Top 10 Things People Really Need to Know about Satellite Phones

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Everything you need to know about renting or buying a satellite phone.

All Road Communications offers the top 10 things users need to know about satellite phones.

1 - You can rent or buy satellite phone

You should base your decision on the length and frequency of your needs. If you simply need a satellite phone three or four weeks out of the year then clearly renting is best, but if you require use of this equipment for four or more weeks out of the year then you should consider buying. You can rent a satellite phone for as little as $39.99 per week, and pay as low as $0.95 cents per minute. Most Satellite Phone Rental companies will also rent you accessories such as solar chargers, car antennas, and universal charging adapters. You can buy a satellite phone, like the Qualcomm GSP 1600, for use with the Globalstar Network for around $750, or you can buy a Motorola 9505A, for use with the Iridium Network, for around $1295. When you buy a satellite phone you are going to pay less for the minutes than if you rent. Rates for Iridium phones go as low as $0.85 cents per minute.

2 - Not all satellite phones work in all places

Make sure that you choose the right Satellite Phone Service for the area or country you are going to visit. For example, Iridium service covers the entire globe, excluding only North Korea, but Globalstar is better suited for US and Caribbean usage.

3 - You must be able to see the sky on order to get a connection and make a call

Satellite phones will not work inside of a building or underground. They will also not work well if surrounded by trees, tall buildings, or if positioned at the bottom of a valley/canyon. Note that if you are going to be in an automobile or boat, there are external antennas available to achieve service. If you require phone service inside of a building, there are also fixed satellite units available with external antennas designed to meet this need.

4 - Terrorists steal Satellite Phones

If you are going into an active war zone, then it is strongly recommended that you take a Satellite Phone with prepaid service. Satellite phones are the preferred method of communication for terrorists, who frequently steal satellite phones so that they can communicate with each other and the media for free. If your phone is stolen by terrorists, it will be used constantly, and you will be liable for the minutes. A prepaid phone will limit your loss to the value of the satellite phone and the amount of available prepaid minutes remaining at the time the phone is stolen. The phone I recommend for use, in any war zone, is the Motorola 9505A on the Iridium network.

5 - You can get email and surf the web through a Satellite Phone

Globalstar and Iridium satellite phones do offer Internet access with a connection rate of approximately 9500 baud. This will be enough to check email and text-based sites. If you want to surf the web, I recommend disabling images on your Internet browser to curb excessive download times. If you need a fast Internet connection, then the only logical choice is the InMarSat Network. The new R-BGAN service, from InMarSat, gives you top speeds of 144K, although realistic connection speeds run closer to 126K. This service does not work everywhere yet, but it is coming online quickly. Rates for renting a Satellite Phone Modem for the B-GAN network, like the Hughes modem, run around $39.99 per week, plus the cost of connection. With this service you pay by the Mega Byte. Prepaid MBs go for around $8, post paid can run you up to $15.

6 - Take a portable power supply with you

If you are going hiking, hunting, fishing, or on any other trip where you will not have ready access to a power supply, then make sure to get a portable solar charger. A solar charger can now kick out up to 25 Watts, 12 volts, and over 2 amps, fully recharging a dead satellite phone battery in as little as 3.5 hours, with continuous sunlight. These chargers usually run off of cigarette lighter adapters and are even powerful enough to recharge a laptop.

7 - Satellite Phones can send & receive SMS

Most Satellite phones can receive and send SMS messages. Most companies do not charge to receive messages, but sending a message from a satellite phone can cost 50 cents per message or more. The use of SMS can save a lot of money as opposed to actual voice calls.

8 - Check rates before calling a Satellite Phone from your fixed line or cell phone

Placing calls to a satellite phone from a regular fixed line phone or cell phone can be extremely expensive, so if you are going to call a sat phone I suggest you check with your Long Distance or Wireless provider first. Globalstar phones, however, have a US number, so if you are dialing a Globalstar sat phone from within the US, then you only pay for domestic long distance. A great way to save money when dialing an Iridium phone (which has an international number) is via the two-stage dialing method. It works like this, the person who wants to call you just calls a US number and is then prompted to enter your Iridium Satellite Phone number. With this method they just pay regular US long distance rates, and you just get each minute used deducted from your rental or prepaid plan at regular rates.

9 - Take care when calling from one Satellite Phone Service to another

Calling from one sat phone network to another (example: placing a call to a Globalstar phone from an InMarSat phone) can be very expensive, up to $12 a minute or more, so check the rates before you call and don't get surprised.

10 - Use Globalstar when in the USA

The best voice calling service in the US is with Globalstar because the rate of connection provided for voice calls is high, around 7000 baud, but when using a Globalstar phone outside the USA note where you are as they actually have roaming areas where rates can be much higher than your standard rates, as high as $4 per minute.

This information is provided by Scott Lindsay, US Sales Manager for All Road Communications, All Road Communications rents and sells satellite phones from Satellite Phone Providers including Iridium, Globalstar and InMarsat. This information is intended as a guide only, and includes personal opinion. Before making a decision on the rental or purchase of Satellite Phone equipment we recommend you independently verify all information for yourself. Rates and prices are always subject to change without notice.

All Road Communications has offices in San Diego, California and London, England. We are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and offer same day delivery in the USA and Western Europe, and next day delivery anywhere on earth. For a quote on rental or sales call us anytime at 1-888-884-7623 or visit us online at


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Scott Lindsay