Recently we wrote an article called ‘How to Get Reception on Your Cell Phone in Remote Areas?’ This led to a statement from my friend Mike when we were talking and he said to get a Satellite Phone. This is a great response to the article as I am always asking people for feedback and one option that is available to everyone out there of course.
So we are doing a comparison between the technologies and the pros and cons and differences between Cell Phones and Satellite Phones.
What is the difference between a Cell Phone and a Satellite Phone?
Not always but often with a Cell Phone or Smartphone, you can take a picture of the mountain top. With a Satellite Phone, you can call someone from the mountain top.
- A Cell Phone uses land-based cellular towers for transmitting information.
- There are no cell phones capable of receiving satellite service.
- A Cell Phone can have many capabilities in addition to being a telephone.
- Most new Cell Phones today would be considered Smartphones and are capable of doing almost anything a computer is capable of.
- In addition to making phone calls, they also receive text messages.
- Utilize the Internet for shopping, e-mail, checking the news, or most anything the internet is capable of.
- Camera and video recorder built-in.
- Play music, watch movies and play games.
- Utilize Bluetooth or Wifi to remotely connect to devices such as headphones, your home computer, to your vehicles stereo.
- Download and run apps that can do anything from accounting to remotely controlling the temperature of your house with the internet of things.
- Access to common programs, such as a calculator, contacts, calendar, clock, notes, etc.
- A Satellite Phone connects directly to satellites orbiting the planet for transmitting information. Satellite networks offer global service and do not require land-based towers.
- Satellite Phones are more focused on being “Just a Telephone” and a way of voice communication than the current Smartphones of today.
- Satellite Phones have unparalleled remote location access to communication services where cell phones will not work.
- Calls, SMS, Fax and Internet connectivity
- Depending on the model – Satellite Phones can make calls, send SMS and fax messages and connect your laptop or PC to access the Internet in satellite mode whenever there is no land-based cellular network
- Depending on the model – Voice call quality with satellite phones can be lacking compared to Smartphones.
- Depending on the model – Voice calls to a satellite phone can experience substantial domestic and international calling charges depending on the carrier and location.
- Some Satellite Phone models have SMS feature and the ability to send and receive a text. Most will also allow sending and receiving email but not all do both email functions.
- Texting with SMS feature can text to a satellite phone at about the same cost as texting to a cell phone at international rates.
- Some but not all have Bluetooth capability or headset and hands-free capability
- Speakerphone, contact synchronization, address book, alarm, calculator, and calendar.
- Some but not all have GPS capability
- Satellite Wi-Fi Hotspots
Please check these articles “Interesting, Different, Fun, and Eclectic Cell Phone Cases” and “What Are All Of The Smartphone Charger Types?”
Satellite Phones, Features, & Services
If you decide that you want a Satellite Phone and you have figured out from the models and plans available that they will work for you. Below are some examples:
Iridium Extreme 9575 Satellite Phone
The Iridium Extreme 9575 Satellite Phone is from the only true global reliable communications coverage. With Iridium, the satellites will always be passing overhead, wherever you are in the world. The Extreme 9575 Satellite Phone has more features than any other satellite phone on the market.
The Iridium satellite constellation is a system of 66 active communication satellites and spares around the Earth. The Iridium network is unique in that it covers the whole earth, including poles, oceans, and airways. The Iridium satellites orbit at an altitude of approximately 483 miles above the earth (and travel at approximately 16,689 mph resulting in a complete orbit of the earth approximately every 100 minutes).
Iridium Extreme 9575 Satellite Phone comes with:
SMS and email messaging capability
Headset and hands-free capability
Reliable two-way global coverage
IP65 Ingress waterproof rating
Up to (4) hours of talk time, (30) hours of standby
Iridium Satellite Coverage Map
Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 Satellite Phone
A robust handset and marine environment favorite Satellite Phone with long battery life and excellent voice quality and reliability.
Reliable satellite communications – IsatPhone 2 operates over the global Inmarsat satellite network, which has an average network availability of 99.9 percent so depend on IsatPhone 2 for reliable voice connectivity.
