Satellite Phones

A satellite telephone, satellite phone, or satphone is a type of mobile phone that connects to orbiting satellites instead of terrestrial cell sites. 

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Satellite phones are a technology proven to facilitate communications in remote destinations, making sat phones ideal for wilderness adventure seekers, sailors, or teams responsible for emergency preparedness and contingency planning. 

Satellite phones offer call and SMS text messaging communication services and low-bandwidth internet access are supported through most systems. They do not route calls through land-based cellular towers like traditional mobile phones; rather, they transmit data through satellites orbiting the planet. This network of satellites is either “fixed above the Equator (geostationary), or in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) anywhere from 500 to 1,000 miles above the earth.” Satellite phones are therefore not reliant on cell towers that can be damaged by natural disasters or may be non-existent in remote locations. Due to the satellite architecture, these phones can essentially work anywhere in the world, greatly assisting organizations operating in locations that lack a reliable communications infrastructure. Minutes can be prepaid or bought via monthly airtime contract, and are often categorized as less expensive than foreign roaming charges on a typical cell network.

Depending on the architecture of a particular system, coverage may include the entire Earth or only specific regions.

The mobile equipment, also known as a terminal, satellite phone or sat phone, varies widely. Early satellite phone handsets had a size and weight comparable to that of a late-1980s or early-1990s mobile phone, but usually with a large retractable antenna. More recent satellite phones are similar in size to a regular mobile phone while some prototype satellite phones have no distinguishable difference from an ordinary smartphone.  Satphones are popular on expeditions into remote areas where terrestrial cellular service is unavailable.

However, satellite phones are also not advocated as a replacement for cell phones, as they have been criticized as bulky and cumbersome. They do not consistently offer the day-to-day Internet access of today’s smart phones. Additionally, satellite phones typically require an unobstructed view of the sky in order to operate effectively. This can hinder connections from the interior of buildings or vehicles, areas close to tall buildings or dense vegetation, and in deep valleys or canyons. Nonetheless, satellite phones are still considered a useful tool for communicating in remote areas.

A fixed installation, such as one used aboard a ship, may include large, rugged, rack-mounted electronics, and a steerable microwave antenna on the mast that automatically tracks the overhead satellites. Smaller installations using VoIP over a two-way satellite broadband service such as BGAN or VSAT bring the costs within the reach of leisure vessel owners. Internet service satellite phones have notoriously poor reception indoors, though it may be possible to get a consistent signal near a window or in the top floor of a building if the roof is sufficiently thin. The phones have connectors for external antennas that can be installed in vehicles and buildings. 

- Credit: Wikipedia.org, US Dept. of State

There are four satellite phone network providers, IridiumInmarsatGlobalstar and Thuraya.


Iridium
A fleet of 66 low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites provide military grade voice and data communications solutions with complete global coverage of the earth including polar regions. Iridium is the most reliable, and is the only network to cover all 7 continents.

The world's leading mobile satellite operator. Its constellation of ten satellites located in geostationary orbit enables delivery of voice and high-speed data services and mobile IP broadband to almost anywhere on the planet. Inmarsat is a British company which offers excellent coverage along the worlds sea lanes.
 
Through its two geostationary satellites, Thuraya provides coverage of more than 140 countries in Europe and large parts of Africa and Asia for handheld voice and mobile IP broadband service. Thuraya is an innovative company based in the UAE and is a popular choice for Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Sadly, coverage does not extend to the Americas.
 

Category Questions

Yes, but you will need some additional accessories.  We have a short video below.  

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The USB port on 9555's and 9575's is intended for Firmware upgrades and tethering only. Though the charge symbol flashes when plugged in, the power gain is minimal. 

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Satellite phones work just about anywhere on the planet. Satellite phones don't rely on a terrestrial cell phone network. Instead, they beam their data directly to and from satellites orbiting Earth.

Different networks have slightly different coverage. The Iridium network, most notably, has truly global coverage.

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Calling a satellite phone is a lot like dialing an International phone number. 

If you are in Canada, you must dial the Canadian exit code "011" then the satellite phone number.

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The most reliable network is Iridium, and the offer 2 handsets, the Iridium 9555 which offers basic voice and text and the 9575 which has gps and sos features as well.

For plans there are several choices. There are 2 global prepaid plans, 6 months for $629 (200 minutes) or 12 months for $749 (300 minutes) . There is also a post paid option at $75 / month plus a $29 activation fee. This plan includes 10 minutes and 10 text messages per month.

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How much do satellite calls cost? Costs associated with voice calls from a satellite phone will vary anywhere from around $0.15 to $2 per minute, with typical rates being from .80 to 1.50/minute.

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Satellite phones work just about anywhere on the planet.  Satellite phones don't rely on a terrestrial cell phone network. Instead, they beam their data directly to and from satellites orbiting Earth.

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The main reason for the mobile satellite equipment and services being more expensive than, for example, cellular products is the relatively small number of users of satellite phones and services.

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