Comparing satellite phones is vital to matching the mission critical needs of your application with the function and capabilities of the respective satellite communications equipment. Ultimately a satellite phone is only as good as the network behind it and each network, Iridium, Inmarsat and Globalstar have various strengths and benefits. The comparison chart is designed to help prospective customers select which satellite phone is best suited for the job at hand in terms of QoS (Quality of Service), potential limitations and advantages one handset may have over another. In terms of networks, Iridium is currently the only satellite constellation to offer its customers seamless global coverage between and including, both poles. Inmarsat isatphone solutions, while somewhat more economical, may be deficient in terms of polar coverage and directional antenna. Globalstar is a good economical choice for users in the Continental USA, Canada or Caribbean, but not recommended for travelers outside these areas.
|Iridium Extreme||Iridium 9555||IsatPhone 2||Globalstar
|Coverage||Global||Global||Global (Minus Poles)||Regional
|Weight||8.7oz (247g)||9.38oz (266g)||11.14oz (316g)||7.05oz (200g)|
|5.3” x 2.2” x 1.5”|
|Battery Life||4hr talk / 30hrs standby||3hr talk / 30hrs standby||8hr talk / 160hr standby||4hr talk / 36 standby|
|Antenna||Retractable omni-directional||Retractable omni-directional||Fold-out directional||Fold-out directional|
|Network||66 Low Earth Orbit satellites||66 Low Earth Orbit satellites||3 Geostationary satellites||40 Orbiting Satellites|
|Text Messaging (SMS)||Supported||Supported||Supported||35 Character Receive Only|
|GPS||Yes||N/A||Yes||Yes - During Call|
|Interfaces||Mini USB, Audio||Mini USB, Audio||Micro USB, Bluetooth||Mini USB, Audio|
|Data Connectivity||Yes, via USB or AxcessPoint||Yes, via USB or AxcessPoint||Yes, via USB or AxcessPoint||Yes, via USB or AxcessPoint|
|2.4 Kbps SLOW||2.4 Kbps SLOW||2.4 Kbps SLOW||9.6 Kbps SLOW|
Satellite phones have been around for decades but until the launch of the Iridium network subscribers typically needed fortune 100 or government sized budgets to pay for the privilege. Overall satellite phones, which operate independently of terrestrial communication networks, are typically a valuable backup to cell phones particularly where traditional wireless service is unreliable or non-existent which is the case in remote, unpopulated regions or where cell phone networks are vulnerable to natural or manmade disasters.
Unlike cell phones, satellite phones generally require line of site with the sky to receive a signal for service. Consequently do not expect your satellite phone to ring in the hotel lobby of your hotel in the Congo or while in a cabin while at sea. Alas, like most rules there are always exceptions. As an example if your indoors but happen to be near a very large window, even if it is closed, you might expect to receive a signal. Pilots can often leave a satellite phone or more likely and Iridium Go on the dashboard of their planes cockpit and receive a signal.
While voice calls to a satellite phone incur a significant international calling surcharge texting is often treated as any traditional SMS to a cell phone. Consequently cell phone subscriber with and international SMS feature can text a satellite phone at no additional charge to say, texting a cell phone in Mexico. Inmarsat and Iridium satellite phones can send & receive text messages(SMS) or short emails and Globalstar can recieve 35 character messages only.
The Inmarsat Isatphone offers global satellite connectivity at an affordable price. In addition to voice and text the Isatphone also includes a built-in GPS. While signal acquisition is somewhat slow due to the placement of the Inmarsat I-4 satellites and GPS acquisition, the call quality is reasonable. For the penultimate in satellite communications the Iridium 9575 Extreme is the most rugged, compact, satellite phone on the market today. Utilizing the Iridium network for unparalleled quality and coverage this IP65 rated handset can be dropped into a puddle and still be able to call a taxi from the North Pole. In fact you can even send the taxi driver you GPS coordinates, including elevation, via SMS or email.
While many satellite phones do offer data, very few offer internet access and even those few have severe bandwidth restrictions. However many common, popular online functions may be carried out either with an added accessory to a standard phone or directly, with the aide of a smartphone when utilizing with a Wi-Fi enabled satellite phone. Regardless it is important to note that browsing webpages is simply out of the question even for the most patient, meditative subscribers. A Wi-Fi satellite phone will offer limited internet capabilities such as Facebook updates, with compressed photos or tweets.
The Iridium GO! satellite hotspot is the first portable Wi-Fi hotspot and enables satellite phone to let subscribers call, text, email and limited internet, all from their iOS or Android smartphone. Best of all it’s the least expensive hardware solution to give customers access to iridium, the most reliable satellite network.
For true internet access with web browsing a portable BGAN or IsatHub terminal are among the various mobile satellite internet solutions we recommend. Portable BGAN terminals and IsatHub terminals like the Wideye Isavi utilize a passive antennae must be stationary to receive a signal and transmit data. Even on a cruise ship which might not be moving all that fast you may have trouble maintaining a signal. The mobile satellite phones listed on this page can maintain a signal even while traveling in a car, train or plane.