cell phones

11) Cool Tools: SatPhones – Love ’em or Leave ’em?

If you’re working in a sensitive location and/or you’re unsure about relying on cell coverage for any reason, talk to vendors like…




The cost will likely be prohibitive for many of us… unless you’re about to be kidnapped and you need to get a call out. Then the cost will be minimal. :-)
Why? With a satphone, you have the ultimate “high ground.” If the bottom drops out of the government and cellphones become useless, satphones still deliver.

Why might you not want to rent a satphone?
*** Some have ventured a guess that it raises one’s profile with immigration and customs officials (to my knowledge, this is totally undocumented, by the way). They might think of you as “C.I.A.” or, just as bad, a drug runner.
*** Satphones are expensive. Phone rental might be $8-15/day. Airtime will likely run another $1/minute, even with the newest plans (such as those from “Spot”). Incoming calls are free, along with text messages. But it’s usually the outgoing text or call that means the most (e.g., “We landed and we’re fine.”) (Note: there are now other, less expensive solutions for this purpose. See SpotMessenger, for example.)
*** Satphones have to “see sky” to function well. This can be unhandy in winter climates or in sensitive situations.

Remember, “Half a sky” won’t do. (You can’t call from indoors or in a car unless you install an external antenna.) Costs will run somewhere in the $6-12/day, depending on the unit you choose… and throughput charges are extra. Plan on $6/megbyte. For perspective, your 10 mega-pixel camera probably captures a 5-megabyte image. Ouch. Expensive. Use a SpotMessenger-type beacon if it will get you by.

9) Loved my New International Phone Sim Card

Last week while traveling in Europe, I packed an upgraded sim card from Go-Sim…


The “new” capabilities deal with making it easier to deal with the call-back concepts used by Go-Sim and other vendors like them. The assigned number they gave me this time was a British number (rather than the Estonian number that I’ve been using with them for a number of years.) It was, in a word, EASY. The rates were great, coverage was wide (both voice and text), and the customer service (and infrastructure) was excellent. Highly recommended, affordable, and practical in scores of lands. Watch for the term “ekit” — because that’s a sign that they’ve shipped you one of the new sim cards.

1) Until Aug 23rd: $39/mo Unlimited 4G Talk/Text/Web for Testers —

And get this: no contract. Greg Parsons of the US Center for World Mission, mobilizer extraordinaire Shane Bennett and Brigada fan Robby Butler are trying out a new $49/mo phone service which offers unlimited 4G smart phone service with no contract, and unlimited profit sharing on referrals. And they’ve figured out a way to rebate 20% off to testers who sign up by Aug 23rd. These guys also think they’ve figured out a way to turn this into a cash generator for missionaries and their supporters, and are looking for guinea pigs to test the system with them. Sign ups for the final round of testing close 8/23, and won’t open again until Solavei’s formal launch on 9/21. To learn more, visit




Then contact



(By the way, we didn’t ask for this, but they’re telling us that Brigada gets $20 for every person who mentions Brigada when contacting Robby, and then subscribes for Solavei under Robby’s direction.)

7) Smart Phone Service for the (U.S.) Masses —

Need a smart phone? Shane’s got your number. $49/month Unlimited Voice/Text/Data, 4G speed. Can’t stomach the cost? No worries. Solavei, a new cellular provider, might be just for you. Their product is simple: A $49/month “all-you-can-eat voice/text/data no-contract plan operating on the TMobile network at 4G speed. You can buy a phone from Solavei or bring your own GSM handset. There’s plenty of internet buzz to check out, but most of the advertising will be person to person. If you refer nine people to the service, your cost are covered! Email Shane at

shanedarataoldotcom or comment for more info. Shane will give Brigada $20 for everyone who signs up and mentions this post.

2) Is Anybody Else Getting Jealous of What iPhones Can do? —

OK. I’ve tried to be a faithful Windows Mobile phone user. But can we Windows Mobile people do what iPhone customers can do at Google Voice? For the backgrounder on this, see, for example this story…


which, by the way was gathered by our Uganda Desk Associate, Lissa. (How does she come up with these? Does she have an iPhone?) By the sounds of this, people with an iPhone can now send int’l text messages for free. About the only thing we [Sprint] Windows Mobile people still hold over everybody else is the easy way in which our phones can serve as a wireless router for our laptops without having to pay any throughput charge for megabytes, all while operating at 3G or 4G speeds (using the special utility, PDANet from June Fabrics…


So, I’m left with that haunting feeling that maybe you’ve experienced too: “Do I have the right phone plan? Do I have the right phone?” :-)

What’s your advice? Just click “Comment” below and set us straight. Thanks. And thanks to our faithful Uganda desk. :-)

6) Could we be looking at a Global Cell Network by 2015? —

The answer is yes, at least according to the folks at…


They’re hoping to get 16 satellites in orbit by 2015, and they’re considering giving away the handsets. How many cell phones are there already… 3 billion? 5 billion? Anyway, this would make 8 billion. Imagine the opportunities for spinning out cell-phone-sized Jesus Films to all those new viewers! :-) (Thanks for the tip, Paul!)

7) Mobile Phone Growth In Africa

Apparently, mobiles are increasingly strategic for Africa. In an article by Ugandan evangelist Kato Miguel,


There you’ll find two short videos, one by a mission strategist on the challenge for ministry:


Long documentary on the use of mobiles in Africa:


(Thanks Tony!)

