Some satellite phones are larger than the cell phones you see today and also heavier. It is more expensive to buy compared to your mobile phone. In the event that you find yourself in a situation where you need the guarantee of connectivity, where the other alternatives are non-existent or in short supply, a satellite phone becomes a valuable means of meeting your general communication needs and possibly a life saver as well. In such cases, you can consider renting a satellite phone, which is affordable and will become a valuable and essential asset in your journey to the middle of no-where.
A satellite phone needs the open air to work. It cannot be used from inside a building or in places where the sky is not visible. It is the antenna of a satellite phone that must have a view of the clear sky above for the phone to work. This would mean such phones won’t work indoors unless you’re next to a window facing the clear sky. Not only that, if the satellite happens to be a Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellite, the window should point in the direction where the satellite in question is currently located. There is the other type, called a Geostationary Earth Orbiting (GEO) satellite, which remains in the steady state relative to the Earth’s motion. While LEO satellite orbits the Earth at a relatively low altitude, a few hundred miles above the Earth, GEO satellites are placed at about 22,000 to 32,000 miles above the Earth, where they remain in the same position above the Earth’s surface at all times.
If you are on a ship, you may need to go out on deck to make sure you have that open space for reliable operation of your satellite phone. If you’re in a car, you’d put that external antenna that came with your phone on the roof of the car to have a reliable connection. But be aware, you may experience call drop issues in urban areas due to the tall buildings. If you are outside but in the middle of a forest, the trees can block the satellite’s line of sight and your calls can be dropped or interrupted.
The GEO satellites, which are placed much higher than the LEOs, cover a larger part of the earth and can see a wider area. On the other hand, the LEOs would require a constellation of satellites to relay the communication information from one satellite to another so that it can reach the desired destination. The LEO satellite orbits the Earth once in about 90 to 100 minutes and this is why the return time for transmission is minimal. In addition, because we are at a lower altitude, some 600 miles above the Earth, the power required to transmit signals from the Earth is much lower compared to the GEO satellites. Satellite phones operated by LEO satellites require a shorter antenna, while the antennas intended for the GEOs are considerably larger to accommodate the power required to transmit signals to the satellite in question. The downside to LEO satellites is that they have to operate in a fleet because they orbit at a higher speed, synchronized in the way that when one satellite moves out of a certain position, the next one takes over.
There are several companies that rent out satellite phones – Iridium, Globalstar, Inmarsat and Thuraya.
The Iridium space sector consists of a network of 66 satellites orbiting the Earth at a distance of about 500 miles above the Earth. These satellites are Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites and operate as a constellation of 66 satellites. Iridium satellites cover the Earth’s surface with narrow beams that provide a clear connection that causes no delay in transmission. Iridium phones are small and light, have a small antenna and have the function to connect you worldwide.
Iridium gives you the flexibility to take your Iridium 9505A or 9505 portable phone with you in or out of your vehicle or boat. If you include a docking station, you have an RJ-11 port to connect your conventional analog and cordless phones. The Iridium phone features an advanced filter that removes most of the sounds normally present on the Iridium network.
Once your Iridium phone is activated, the nearest satellite will detect your phone and determine if the phone belongs to that group of satellites and also check your user account for registration and validity. The satellite also determines the position of your phone. When calling, the phone communicates directly with the nearest satellite. This is then transmitted from satellite to satellite until it reaches the appropriate satellite, which will then retransmit the information to the desired earth station. Your Iridium phone connects you to a fixed infrastructure anywhere in the world.
The features of your Iridium service include –
- Voice, fax, email and data communications to and from anywhere in the world.
- A roaming phone that you can take anywhere.
- One phone number, one number, wherever you are.
- Fast connectivity.
- One simple account for your entire account, in one currency.
- You can choose from postpaid or prepaid connections.
- Affordable call costs with one fixed base rate for PSTN lines.
- Incoming calls are free.
- Very easy to use.
