operator; eg, Mobily of Saudia) 23 32.2 Free 2.3
Other Satellites (Inmarsat, Iridium, etc.) 23 32.3 Free 2.3

Same as the above in one table. 

  Etisalat MobiNil Vodafone
(All Prices in EGP as of 2010-10)  Receive Calls from Calling Receives SMS Sends SMS Receive Calls from Calling Receives SMS Sends SMS Receive Calls from Calling Receives SMS Sends SMS
Etisalat/ Vodafone/ MobiNil 1 21 Free 2.3 1.15 34.5 Free 2.9 23 32.2 Free 2.3
Thuraya (local) 1 6.9 Free 2.3 1.15 8.63 Free 2.9 23 6.9 Free 2.3
International (other Non-Satellite Operator; eg, Mobily of Saudia) 1 21 Free  2.3  1.15  40.25 Free  2.9  23 32.2 Free 2.3
Other Satellites (Inmarsat, Iridium, etc.) 1 39.1 Free  2.3  1.15  8.63 Free  2.9 23 32.3 Free 2.3

Important Explanatory Notes:

  1. The pink-highlighted cells above is an example to read the table. It means that if you using Etisalat GreenLine SIM on AlThuraya, that you pay 1 EGP per minute to receive any call from Vodafone or MobiNil, you pay 21 EGP per minute to call any Vodafone or MobiNil phone number. If you are using MobiNil, you pay 34.5 EGP per minute to call any Vodafone or MobiNil number.
  2. All prices above are put including the additional 15% tax (some Operators report different from others) to make all prices comparable.
  3. In Telecom language, 'IN' or 'INCOMING' means when you 'receive' the call or SMS. 'OUT' or 'OUTGOING' means when you 'initiate' the call or 'send' SMS from your phone. Obviously VOICE means normal Calls. Also, LOCAL means in the same roaming country you're in which in this case is specifically AlThuraya's SIM on any handset (yes they have SIMs too!).
  4. The prices above are applicable only when you put your own SIM (Etisalat/Mobinil/Vodafone) in the AlThuraya handset and go outside the Coverage where AlThuraya satellite then allows you to use your SIM in the desert or Sea as if you're roaming in another country.
  5. The prices above applies mainly on Postpaid (khat or fatoura) lines. For those who use Prepaid (kart), please consult the Customer Care of your Mobile Operator (and add 15% taxes in cases of Mobinil and Vodafone). You may like to ask advice on any of the above numbers and come back here to add corrections/updates.
  6. Thuraya doesn't have Data services (to be checked?) nor Video Calls (although others may have one or others of those services) so those costs don't apply. In fact, it doesn't categorize as 2G or 3G but a different thing altogether so those services shouldn't be compared.

AlThuraya Coverage:

It covers most of the Old World, except North East Asia, Atlantic Ocean and South Africa as in the following:

Handsets

The handset of Thuraya is a special one and cannot be used on any other Network. It's bought specifically to be used on Al-Thuraya network. Here's the image of one manufactured by ASCOM:

Where to Buy:
For phones and services, the agent in Egypt  is Alcan telecoms. located in Maadi,
Address: 8 Gazaer St., New Maadi, Cairo, Egypt. P.O. Box: 11435
Phone: (+202) 516 9722 - 754 6027
Fax: (+202) 516 9560
E-Mail: info@alkantelecom.com
URL: www.alkantelecom.com
also the charging cards available in Radioshack, but the price is expensive comparing to the price in the Gulf area, Africa, and even Europre.

Inmarsat Isatphone Pro

After many Safari trips and hikes in the middle of nowhere, being disconnected from civilization might seem to be a healthy experience however, having a tool taht enables you to make sure that your beloved ones are well might give you (and them as also) peace of mind while being in the wilderness.

Not that just but sometimes a tool that connects you to cibilization might be a life saver in extreme situations where every second counts.

