Tuesday, January 27, 2015

i-Savi: Internet Connectivity In The Middle of Nowhere?

On harrowing tales of people wandering into remote corners of the world with no internet connectivity whatsoever, will the Inmarsat supported i-Savi soon make this a thing of the past? 

By: Ringo Bones 

One of Inmarsat’s supported Isat Phone Hub is finally here to put an end of those harrowing tales of adventurous tourist inadvertently wandering into remote corners of the world with no internet access whatsoever – at least for those who can afford the rather steep digital minutes in comparison to a typical home connection. I-Savi – an Inmarsat supported smartphone hub manufactured by Add Value of Singapore is one of the widely available of the low cost series of new gadgets that allows one internet connectivity in the middle of nowhere via communication satellites orbiting high above their current location. 

The unit is smartly packaged and small at 7-in. by 7-in. and 1.5-in thick, i-Savi is relatively easy to use in comparison to Operation Desert Storm era hand-held satellite communication gadgets but currently offers very little room for improvement in the ergonomic / man-machine-interface side. Like the competing Iridium GO and Globalsat Sat-Fi, the Inmarsat i-Savi utilizes two smartphone apps to control the unit. One app allows you connectivity of your i-Savi device, the “nearest” orbiting Inmarsat satellite with the local Wi-Fi you’ve just established in your remote corner of the world and the ability to turn on and off Internet Protocol data. The second app is much like the competing Iridium GO app with icons for voice and text messaging. 

Once you’ve attached the fully charged battery that came with your i-Savi that allows it to run for two hours before recharging, it is best to test the gadget outside with a clear view of the open sky and on the very first time of turning on the unit, it usually takes about five minutes for the i-Savi to acquire a GPS signal lock or signal fix. The next step is to point the unit towards the Inmarsat satellite servicing your immediate geographical location and utilize the green pointing arrows displayed by the unit to optimize the signal.
With your smartphone connected to the i-Savi via the local Wi-Fi you’ve just set up, you can now check the status whether your i-Savi unit is properly registered on the Inmarsat Satellite Service Registry and your immediate geographical location’s Inmarsat Satellite Service signal strength – the stronger the better. With all that in place, your i-Savi is now ready to go through its operational phases. 

During hands-on testing, I was about 15 feet from the unit with my smartphone at hand and the unit worked fine. According to the instruction book that came with the unit, the local Wi-Fi st-up by your i-Savi device can work up to a radius of 50-feet and will support multiple users. And it is moderately fast when it comes to opening and viewing e-mails and “minimalist” websites given that when the testing was done in the southern tip of Cebu province here in the Philippines back in December 29, 2014 when an approaching typhoon shut down the local internet service. But it can be frustratingly slow when using Facebook in comparison to a dedicated 3-G internet connection. 

As our testing of the i-Savi was done during an Airsoft military simulation game in the hinterlands of southern Cebu, the i-Savi truly lives up to its name of providing internet connectivity in the middle of nowhere. As in it is quite capable of uploading relatively high resolution photos taken by smartphones equipped with an 8 to 16 megapixel camera in a test demonstrating the i-Savi’s capability of capturing photographic evidence of a “simulated war crime”. By the way, our photo upload test cost us about 15 US dollars in Inmarsat satellite phone data usage fees. Satellite Phone Solutions and other shops selling satellite phone related gadgets around South-East Asia sells the i-Savi for around 1,400 US dollars and rents the unit for 99 US dollars per week. 

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