What are Satellite Phones

Satellite phones are available from lower priced handheld units like the Globalstar, Iridium and Inmarsat to portable units that need to be placed stationary to acquire the satellite. Keep in mind unlike cell phones all satellite phones must in some form or fashion have line of site, (view of the sky) to their satellite to complete the connection. Without an external antenna giving line of site a satellite phone cannot function properly. If you obtain line of site through a window you can receive limited service.

When you have “line of site” the satellite signal goes from the satellite phone to the satellite, then goes down to a ground station or gateway on earth that has “line of site” to that satellite. If the satellite phone is sending a voice message then the call is passed through the public phone network which passes it to a landline or cellular phone. The same goes in reverse when someone calls a satellite phone. The call comes from a landline or cellular network then is passed to a ground station or gateway. The ground station will send the call up to a satellite that is in “line of site” that satellite then will switch the call to the satellite phone being called.

When using your phone to access the Internet using a PC the same process is used, but instead of the ground station switching the signal to the public phone network it connects the satellite phone users to the internet at the ground station.

A satellite phone is not the replacement for a cellular phone. A satellite phone’s main purpose is for communication when cellular service is not available. You may ask who needs a satellite phone. Emergency communications is the number one solution satellite phones provide. In emergency situations caused by floods, hurricanes, earthquakes or terrorism as we experienced with 911, many times the local telephone and cellular systems are either disrupted or over capacity. It is during these situations when emergency communication is very important to move resources and people where they are most needed to save lives. Satellite phones provide this solution when all other forms of communication are disrupted or limited. During the last five years we have seen active hurricane seasons, satellite phones were in great demand and heavily used when all other communication was disrupted. During the fires in California and Florida, in the last few years the National Guard and emergency personnel use satellite phones heavily in remote areas where no cellular service was available.