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Thuraya SatSleeve turns Apple's iPhone into a satellite phone

Mobile satallite operator Thuraya Telecommunications on Wednesday announced SatSleeve, a "Made for iPhone" adapter that grants users access to the company's vast satellite network.


The system, which includes an iPhone holder that docks into a separate satellite communications unit, allows iPhone owners to place voice calls and send text messages nearly anywhere in the world. Athough Thuraya's sat coverage doesn't include North and South America, the company has set up roaming deals with terrestrial mobile network operators in the region, including those compatible with the iPhone's supported bandwidths.

Billed as "the world's first satellite adaptor for the iPhone," most of the heavy lifting is done by the satcom "dock" which transmits and receives the satellite signal and relays it to the iPhone via Bluetooth. The docking sleeve also has a button that can be programmed to dial one emergency number even with iPhone unattached.

Thuraya's SatSleeve is available now for $499 plus satellite airtime fees which run between $0.75 to $1.25 per minute. Currently, only the iPhone 4 and 4S is supported, though a Lightning-enabled iPhone 5 version is expected to see release next month.