What is a Satellite Phone and How Does it Work?

How Satellite Phone Work

A satellite phone is not like most smartphones in design. It is crude and looks very much old fashioned. The phone primarily derives its name from the very kind of operation it does. Instead of connecting to smartphone masts, this phone connects to satellites. In some respects, these phones are either covering the whole earth in network connectivity or just some areas.

In connecting to the satellite, it may be required that the phone have a direct line of sight to the satellite. This requires that the person who is making use of this phone be stationed outside in the open to avoid any structure blocking the signal. Trees, houses, or other objects can have an effect on the quality of the call made through this kind of phone.

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How does it Work?

A satellite phone works by sending radio signals to a satellite which in turn will transmit back to earth where a station on earth will route the call to a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). There have been situations when a satellite phone provider has transmitted from one satellite to another one that has a connection to an earth station or a PSTN.

If the phone on earth has to make a call it will be relayed from one satellite on the ground to another of the satellites within line of sight. Until it reaches the correct station, the caller may not be able to get any response. Once the call reaches the correct satellite and then connects back to the right ground station, the call is transferred to the public voice network or internet connection so that the recipient can have it.

Why Satellite Phones?

These satellite phones are said to be very vital for maintaining contact with the world when there is no regular phone coverage. Weekend adventurers, those who work in remote areas and others often find these phones valuable. Just as there are mobile carriers competing in the phone market, there are also different or several other satellite phone service providers.

Two of those leading the pack are Iridium and Inmarsat. Iridium offers full global coverage that includes the North and South Pole. For Inmarsat, it has satellites in earth orbit. The satellites are near to the equator, so making calls around these areas is most preferred because the signals will be strong. However, there is no coverage at all at less than 50 degrees north or south.

If you are a world traveler, traversing over mountains, valleys, and oceans, you need a satellite phone. Military, emergency workers, and many others working in remote locations where normal cell phones don’t work have found these devices invaluable.

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How much do satellite calls cost?

Just as we buy airtime when making calls on our smartphones, satellite phone users also buy airtime in order to makes calls. Buying airtime means the user can get minutes, text, and data for personal use. There are prepaid and regular plans available for subscribers. A number is attached to each phone user, making it possible for users to make and receive calls like other smartphone users do.

Voice calls from a satellite phone could cost anywhere from around $0.15 to $2 per minute. However, some providers offer cheaper rates if you live around a certain geographic location. What about calling a satellite phone from traditional landlines or normal cell phones? These calls are more expensive though. Even more than that, satellite calls made from one satellite phone network to another satellite phone network can cost about $15 per minute.

It is also good to note that most satellite phone networks offer prepaid plans for subscribers but this can range from $100 to about $5,000. These prepaid plans may expire in about 30 days. There are also longer expiry dates and some could last for as long as two years.

So, if you need to buy a satellite phone, take note of the cost for making calls and sending text messages. They are far more expensive than the regular cell phone plans.

Satellite Phone Features

These phones are able to make use of SIM cards that can browse the internet, make calls, send texts and do other things. They also let the user see low battery features, signal strength display, call forwarding, phone books, voicemail, etc. They come with batteries that can provide up to four hours of talk time and 36 to 40 hours of standby time.

There are also other additional features that are listed below.

  • GSM Compatibility: This will enable the satellite phone to be used as a cellular phone
  • GPS display of longitude and latitude
  • Solar panels for remote charging of the battery
  • Paging, also data transmission, and faxing options if enabled
  • Rugged in design and use. The user is able to make use of the satellite phone in water areas, dusty locations, and other uncomfortable areas

List of the Best Satellite Phones and Their Prices

  • Iridium Extreme 9575 Satellite Phone     Cost: $1,145
  • IsatPhone 2.1 Satellite Phone     Cost: $1,299
  • BlueCosmo Iridium 9555     Cost: $989
  • Globalstar GSP-1700 Satellite Phone     Cost: $409
  • Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator      Cost: $289
  • Garmin inReach Mini    Cost: $299

Did you know?

Sometimes when travelers are contemplating buying a satellite phone, they suddenly decide against it because of not taking care to check all factors. But experts say that this is the biggest mistake people make because visiting a foreign land without being assured of means of communicating is that bad! Many travelers were lost and badly injured in the mountains and were not able to call loved ones or emergency services through the use of their regular smartphones.

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Next, please note that your satellite phone will work under some situations that people say it won’t. For example, under heavy thunder, unclear sky, or even when the world is crumbling, the satellite phone in your hand will operate nicely even when your cell phone can’t.

Conclusion

Looking at all the benefits of the satellite phone, people have bought and kept them in case they need to travel. If you have to do stuff out of town always in the woods, don’t think you’re too close to civilization. Get a satellite phone because of any mishaps that don’t warn before they occur.

To buy one, please read all instructions carefully and make sure you stay connected. No trouble with having the screens broken because these devices are truly rugged and good for tough locations.

* Images in this article are from different brands of satellite phones

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