Should You Get a Satellite Phone?


Pretty much everyone has a cell phone these
days, but obviously they’re not always perfect. Sometimes you get spotty coverage even in
really populated areas, and in some rural areas it’s impossible to get any signal at
all. But imagine you had a phone that didn’t rely
on cell tower signals, but rather used the satellites overhead to get a signal anywhere
in the world. As you may know, satellite phones do actually
exist, in fact I have one right here, so that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Why you might want one, how they work, how
much they cost, all that. Now before we get started, I want to thank
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or click the link in the description. And now, let’s continue. So first of all, why would anyone actually
need a satellite phone anyway? Well it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine,
they would be really useful in any situation where your usual phone won’t work. One example might be during a natural disaster,
like the big hurricanes we’ve seen, and all the phone networks go down, landlines and
all. Or maybe you’re just going somewhere with
no cell service in the first place. If you’re someone who likes hiking, maybe
you trip and break a bone and need to call for help, or even something as simple as letting
someone know you’re running late while hiking. On the flip side, it would allow someone to
get in contact with YOU when they otherwise couldn’t. Some other situations might be if you go mountain
climbing, or camping, or even if you’re going on a road trip where you’ll be driving through
rural areas with poor service. I’m sure you get the idea. Now the first thing you’ll want to know about
satellite phones is what kinds there are. Because there are several different services
out there, all with their own satellites, and they are not interchangeable. But there are really three big ones to know,
which are Iridium, Inmarsat, and Globalstar. And these are the ones I’ll be using as examples. As I mentioned all of these networks have
their own so-called satellite constellations orbiting above earth. First we have Iridium, which is the only one
that has 100% global coverage, even the north pole. This is because their satellite constellation
consists of 66 satellites orbiting in a pattern that covers the entire planet. And because the satellites are constantly
moving at 17,000 miles per hour across the sky, this means that even if you can’t get
a signal at one point, it’s only a matter of time until a satellite moves into a better
position. Though this also means you could have a connection
then lose it if the satellite moves away, but at some point you will get a connection. Next we have Globalstar, which has a similar
network as Iridium, except it has 24 satellites, and doesn’t have coverage right up near the
poles. So it’s got nearly complete global coverage,
and it works the same way where you’ll be able to get a signal anywhere within that
coverage area, even if you sometimes have to wait a bit. The third service Inmarsat, works very differently. They own 13 satellites which serve different
purposes, but for the normal satellite phone service, only 3 of the satellites are used. Now you might be thinking, three? That’s it? But there is a difference. Inmarsat satellites are much further from
earth, meaning each satellite can cover more area. And, these satellites are in geo-synchronous
orbit, which means they are in perfect sync with the earth’s orbit, and stay perfectly
stationary in the sky. An advantage of this is that if you get a
lock on a satellite signal, you don’t have to worry about losing the signal, because
the satellite isn’t going to move. But there are a couple drawbacks as well. If you don’t have a direct line of sight to
the satellite, you’ll have to move until you do, such as if something is in the way like
a big mountain. Also, these satellites orbit the equator,
so as you go further north or south, the satellites have a lower angle in the sky, making them
more likely to be obstructed by a land mass or something like that. And if you go too far north or south, you
won’t be able to get a signal at all. Ok so now you know about the different companies,
so how much does it cost to use them? Well first you’d have to buy a satellite phone. And you have to choose carefully, because
each satellite company only makes a few different phone models at most, and they can only be
used with their respective network. In any case, all of them are pretty expensive. Iridium Phones are going to cost you somewhere
around $1000 depending on where you buy it from. The one I have their latest model, the Iridium
Extreme, which goes for about $1100 for example. Inmarsat’s main phone is the ISatPhone 2,
which I think is actually the best looking one at least, and that goes for about $700. Then Globalstar has the 1700 model phone,
which is around $500. Of course, if you only need one for a little
