When purchasing a satellite phone, you have some very important details to consider. The process is more complex than buying a regular cellular phone, because not only do you have handset features to compare to one another, you must also be mindful of the differences between each carrier’s satellite network. Coverage area, call quality, and reliability is all dependent on the satellite network utilized by a given provider. You cannot make an informed decision about purchasing or renting a satellite phone without this knowledge.
Our buyer’s guide goes into more detail, but here is a quick summary of satellite phone providers and their coverage areas, plus a few strengths and weaknesses of each one.
Iridium is by the preferred satellite phone network for the overwhelming majority of our clients. It utilizes 66 satellites orbiting the Earth in a consistent configuration. The Iridium network offers complete coverage all over the globe, including the poles, and is the only satellite network that does so. Their handsets are expensive but very durable and resistant to weather conditions. There are much fewer issues with establishing a line of sight, as latitude is a non-issue, however, the satellites do move so dropped calls are to be expected. Iridium satellite phones are a necessity for any globetrotter who, for whatever reason, finds themselves in places all over the world.
Inmarsat GSPS satellite phones are a good option if you are planning to travel between 50° North and South latitude. Inmarsat uses three geostationary satellites positioned near the equator. Coverage is technically available on almost the whole globe minus the poles, but the farther away you get from the equator, the closer to the horizon the satellites will be, and the more difficult it will be for you to get a line of sight to them as is required to access satellite phone service. The plus side is that if you are in the service area, the geostationary satellites (orbiting at the same speed as the Earth’s rotation, causing them to stay in place) offer very reliable call quality, as opposed to orbiting satellites which move in relation to you.
Thuraya coverage is limited to the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Australia and most of Africa. If you are traveling in that area of the world, a Thuraya satellite phone has the benefit of fairly small size compared to most other satellite phones. Thuraya also offers Thuraya IP terminals for internet access. Definitely look into Thuraya as an option if you are going to be in their service area.
Now you know the basics regarding the differences between the satellite phone brands that we carry. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact Outfitter Satellite and we will help you choose the satellite phone that is right for you.