For all those reason i decided to buy a satellite phone!

the idea seemed to be a little crazy and out of reason about two years ago, but last year after Inmarsat launched its new satellite communications handset "Isatphone Pro" the game changed.

I've made many researches on that issue comparing between almost the only and best three satellite operators in the market: Iridium, Inmarsat, Thuraya.

Iridium provided the best coverage among all of them as it provided a pole to pole coverage as described in the below image:

 

As Iridium uses more than 66 low orbit satellites 600 KM above earth.

some arguments says that this might be a negative point due to the fact that these satellites are constantly moving which means that the call will disconnect after a few minutues once the satellite that you are connected to goes out of sight.

Inmarsat is using a different technology, the use only 3 geostationary orbit satellites 33000 Km above earth ina fixed position right over the equator that provide a semi full coverage as showen below:

 

Iridium Minute rate is so high, minimum of 1.5$ per minute besides the high price of the handset which starts from 1200$ to 1800$ depending on the model so i excluded it.

Inmarsat released on 2010 a new handset called Isatphone pro, priced for 549$ which makes it the cheapest satellite handset available on the market.

 the handset have a talk time of 8 hours, 200 hours standby, water resistant, dust proof and shock resistant.

The handset has a built in GPS enables you to send your position in an SMS, and the handset supports loudspeaker handfree and bluetooth.

now to the interesting part, the minute reate:

below is a list of all the denominators for recharge cards available for the Isatphone pro:

30$:

25 units

to Landline/US Cell phone per minute:1.2

to other cell phones per minute:1.5

dial up per minute:1.2

SMS:0.60

 

55$:

50 unites

to Landline/US Cell phone per minute:1.1

to other cell phones per minute:1.3

dial up per minute:1.1

SMS:0.55

 

90$:

100 units

to Landline/US Cell phone per minute:0.9

to other cell phones per minute:1.08

dial up per minute:0.9

SMS:0.45

 

225$:

250 units

to Landline/US Cell phone per minute:0.9

to other cell phones per minute:1.08

dial up per minute:0.9

SMS:0.45

 

425$:

500 units

to Landline/US Cell phone per minute:0.85

to other cell phones per minute:1.02

dial up per minute:0.85

SMS:0.43 

 

all the mentioned pricess are in USD and eny of these cards gives your prepaid sim card a vilidity of two years.

recieving calls, SMS, E-Mails is for free.

Now lets compare this to Thuraya which sells their handsets for at least 1100$ and partial global coverage:

 

13$:

10 units

to thuraya per minute: 1.3

to landline/cell phone per minute:1.94

dialup  per minute:1.94

SMS: 0.63

 

23$:

20 units

to thuraya per minute: 1.13 

to landline/cell phone per minute: 1.7

dialup  per minute:1.7

SMS: 0.56

 

44$:

39 units

to thuraya per minute: 1.11

to landline/cell phone per minute:1.68

dialup  per minute:1.68

SMS: 0.55

 

55$:

50 units

to thuraya per minute: 1.08

to landline/cell phone per minute:1.64

dialup  per minute:1.64

SMS: 0.53

 

86$:

80 units

to thuraya per minute:1.06 

to landline/cell phone per minute:1.6

dialup  per minute:1.6

SMS: 0.52

 

169$:

160 units

to thuraya per minute:1.04 

to landline/cell phone per minute:1.57

dialup  per minute:1.57

SMS: 0.51

I got my Isatphone Pro handset for 549$ from an inmarsat reseller http://www.satphonestore.com/ and they gave me a promotion for getting the handset from their store, the promotion was getting a 90$ recharge card for only 49$.

i got mine shipped from USA to Cairo through Aramex Shop&Ship and it took them 8 days to bring it and they had to send it first to the NTRA for authorisation, and for some reaosn NTRA rejected it so i had to contact a friend who works there to help me get an authorisation and finally after two days i got it.

Aramex charged me a total of 630 EGP for shipping+taxes+authorisation fees.