9) E.T. Wishes It Would Have Been This Easy To Phone Home

If you’re from the USA and you run on a network that isn’t global (like — Sprint maybe?), you’ll likely need to pick up a different phone for travel. Why buy when you can rent one for just the handful of days you’ll be gone? What’s your favorite vendor? Here’s one such vendor that Brigada participant, Tim, likes…


They pretty much take care of everything, including shipping your phone to you the day before you leave. These are true global phones: they’ll work pretty much everywhere, with roaming rates up to 80% less than your home-based plan would have cost you. They also rent satphones which will work basically anywhere in the world as long as you’re outside.

Another Brigada user, with a great first name (“Doug”), likes
They have a worldphone that you buy for $99 on a pay-as-you-go plan. No contracts, no hassles. Just prepay.

If you already own a GSM phone, just ask for a free SIM chip from Mobal. They’ll manage your relationships with virtually every country in the world (170, to be exact), allowing you to talk and recharge with one vendor. They make a strong case for their product at:


However, their rates seem higher than the vendor I’ve been using. See their USA landing page at:


Got a favorite vendor for communications devices like these? Please recommend them by clicking “Comment” after this item on the web at…

1) Global (SIM Card) Cell Provider

Here’s a great service for anyone wanting to keep in touch while traveling abroad. They provide a Global SIM card that can be used with any GSM Tri or Quad band phone to travel just about anywhere in the world. You will save as much as 90% or more on cellular calls while traveling abroad. Best of all they will assign you a local U.S. number to take with you so that friends and family here in the U.S. can easily keep in touch with you without making an International Long Distance call. Find out more by visiting their website


10) The Backpage: Back From South Asia… Connectivity Isn’t Easy

Just back from a trip to South Asia. Even after all these years, connectivity *still* isn’t easy. On this trip it hit me like a ton of bricks: The distance between the “have-internets” and the “have-not-internets” seems even wider than before. Back in the 90s, when I would travel overseas, I expected no more than dial-up… because that’s what we all had back home. Now that we’re spoiled with wireless at every Panera (and most McDonalds), let alone most hotels, … when we arrive in a rural location in South Asia and find out there isn’t even a phone in the room, … well let’s just say… we come face to face with the reality that many citizens around the globe have yet to send their first email. (Hard to believe? It’s true.) So I borrowed one of those cell phone modems. It worked just fine for the day we were in that town, but when I pulled it out and moved to the next city, I found that the installation program for the wireless modem had wiped out my laptop’s ability to use simple wireless. Somehow it must have messed with the firewall program or drivers or who knows. Still to this day I can’t get my VPN working again. Seems like after all this time, it should be easier by now. In the meantime, I’m sobered.

So what do *you* think we can do to make things easier? Are these issues only solved at national levels? Will anybody ever start something like the once-famed Teledesic? That was a brainchild of Bill Gates and Craig McCaw. It was supposed to provide low-earth-orbit (“LEO”) Satellites so wrist-watch internet would be affordable, quick, and easy. Alas, somewhere along the line they lost heart. (Just go to your favorite search engine and look for “teledesic Craig McCaw”. No need to try teledesic.com. It no longer even brings up their legacy pages. :-( So how do *you* think we can provide always-on internet for the world? What’s the best strategy? Just click the word “Comment” following this item on the web. Would somebody please help us out here? :-)

2) Is Cell Phone Security Even Worse Than We Thought?

Here’s a question from a field worker who writes, “Our mission team is located in a ‘police state.’ We know the police listen to our phone calls regularly. We also know they can use triangulation to locate us. We’re fine with that stuff. :-) But now we’re facing a couple of new concerns:

“*** REMOTELY EAVESDROPPING WHEN WE’RE NOT ON THE PHONE — The microphones in cell phones are now being turned on remotely to allow eavesdropping on their owners anytime (even when you’re not making a call). We’ve figured out how to overcome this problem… but we kind of hate to always have the batteries out of our cell phones. :-) [By the way, if you think this worker has been watching too many episodes of “24”, just do an Internet search for the term, “FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool.”]

“*** REMOTELY ACCESSING CONTENTS OF YOUR PHONE — We’re hearing (from some pretty tech-smart guys) that it’s easy to remotely hack into the contents of our phone, getting full access to our pics, calendars, docs, task lists, etc. The implications are huge. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

“To the degree all of this ‘just depends’ upon what model of phone a person uses we would be extremely grateful for information about which models are suceptible and which aren’t. Also, we’re re-evaluating our team’s technology security protocol. Can anyone share cellphone security guidelines they’ve adopted?”

Well, that’s a lot… but if you’ll just click on the link below, then click on “Comment”, you could write to your heart’s content, even anonymously.

1) North African Team Needs Cell Phone Feature

Does anyone know of a cell/smart phone that has (or could get) software which would allow an incoming call to (A) immediately be responded to via a text message and (B) simultaneously forward the caller’s information to another assigned phone number? If not, would anyone have the ability or interest to develop a little application like this? It would truly revolutionize a system that believers (missionaries and nationals) in North Africa are developing to do follow-up ministry with the seekers who call in on phone numbers after seeing Christian TV programs on satellite. Got a lead or a brainstorm on this or a related resource? If so, just click on “comment” below to add your response.

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