Need a satellite phone for the short-term only? Why not consider a sat phone rental?

As we enter summer people start to enjoy the weather and get out and about by climbing, sailing, mountaineering and fishing more often.  However, many of these activities can mean venturing into the unknown where there is no mobile phone coverage and in case of emergency it is essential that adventurers have means of communication.  This is where a satellite phone would come in handy but if you only need it for a couple of months a year is it worth the investment?  With sat phones ranging from £420 – £999 plus airtime charges it may be that satellite phone rental is a more viable option.  Starting from just £140 a month sat phone rental allows you to stay in touch without the investment a sat phone purchase brings.

For coverage in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Far East and Australia consider Thuraya or Iridium.  However, if you need to use a sat phone outside these areas Iridium is the only provider to meet your requirements.  See network coverage maps for more information.

The Iridium 9555 satellite phone offers global coverage and is just one of the sat phones Global Telesat Communications offer for rental.

The Iridium 9555 satellite phone offers global coverage and is just one of the sat phones Global Telesat Communications offer for rental.

Once you have decided where you need to use the sat phone consider whether you need to hire any sat phone accessories.  Good sat phone rental providers can offer normal mains chargers, solar chargers and additional batteries as well as hands-free and data kits.

Most providers work on the basis that you pay a refundable deposit upon booking your satellite phone rental.  Any airtime charges you incur will then be deducted from this deposit upon return of the phone and accessories in good condition.

At Global Telesat Communications we offer the newest satellite phone handsets for rental – the Iridium 9555, Thuraya XT and Thuraya SO-2510.  We will shortly be adding the new Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro to our rental stock which provides global coverage.  Satellite phones are available for next day delivery and we can provide frequent traffic updates so you can keep track of your spending.  We also offer basic airtime plans for rentals with emergency use in mind only or plans with inclusive minutes for those who know they will be frequently using the sat phone.  For more information please contact us or visit our satellite rentals page.

Satellite Phone Call Charges vs Mobile Phone Roaming Charges

GlobalstarYou can make a call from a satellite phone from as low as 47p per minute.

Making calls from a satellite phone is often perceived as expensive for a business or individual.  Caps to call charges when roaming in the EU in recent years have been welcomed but when travelling outside the EU sat phones can still provide lower call costs than roaming with your mobile phone.

With a sat phone calls can start from as little as 47p per minute:

Lowest Sat Phone Call Charges Per Minute
Pay As You Go
Contract*
Charge to Receive Calls
Globalstar
47p
59p
0p
Iridium
£1.40
81p
0p
Thuraya
78p
68p
0p
Inmarsat
72p
68p
0p
EE GSM
£2.00
£2.00
£2.00
Charges include VAT, all based on calls to landlines or mobiles excluding Inmarsat Contract – call charge relevant to landlines only.

Compare this with mobile phone roaming charges of up to £2.00† per minute and it’s easy to see how a sat phone can prove a cost effective method of communication for global travellers.  The cost per minute of pre-paid satellite airtime also compares favourably to the equivalent mobile roaming charges.

Not only can it be cheaper making calls from a sat phone but receiving calls is better value for money.  Most UK mobile phone operators will charge you to receive calls when you are roaming – one UK provider charges as much as £2.00† per minute to receive a call in certain areas of the world.  Also, unfortunately as one GTC employee recently discovered some networks also charge each time you receive a missed call on your mobile when outside the EU!  That’s £2.00 each time you miss a call and with the number of cold callers these days that can soon add up.  With a sat phone, wherever you are in the world you do not pay to receive any calls.

Using a sat phone abroad also allows organisations and individuals to budget for call charges.  Many UK mobile phone operators have different tariffs for different areas of the world and the price is also affected by which country you are calling.  This makes it almost impossible to know how much a call is going to cost you when you make it which in turn makes it very difficult to budget in advance.  A sat phone allows you to make calls to fixed or mobile numbers anywhere in the world at a fixed rate  per minute and this will not change, wherever you are.

If you are a frequent traveller why not consider a sat phone for cheaper call charges when abroad?  We are happy to advise you on the best satellite network, phone and airtime plan for you.  Please contact us for more information.

* All contracts except Globalstar are charged in USD.  Prices quoted are based on GBP=USD exchange rate of 1.60.  Globalstar contracts are charged in EUR and are based on GBP=EUR exchange rate of 1.22.   All prices include VAT.