while, you can rent one of these for maybe 5 to 10 dollars a day. But wait, that’s not all you have to consider,
because you also have to buy a service plan. And those ain’t cheap either, no matter what
service you use. And prices wil also vary because most cell
plans are sold through resellers. From what I’ve seen, if you plan to actually
use your phone, the bare minimum plan is going to cost you around $50 a month. And that might get you, literally 10 minutes
of talk time. Yea, it’s not much. And prices can go up to hundreds a month. Or you might be able to get an “emergency
plan”, which I know iridium has, which is about $300 a year, and comes with a whopping
zero minutes. And every time you use it, it costs you $6
a minute, nothing’s included. So even to just use the phone at all, or be
able to use it, it’s at least $300 a year. Which brings me to the next topic, how much
it costs to make calls to a satellite phone from a regular phone. This is going to vary depending on your phone
company, but again, it’s always expensive, and it’s treated as making an international
call. For example, on AT&T, calling an Iridium phone
is about $4, and calling Inmarsat or Globalstar is whopping $12 a minute. Though I should point out that you might be
able to find a service that will give you a local telephone number that connects to
your satellite phone, which would make it easier to call you. I know this is possible with Globalstar, where
you can get a USA number, but I’m not sure about the others. Another thing to note is apparently some cell
companies block calls to satellite phones unless you specifically ask them to allow
you to do that. So that would be something to look into as
well, and tell people who might try to call you. Oh and believe it or not, yes you can get
text and even data service on some satellite phones, but we’ll get to that in a minute. At this point, let’s say you got your satellite
phone, you bought the service, and it’s ready to go. How do you go about using it? Well first of all it won’t work inside, because
you need an unobstructed signal. But if you do have a strong signal, it probably
won’t take long at all, just a matter of seconds. If you don’t have a visible satellite, assuming
you’re on Iridium or Globalstar, you probably just have to wait a few minutes or so. Of course if you’re in a really unfortunate
area, you might only have a short window of signal before you have to wait again. If you want to make a call to or from a satellite
phone, it’s definitely a bit more involved. Calling from the satellite phone, you have
to dial the international prefix, 00, then the country code, such as 1 for the United
States, and then the regular phone number. If you’re calling to a satellite phone, it’s
even more complicated. First you dial the outgoing international
dialing code for your country, which would be 011 for the US, or 00 for Europe. Then, you need to dial the prefix for the
particular satellite network, such as 8816 for Iridium, or 870 for Inmarsat. And THEN you can dial the satellite phone
number. Maybe it’s best you just save the contact
in your phone. We’ve almost covered everything, but we haven’t
yet gone over data and texting. Yes, depending on your phone model and service
plan, you can do both. Texting is pretty straight forward, it’s mostly
the same as with a cell phone. You can also use email to message a satellite
phone, but we won’t get into that. Some phone models also have the ability to
automatically text out GPS coordinates which is convient to let someone know where you
are. For data, as you can imagine, you’re not exactly
going to get 4G speeds. In fact, it’s so slow you’ll be WISHING you
had dial up. Typical data speeds are up to 10 kilobits
per second, yes, that’s 1 / 100th of a megabit. It’s pretty much only good for checking email
basically. However, Iridium is currently launching upgraded
satellites, so in a few years they say they can offer speeds of about 1.5mbps, that will
be nice. Also, you might be able to get separate wifi
hotspot devices, like the IsatHub from Inmarsat, which can supposedly do up to 300 kbps. But either way I think it’s safe to say you
won’t be streaming and YouTube videos from your satellite phone. So I believe that should cover everything. A satellite phone probably isn’t something
that most people need, but depending on what you do, it could literally be a life saver. And as I said before, if you know you’re going
to be taking a trip where you could use one, you can always just rent one. Anyway, I’d love to know what you guys think. Are you considering getting a satellite phone? Did you even know anything about them before? We can talk about that down in the comments. If you want to keep watching I’ll put some
other videos right here, and if you want to subscribe I make a few new videos every week. Again I’m looking forward to hearing from
you, so thanks for watching I’ll see you next time, have a good one.

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