Users of commercial devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets will be able to make voice calls and connect to the Internet without a connection to a terrestrial network through the new Sat-Fi solution from Globalstar, the company announced recently.

Globalstar has supported voice and data connectivity, but those offerings required a user to own a Globalstar device. With Sat-Fi, commercial devices use Wi-Fi to connect to the Sat-Fi device, which provides the link to the Globalstar’s new satellite constellation, according to Jake Rembert, vice president of sales for Globalstar.

“It’s going to allow a user to keep his current smartphone, tablet or computer and connect to us via Wi-Fi,” Rembert said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “If they’ve got a tablet or computer, they’ll use a Globalstar app that will allow them to receive voice calls, SMS and data—send e-mail, send pictures, update Facebook, whatever they’d like to do.

“It’s a whole different experience than you get today, which is excellent with our core products. But this is going to allow for ease of use for satellite like we haven’t been able to do in the past.”

Each Sat-Fi device will support a maximum of eight simultaneous connections, but only one voice call can be made at a time, Rembert said. Because of the bursty nature of applications such as SMS messaging and e-mail, time-based resource allocations allow multiple users to leverage the data connection simultaneously and “it looks almost real time,” he said.

“Today, our throughput is 9600 baud, which is about four times faster than the competition for an MSS product like this,” Rembert said. “With compression, that looks like a 56 kb/s modem back in the day, when you were dialing into AOL.”

Pictures can be sent via Sat-Fi, but the Globalstar application will compress the photo to a size that will “look good on a phone” before delivering, Rembert said.