† Based on calls made and received on EE call plans.

Updated February 2014. All call charges correct as of February 2014.

Satellite Phones vs Cell Phones

What is the difference between a satellite phone and a cell phone?  Cell phones rely on terrestrial networks to complete a call whereas satellite phones rely on orbiting satellites – the satellite is the equivalent of a cell phone mast.  This means that sat phones are ideal for individuals travelling in remote locations where there is no cell phone coverage.  It also means that satellite phones are essential in case of emergency such as a hurricane or earthquake – often the local cell phone infrastructure is destroyed which makes calls by cell phone impossible.

 

Although call costs are more expensive using a satellite phone when you are in an area with no traditional communication methods, sat phones are vital.  As this map from GSM World shows, there are still vast regions of the world that aren’t covered by GSM networks.  Compare this with the Iridium satellite phone network which provides global coverage and you can see how useful satellite phones are.

 

GSM World Coverage 2009 from GSM World

GSM World Coverage 2009 from GSM World

Another difference between satellite phones and cell phones are the handsets used.  Satellite phones have a built in extendable antenna which allows the phone to pick up a satellite signal.  Apart from the extendable antenna the handsets are now very similar in size and weight to cell phones making them very easy to carry when travelling.

It is possible to combine the advantages of GSM and satellite networks in one handset.  Thuraya SIM cards allow you to roam on compatible GSM networks when in their coverage area.  Even better, the Thuraya SG-2520 functions with both a Thuraya SIM card and GSM SIM card with no phone unlocking required.  This means that when you are in a GSM coverage area you can use a local SIM card reducing call costs and meaning you only need to carry one handset.

Satellite phones and cell phones both have their advantages but for communication in remote locations a sat phone is the best option.

Inmarsat prepares for the launch of the new IsatPhone Pro satellite phone

IsatPhone Pro
IsatPhone Pro

Inmarsat have made the first phone call from their new IsatPhone Pro – a satellite phone which will be launched to coincide with the global expansion of their Inmarsat SPS (Satellite Phone Service) in June 2010.  The IsatPhone Pro will improve on the original IsatPhone with new features such as Bluetooth for hands free use and improved battery life.

Not only is the launch of the IsatPhone Pro a significant milestone for Inmarsat, it will alter the satellite communications industry as a whole.  Currently Iridium is the only provider of global satellite phone services and consequently equipment and airtime is priced higher than other providers such as Thuraya and the current Inmarsat SPS service.  It will be interesting to see how this increased competition in global satellite voice services will affect prices – it could be that increased competition leads to a fall in prices making satellite communications even more accessible to customers.

The Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro will be available from Global Telesat Communications in June 2010.  Due to the anticipated high demand please register your interest to ensure early delivery.

How to choose a satellite phone

Choosing a satellite phone for the first time can be confusing and considering the costs involved you need to make sure you choose the right option for your requirements.  The first thing to consider is where you will be using the phone.  Iridium is the only satellite phone network to offer global coverage whereas Thuraya and Inmarsat’s SPS (satellite phone service) can offer cheaper equipment and airtime alternatives if you remain in their coverage areas.  Visit our sat phone coverage maps page for details on coverage.

 

Once you have decided which network coverage is suitable, you need to decide whether to opt for a monthly contract or choose a pre-paid plan.  Although monthly contracts have a 12 month minimum period they can offer cheaper costs per minute if you are predicting frequent usage.  Pre-paid plans on the other hand are better for those carrying sat phones for emergency purposes only – you have the credit if you need to use it without the commitment to a 12 month contract.  Watch out for validity of pre-paid SIM cards and minutes though – Iridium and Thuraya impose a maximum lifespan on both pre-paid SIM cards and vouchers which means that even if you don’t use the minutes they won’t last forever.

 

Once you have decided which network provides the best coverage for your requirements, the final decision is which satellite phone handset to choose.  Iridium’s latest handset is the Iridium 9555 although handsets such as the Iridium 9505a are sometimes available secondhand.  The Inmarsat satellite phone service is a relatively new service and so only one handset has been produced which is the IsatPhoneThuraya offers three handsets which are the most similar to mobile phones in terms of features and size.  Prices for all sat phones at Global Telesat range from £420 – £999.

 

We are pleased to offer our customers advice on which option is best for them.  Please email us at info@globaltelesat.co.uk or phone us on 0207 969 2866 for help and advice.