Satellite Phone

Cell phones are great for making calls in towns and surrounding areas, but they are useless once they are taken beyond the range of the towers. They cannot be used in remote areas such as deserts or oceans, which is a serious problem for the people who live or work in these places. The satellite phone is the only truly mobile communication device. It can be used practically anywhere on the surface of the Earth, provided that it’s connected to the right network. Choosing the right satellite phone requires a good understanding of the features and capabilities of various models, and also how much they cost to operate over the long term.

A satellite phone communicates directly with a satellite orbiting the Earth, which relays the call to a ground station that is connected to the main phone network. Each satellite phone network has access to a fleet of satellites that gives it coverage over all or most of the Earth’s surface. It’s important to check the coverage footprint of the network before signing up, otherwise the phone may not work in some places, such as the Arctic circle. Each satellite phone comes with its own number and SIM card, and it can be used to make and receive calls at any time of the day or night. However, a satellite phone is not usually a replacement for a cell phone because the call costs are much higher.

The high cost of owning and using a satellite phone restricts its use to mostly business and government work. The phones are use by mining companies to stay in contact with their employees out in the field, and also by aid agencies to better organize relief work in remote areas. Practically all vessels that travel the oceans have at least one satellite phone onboard, and airliners have specially modified phones that allow passengers to make calls during a flight. Farmers who are a long way from town often have to rely on a satellite phone to stay in touch with family and neighbors. There have also been many instances where a satellite phone has saved lives, simply because it allowed medical aid to arrive more quickly.

A satellite phone looks just like a regular cell phone, except for the aerial which can be rather large and cumbersome. The thick aerial on older models was longer than the phone body and needed to be fully extended to get the best reception. Most of latest models have a much shorter aerial, and some even have no external aerial at all. The body of a satellite phone is thicker than a regular cell phone but the rest of it looks no different, including the screen and keypad on the front. All models have the rectangular ‘candy bar’ form factor that most cell phones have, and there are no clamshell models available as yet.

There are now several models available that can be used on both satellite and cell phone (GSM) networks. Given the high cost of making satellite phone calls, using one of these models can save you a lot of money. Other than that major difference, a satellite phone shares many of the features of a regular cell phone. Of course, it needs to have a long talk time and standby time but also a short charging time. It should also have a number of connectivity options, such as USB or Bluetooth. The keypad and color screen should be large and easy to read, and the phone should have a user-friendly operating system with adequate memory. A camera and GPS are also good features to have.

Choosing the right satellite phone network is just as important as choosing the phone itself. About half of the networks use a fleet of geostationary satellites, which orbit with the Earth and stay in the same spot in the sky. These networks don’t normally cover the polar regions, and the calls have a noticeable delay because the satellites are far away. The other networks use a fleet of LEO satellites, which stands for Low Earth Orbit. They can reach the polar regions and have slightly less call delay because they are much closer to the Earth. There is not a lot of difference in call quality between the different networks so the choice ultimately comes down to cost.

This Satellite Phone Review is Written/Updated on Jan 14th, 2011 and filed under Consumer Electronics. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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