Satellite Phone: A Complete Guide

Satellite phones are becoming cheaper, lighter, and stronger. They provide dependable communications worldwide and reasonable airtime prices. 

Making them important for both android and iPhone connection when reception is poor. However, most people need help choosing the best satellite phone. 

So, if you’re unfamiliar with satellite phones, this blog article will teach you everything you need to know about them, including their features, service providers, and plans.

Table of Contents

What is a Satellite Phone?

Satellite phones are mobile communication devices that can be used anywhere on the Earth, whether in the middle of the desert, at sea, or in a mountain range where cell phone networks don’t reach. That’s because satellite phones get and send signals from space-based satellites.

A black satellite phone

(A black satellite phone)

Satellite Phone Features

The following are some basic features of a satellite phone:

Voice Calling:

Some satellite phones, like smartphones, can make voice calls and connect to the internet. So, if you want to use your satellite phone to make full voice calls, you’ll have to pay extra.

Text Messages (SMS):

Most satellite phone services will also let you send and receive SMS or text messages. As part of your satellite phone package, ensure you know how many text messages you can send each month.

Remember that satellite phones should mostly be used in emergencies or as a backup in case your cell phone service goes out. 

But, If you plan to use your satellite phone to send many text messages, you should get a plan to send as many texts as you want.

Yacht guy texting on satellite internet while relaxing

(Yacht guy texting on satellite internet while relaxing)

SOS and Emergency Support:

Some satellite communicator devices have built-in SOS buttons that connect you to emergency support centers open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

For example, if you get hurt or your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and you need help, your satellite phone should be able to connect you to an emergency center with the push of a button.

Hiker who is lost in the woods and has a mobile satellite navigation device geocaching

(Hiker who is lost in the woods and has a mobile satellite navigation device geocaching)

Network Coverage:

Do satellite phones work anywhere? Communication companies use two satellite systems to cover a specific area or the whole planet.

Depending on your travel plans, you may want a satellite phone service that only works in the countries you want to visit. If you are going to travel by sea, you will need coverage all over the world. There are two types of satellite networks:

  • Geostationary Satellites
  • Low Earth Orbit satellites (LEO) 

Geostationary Satellites:

Geostationary satellites rotate at the same speed as the Earth’s orbit because they are locked to a point about 37,000 km above the equator. 

This means that one satellite can serve many countries from this position. Once a satellite phone is connected to a satellite, it is very unlikely to lose signal to a geostationary network.

Satellite phones that use this network are more likely to get a signal in a gully or canyon than LEO phones. Due to where the satellites are in space, they can’t reach the north or south poles at this point.

Space-based telecommunications defense satellite

(Space-based telecommunications defense satellite)

Low Earth Orbit Satellites (LEO):

Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites do not stay in one spot above the Earth. Instead, they orbit a few hundred kilometers above the surface, letting them do a full turn every 90 minutes. LEO satellites work together to send signals to sat phones on the ground. 

When compared to geostationary satellites, their network is far larger. Since their orbits cover the whole Earth, they can get signals from faraway places like the north and south poles, but it gets harder as the signal gets closer to the equator.

Heavy-duty Hardware:

It would be best to buy a satellite phone with strong hardware depending on where you want to go and what conditions you might face. Some satellite phones are made to withstand the harshest conditions on Earth, like water, sandstorms, and high and low temperatures.

Man in the mountains talking on a satellite phone

(Man in the mountains talking on a satellite phone)

How Satellite Phones Work

Satellite phones, unlike mobile phones, don’t use cell towers on land to receive and send signals. 

Instead, they use satellites to send and receive signals. Satellite communication companies send satellites into orbit around the Earth to set up communication networks on the ground. 

The signal from your satellite phone goes up to a satellite, which then sends it down to the person you want to call. If the person you’re calling has a regular cell phone, a station on the ground will connect the signal to a local network.

Do Satellite Phones Need A Plan?

Like a cell phone, you’ll need to activate a service plan before making calls.

There are different types of satellite phone services and devices with different pricing and network coverage, as illustrated below:

Satellite phone service providerBest forCoveragePricing
GlobalstarIntense expeditions, Extreme environments Australia, North America, Europe, South America, and East AsiaStart at $99.99 monthly for 150 minutes of phone calls. Sat phone plans Globalstar GSP-1600 Satellite phone ranges from $199–$275
IridiumIntense expeditions, Extreme environments Provide coverage for the whole globe$1,595 and an $89.95 monthly voice call subscription.
HughesNet or ViasatHome or officeIf you reside in a low-coverage region or need an emergency backup phone for your home or company
$29.95 per month, while residential VoIP service starts at $29.99 per month.
Iridium GO!® + your cell phoneCamping You turn your smartphone into a satellite phoneMonthly service options are $52.95 for 5 minutes of voice/data and 5 text messages. The devices cost $795.
Garmin InReach®occasional adventuresIf you don’t need voice calling, SOS, messages, and other emergency communications are a good optionTen texts and unlimited SOS calls cost $14.95 per month. Garmin InReach® devices cost $299.99.

Please note that before you choose a satellite phone or service, make sure it will work in the places you want.

How to Turn Your Cell Phone into a Satellite Phone

If you want to turn your cell phone into a satellite phone, you can do this with an Iridium GO device! Iridium GO! works like a satellite phone’s wifi hotspot service. 

You can also use your smartphone to connect to satellite service anywhere in the world. On the other hand, Apple’s satellite SOS service will only be able to deliver brief, customized text messages.

The iPhone will advise you to aim at the appropriate angle and time in the sky to connect to a satellite. A message might take 15 seconds or more to send. 

In addition, you should stick with a complete satellite communicator or sat phone if you need better connectivity and more features.


Can a Satellite Phone Call a Cell Phone?

Yes, you can call and connect to any number, whether a landline or a cell phone.

Is It Possible to Track Satellite Phones?

Satellite phones were designed to track missing or injured persons in distant places. However, your satellite phones may be able to enter “stealth mode,” depending on the device and service contract.

How Long will a Satellite Phone Last?

A satellite phone’s battery life varies on the model and use. The Iridium Extreme offers 30 standby hours and four talk hours. However, with a message or position delivered every 30 minutes, the Garmin InReach Messenger gadget has a 46-day battery life. In moderate tree cover, it lasts 23 days.

Final Thoughts

Satellite phones are important for outdoor adventurers who wish to travel to remote regions, sail the high seas, or need emergency contact in the event of a disaster without having to worry about a dead mobile phone zone.

However, it is recommended that you narrow down what kind of coverage you want and then move from there to establish the most cost-effective option.

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