Satellite phones are necessary gear if you work or play in the world’s remotest places. Not all satellite phones perform well in mountainous terrain or offer global coverage. Some are more economical for users expecting to make large numbers of long duration calls. Others are acceptable for light email use but really not suitable for broadband internet applications such as uploading video. This Buyer’s Guide will help you sort through these issues.
Start with 3 simple questions:
- Should I buy or rent? If you have a one-time need for the satellite phone or need it just a few weeks each year, then renting the phone is probably the most economical choice. We offer both short and long-term satellite phone rentals.
- Where will I use the phone? Iridium offers global coverage and works well even in rugged mountainous areas. Inmarsat typically has lower cost equipment, but Inmarsat coverage is unavailable in the polar regions and its geostationary satellites are more susceptible to being blocked by the terrain in mountainous areas. Thuraya offers very small lightweight phones and low operating costs but only has regional coverage in parts of Europe, the Middle East, India, Asia, Australia and Africa.
- Do I need broadband internet access? If light email is sufficient, the relatively slow 2.4 kbps data speed offered by Iridium or Inmarsat handsets could be sufficient. If web browsing or realtime video are required, then a portable broadband internet terminal using Inmarsat BGAN or Thuraya IP should be selected. If you have a marine vessel, Iridium OpenPort is a good choice.
|Product(s)||Iridium 9575 Extreme|
|IsatPhone 2||Thuraya XT-PRO|
Includes GSM cellular mode:
Near global coverage except in polar regions. On land, signal masking by terrain features such as mountains becomes increasingly problematic above 50°N or below 50°S latitude.
Regional coverage in Middle East, Asia, India, Australia & parts of Africa.
|Reliability||Dependable even in mountainous areas. Call drops are relatively frequent.||Geostationary satellites. On land, call drops are generally rare except where mountains or other terrain features block signal.||Geostationary satellites. On land, call drops are generally rare except where mountains or other terrain features block signal.|
Iridium 9575 Extreme
|Weight of handset|
|11.2 oz||7.5 oz|
on a single charge
|3.5 hours||8 hours||9 hours|
|Operating Temperature||-4° to 131°F||-4° to 131°F||+14° to 151°F|
Best case data rates are shown here and lower speeds may be observed.
2.4 to 2.8 kbps
Iridium Openport offers up to 128 kbps data. Starting in 2018, new Iridium NEXT terminals will offer up to 512 kbps.
1.8 to 2.4 kbps
Inmarsat BGAN terminals offer speeds up to 492 kbps (standard IP) and 750 kbps (streaming).
|MODERATE: (GmPRS mode) |
15 kbps up /60 kbps down
Thuraya IP terminals offer speeds up to 444 kbps (standard IP) and 384 kbps (streaming).
|Optional Email Kit|
for laptops, smartphones
* XT-Lite doesn't offer data.
|Optional Solar Kit||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Handheld Satphones vs Hotspots:
An increasing number of users are choosing to get portable satellite hotspots that they can use with their iOS or Android smartphone or tablet via an app. Professional hunter Spook Spann talks about how he used the Iridium GO! in the video below.
- Iridium GO! Hotspot offers global coverage and enables your smartphone to make and receive calls, texts, and emails with attachments. Unfortunately, its slow 2.4 kbps data speed requires that the emails be sent through a special app and email account.
- Thuraya SatSleeve+ offers internet access speeds up to 15 kbps on upload and 60 kbps on download, but Thuraya coverage is limited to parts of Europe, the Middle East, India, Asia, Australia and Africa.
- Cobham EXPLORER 510 offers true broadband internet access speeds up to 464 kbps with nearly global coverage with the exception of the polar regions. The EXPLORER 510 is a little heavier than the 0.65lb Iridium GO! Hotspot but at 3.1lb it is still very portable and offers much faster internet as well as a phone call app for your iOS or Android smartphone. If you have a short term need, try BGAN rental.