Satellite Phones Explained

What are the key features to look for in a satellite phone?

Firstly, understand where you’re going to use the device to ensure that you choose a device on the correct satellite network that is suitable for your needs and will work when and where you need it.

From there look at which devices are options for you, consider the cost of the device and the cost of the ongoing monthly fee for the service plan. Think about how often you’re going to use the device (Ie. If it is just in an emergency, or if you’d like to be able to call family and friends and regularly check in on things back at home.)

Australian ‘04’ numbers and all of the benefits associated with this feature can be more important than the hardware itself. This ensures your monthly costs are kept low. 

 

Which satellite phone network suits you?

There are two main satellite networks that offer satellite phones in Australia. These are Iridium and Inmarsat, and while each network will work in Australia, each network has its own benefits.

Iridium
The Iridium network is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, LEO satellite networks are made up of a constellation of small satellites that orbit the Earth in a series of planes. In each plane a number of satellites follow each other as they orbit the Earth, and the planes run parallel to each other to provide the radio coverage that is used for the services.

The orbiting pattern of LEO satellite networks means that the individual satellites in the constellation are constantly moving relative to the Earth’s surface. From most locations it is possible to see one or more LEO satellites at any time. Sometimes they may be blocked by physical barriers such as buildings or mountains that block the signal path to the satellite, however, because LEO satellites are always moving, the satellites often move out from behind the physical barrier after a few seconds or minutes providing a clear radio path between the user terminal and the satellite.

Because of this Iridium is the only network that provides truly global coverage, as a result of this Iridium satellite phone plans are slightly more expensive than the other options out there (Starting at $65 per month). Hardware is from $1,699 (Iridium GO!) though Iridium does claim to have the toughest solutions for the most demanding environments with devices that are rated for durability including MIL-STD 810F and IP65.

Inmarsat

Inmarsat operates Geostationary (GEO) satellite networks which utilise a smaller number of satellites, and each satellite provides satellite coverage to a fixed area of the Earth. GEO satellites are generally located above the equator and follow the Earth’s orbit which means each GEO satellite stays in the same place relative to the Earth’s surface.

GEO satellites are generally larger and require more power than LEO satellites as they need to cover a much larger area of the Earth’s surface, but since the satellites are around 36,000 km above the Earth, will experience greater latency or voice delay than LEO satellites. When using GEO satellite phones, the phone must be pointed in the correct direction relative to where the satellite is positioned, and it is preferable to have a high elevation angle.

Inmarsat satellite phone plans start at $43 per month and only offer one satellite phone, the Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 which is $1,599.00 RRP.

 

Why is a satellite phone essential for remote travel?

With large areas of Australia’s land mass not covered by traditional mobile networks, including many popular travel destinations, satellite phones are a cost-effective communication option for coverage right across Australia.

Satellite phones are often thought of as expensive and hard to operate, this is not the case, Pivotel has spent a lot of time and effort making satellite phones as easy to operate as a mobile phone with features such as standard ‘04’ mobile numbers.

When you’re in a remote area a satellite phone really does provide you with peace of mind knowing if you need it, you have it. Satellite phones allow you to keep in touch with family while you’re off the beaten track, let your family and friends know that you’re okay, keep them up to date with your latest plans and adventures, or, if the worst should happen, allow you to contact emergency responders, all from one device.


What are the common uses of a satellite phone?

Satellite phones are used in a variety of ways, by adventurers who want a line of communication should they need it while they’re out exploring off the beaten track. Caravaners and campers often carry a satellite phone to provide them and their families with peace of mind knowing they have a line of communication should they need it. They can also keep in touch with family and friends from the comfort of their home away from home, and communicate in the event of an accident, breakdown, medical event, or other emergency if mobile phone use is not possible. Satellite phones are also used by businesses, corporations and governments that have people travelling or with operations outside of traditional mobile coverage, allow them to meet the legal OH&S obligations they have for their employee’s safety.


What are the key functions of a satellite phone?

While most satellite phones will provide you with voice and SMS connectivity, not all satellite phones are equal. Pivotel satellite phones have local ‘04’ phone numbers, others have complex international numbers. The benefits of purchasing a device with an Australian ‘04’ mobile number cannot be dismissed, the ‘04’ mobile number means incoming calls and SMS are charged at standard Australian mobile rates, which means the calls are usually free to the caller as most mobile phone and landline bundles provide unlimited standard mobile phone calls, they’re also a lot easier to dial.

There are satellite phones available that can turn your smartphone into a mobile phone like the Iridium GO!

Commonly known as smartphone extenders these satellite devices connect to your smartphone via Wi-Fi allowing your mobile phone to act as the satellite devices interface via an App. These devices have additional features like email and have other useful features like accessing certain low bandwidth apps, as well as your existing contact list from your mobile phone, making it easier to call without having to re-enter phone numbers into another device.

 

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