Everyone experiences dropped calls with their cellular phone which can be the result of being too far away from a cellular tower or being blocked by structures.
Satellite phones are much more sensitive to structures blocking the signal than cellular phones. With satellite communication, which includes satellite TV, radio and phone, you must have line of site to the satellite you are using to receive a signal. The line of site can be blocked by many things which include trees, buildings or mountains. Trying to use a satellite phone in a building or a car can be very difficult if you don’t use an external antenna which would give you line of site.
Unlike a cellular phone you cannot simply move from your house to your car while talking on a satellite phone. You would be moving in and out of the line of site to the satellite which would drop your call. Even with an external antenna on your vehicle if you travel under an overpass or in a deep valley your view of the sky becomes limited and you could lose the line of site needed by the satellite phone.
As a rule if you have 80% view of the sky you should receive good service. Even with a good view of the sky dropped calls do occur. Unlike cellular phones which many have a cellular tower only a few miles away satellite phones must communicate with a satellite hundreds of miles over earth. Then that satellite may need to connect your call to a ground station on earth. The call is then switched to the public phone network if you are calling a landline or another cellular phone. The signal must travel a long distance and may be switched numerous times before arriving at the call destination. Then you have the reverse with receiving a call.
Satellite phones will not give you the service you expect from a cellular phone, but it will give you good service outside of cellular and landline communication when needed if “used properly”.
When you first plan to use a satellite phone whether it is a rental, new purchase or you simply have not used your phone in a while it is important to test the phone prior to your departure. This not only makes sure the phone still is active with service and the hardware is functional it forces you to familiarize yourself with the phone. Dialing patterns can be very different with using a satellite phone vs. a cellular phone. If you do not use the correct dialing pattern you will not be able to complete a call. Unless you are very familiar with a satellite phone it is always a good idea to take operating instructions with you on your trip. This can be in a form of a card or quick start guide. Testing the phone and following all instructions can prevent a great deal of frustration and it could save your life in an emergency situation.