- It offers a standard data rate of 2.4 kbps and has the ability to deliver 10 kbps over the direct internet data service.
The average rental price for an Iridium phone would be around $9 per day, with $6 per day theft and loss insurance with a $400 deductible. Outgoing calls would be around $1.99 per day. minute while retrieving voicemail would be $1.50 per minute. Calls to other Iridium phones cost about $1.50 per minute and calls to Inmarsat satellite phones cost $10 per minute.
Globalstar was phased in for the first time in 1999. The commercial services were introduced in three phases: the so-called “friendly user” service tests in October 1999, the introduction of a preliminary service for a handful of users in November 1999, and the full commercial roll-out of its services in North America in February 2000.
With the introduction of Globalstar, the whole communication scenario changed. The advent of satellite telephony spawned the era when communication became possible even from that 50% of the world that has little or no telecommunications facilities.
Businesses, governments and even recreational users now had the ability to communicate wherever they are, whether traveling in regions where infrastructure such as fixed lines and mobile coverage are unavailable. The satellite phone proved its clear advantage.
Globalstar services began to find their way into many industries, including:
- Companies in the natural resources trade, especially oil and gas, mining and forestry companies
- Maritime industry, fishing boats and pleasure craft
- Transport, such as railways and freight transport
- Mobile users looking to extend the reach of their existing service
- Various federal and provincial government agencies
- Leisure companies in remote areas and recreational enthusiasts, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, etc.
- Recreational vehicles, cruise ships, etc.
- Global business travelers traveling to destinations where local telephone service is unreliable or expensive
Globalstar’s iPhones, the mobile unit, the GSP-1600, have a retail price of about $750, making them the most competitive equipment on the market today. Renting a GSP-1600 cell phone will cost you about $40 per week, with the following options and accessories:
- Voicemail $15.00/rental.
- Internet/Email access with Data Kit (PC serial cable and software) $25.00/rental.
- 12 volt DC cigarette lighter adapter cable $10.00/rental.
- Leather tote bag $8.00/rental.
In terms of call charges, Globalstar offers:
- Home Area (US) – $1.59/minute.
- Canada Roaming – $1.59/minute.
- International Roaming/Long Distance – $3.49/minute.
- Text messages of 19 characters – free.
Prices above are all average figures, subject to change.
Thuraya is a regional satellite service provider primarily serving Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The service is centered on a single geostationary communications satellite, with one backup and the third is coming and is scheduled to launch in the year 2007. 2007. The company is based in the Middle East and provides its services through several authorized service providers.
The company offers voice communication with handheld terminals and fixed stations at sea or on land. It offers Short Message Service (SMS) and data and fax services at 9.6 kbit/s. It also features 144kbit/s high-speed data services via a notebook-sized Hughes terminal (ThurayaDSL), with built-in GPRS services along with services such as news, callback, voicemail, WAP, etc.
Thuraya currently has more than 250,000 handheld subscribers, with growth slowing down during the year 2005. The handsets offered by Thuraya have dual-mode features, allowing them to be used on the Thuraya satellite and also as a GSM mobile phone that operates on the 900 MHz. bandwidth. This is different from Iridium while serving the same function as Qualcomm handsets on the Globalstar system. Qualcom is a phone with CDMA/satellite features.
Thuraya has the following average costs:
- Calls to any destination except those not on their list – voice: $1.25 per minute, data/fax service – $1.80 per minute.
- Calls to other Thuraya phones – $0.85 per minute, data/fax service – $1.40 per minute.
- Calls to Iridium – $3.00 per minute, data/fax service – $3.00 per minute.
- Calls to Inmersat – $3.00 per minute, data/fax service – $3.00 per minute.
- Calls to Inmersat A – $5.50 per minute, data/fax service – $5.50 per minute.
The costs stated above are average and may vary per offer.
Communications satellites have sparked a telecommunications revolution. It has brought connectivity to the whole world and reached out to those areas where no basic communication infrastructure exists