- Satellite telephony, voicemail text, and email messaging, GPS location data
- 8 hours talk time and up to 160 hours standby time
- IP65 Waterproof Rating, dust, splash and shock resistant
- The only satellite phone to support Bluetooth
Globalstar GSP-1700 Satellite Phone
Globalstar is the only satellite system that gives you a United States phone number but they don’t have global coverage. This is a great advantage if you are in U.S. Citizen and your friends, family and business contacts are all in the United States.
This means that they can always call you cheaply and easily – just as they would call a regular United States number. Note that SMS text messaging is not available with Globalstar, so, if this service is essential to you, you will need to go with Iridium or Inmarsat.
Compact size : 5.3H x 2.2W x 1.5D
Lightweight: 7.05 ounces
Optimal voice clarity
Standby Time: up to 36 hours, Talk Time: 4 hours
Backlit color display with 4-line, 12-character LCDBattery Life: 4 hours talk time; 36 hours standby
99 entry internal address book
Globalstar Coverage Map
Thuraya X5-Touch Satellite Phone
Because the Thuraya X5-Touch Satellite Phone satellite network only works in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia it is not considered a full worldwide Satellite System.
The Thuraya X5-Touch is the world’s smartest Satellite Phone and the first Android-based satellite & GSM phone. It runs on the Android operating system and has a 5.2” full HD Gorilla Glass touchscreen. Make and receive calls simultaneously on both networks were available with the unique SAT and GSM “Always On” function.
For a true dual experience, you can receive calls on your GSM number even when on an active satellite call and vice versa. Satellite does not work in the United States and North America but does operate in GSM in partnership with the mobile operator, T-Mobile.
The service allows Thuraya subscribers to roam with their Thuraya mobile numbers on the T-Mobile network that reaches 96 percent of Americans. Thuraya customers in the region can make and receive calls, and also send and receive text messages (SMS).Size 145 x 78 x 24 mm
Weight 262 g
Operating System Android Nougat (7.1.2)
IP67 Ingress Waterproof Rating
Talk-time of up to 11 hours and a standby time of up to 100 hours
Dedicated SOS button
Front and rear cameras take photos and videos
The android platform allows changing the pre-installed keyboard or browser.
Uses 3rd party apps that are readily available and integrates with wearables like smartwatches, healthcare wearables, etc.
Benefits of a Satellite Phone over a Cell Phone
- Satellite Phones by their nature are intended for use in remote and inaccessible locations and for emergencies.
- Satellite Phones are rarely affected by violent weather where a cell tower on a Smartphone network could get knocked out depending upon their system design.
- Satellite Phones depending on the network can work anywhere in the world and are not affected by the limitations of distance and coverage like Cell Phones are.
- Satellite Phones rely on a network of satellites that are either fixed above the Equator (Geostationary), or in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) anywhere from approximately 450 to 1,000 miles above the earth so are not affected by ground-based cellular phone problems.
- The devices weigh a few ounces and maybe about the same size as your cell phone
Possible negatives of a Satellite Phone verse a Cell Phone
- Unlike Cellular Phone Networks, there are only four (4) Satellite Phone Networks.
- Inmarsat Satellite Network
- Iridium Satellite Network
- Thuraya Satellite Network
- Globalstar Satellite Network
- Cost – Calls to Satellite Phones can be very expensive and up to ten dollars a minute, depending upon the carrier and pricing plan.
- Conversation Lag Time Delay can occur because geostationary satellites which are anywhere from 500 to 1,000 feet above the earth’s surface cause a time delay. There is sometimes a lag while talking to someone on the other end.
- Some cell phones and landlines are restricted from calling Iridium and Inmarsat phone numbers. Iridium and Inmarsat have special satellite phone numbers which can be difficult and expensive to call.
- Most Satellite Phones only work with their own manufacturer and service carrier.
- Most Satellite Phones do not work as an iPhone with any service carrier such as Verizon or AT&T.s.
- Form and style of the Satellite Phones are more like older style handheld radios but some manufacturers are progressing towards Smartphone capabilities such as the Thuraya XT-PRO Satellite Phone.
- Unlike cell phones, satellite phones require line-of-site with the sky to receive a signal for service. They do not work in buildings unless you are near a window with a line of sight with a satellite.
- Satellite Phone antennas are external, not internal. To send and receive phone calls they must be extended to function properly.