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.
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.
Making calls from a satellite phone is often perceived as expensive for a business or individual. However, for frequent travellers they can provide lower call costs than roaming with your mobile phone.
With an Iridium sat phone contract calls to fixed or mobile numbers anywhere in the world are £0.72 per minute* and with a Thuraya sat phone contract calls to fixed or mobile numbers £0.87 per minute*. Compare this with mobile phone roaming charges of up to £1.70† 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 £1.41† per minute to receive a call in certain areas of the world. With a sat phone, wherever you are in the world you do not pay to receive any calls (unless you opt in to the Iridium 2 stage dialling service).
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 turnmakes 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.
* Contracts are charged in USD. Prices quoted are based on GBP=USD exchange rate of 1.50.
† Based on calls made and received in O2′s ‘Rest of the World’ zone.
All call charges correct as of April 2010.
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
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.
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 IsatPhone. Thuraya 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 0207 969 2866 for help and advice.