A satellite phone or sat phone is like a mobile phone that can be carried to any part of the world. The only difference is that a mobile phone connects with the nearest base while a sat phone connects with the nearest satellite. These phones can work in the remotest of areas and in any situation, be it a flood or earthquake. They communicate with low earth orbit satellites that give fast and better coverage. The plan usually determines the coverage of the phone: whether it is region-specific or full Earth coverage. A sat phone looks like an old model cellular phone, and comes with a retractable antenna which has to be pulled out to establish contact with the satellite.
Satellite phones have proven to be a great means of communication for explorers, adventurers, reporters, archaeologists, sailors, soldiers, and the like, since now they can keep in touch no matter where they are. The only requirement is open sky so that the device can contact the nearest satellite.
A used satellite phone costs approximately about $200, while the new ones with all the facilities can cost you up to $1000.The most expensive sat phones are BGAN terminal phones, which can coast as much as a few thousand dollars. Calling rates are quite high, if you call a sat phone from a landline or a mobile phone, it costs approximately $13 to $14 per minute with Iridium or Inmarsat phones. A call between two sat phone networks also costs a bomb, with the charges being $15 per minute. An outgoing call from a sat phone to a landline would cost somewhere around $0.80 to $1.50 per minute, which is more reasonable. Thuraya, Iridium, BGAN Inmarsat, and Globalstar are the four service providers.
Satellite Phone Service
The service uses radio waves with a lesser bandwidth and the minimum of satellite time, which is a reason for the poor quality sound and lesser facilities than regular mobile phones offer. They are the worst option when you are indoors, unless you are on the top floor and the roof is thin enough for the device to establish a stable contact with the satellite. There are various types of services which depends whether the service provider uses the Geosynchronous satellites or Low Earth Orbit satellites.
Geosynchronous Satellite Service
Geosynchronous satellites are at a height of 22,300 miles above the surface of the earth and can maintain global coverage with the help of only as few as three to four satellites. Geosynchronous satellites rotate freely at the same speed as that of the Earth, so to us it appears to be fixed at the same point. These satellites are situated directly above the equator and therefore their antennas are directional so that satellite time can be saved.
The main disadvantage of a geosynchronous satellite phone is delay when making the phone call as they are approximately 22,000 miles away from the Earth. Even if there is a lot of open sky, the line of sight between the satellite and the phone should not be broken. People using it in forests normally face difficulties.
Low Earth Orbit satellite service
Low Earth Orbit satellites are in lower orbits thus making it easier for the device to establish contact and therefore, they provide worldwide coverage without gaps. Unlike geosynchronous satellites, they don't appear static. These satellites are around 11,000 miles away from the Earth, and have an orbital time of about 70 to 90 minutes. LEO satellites circle the poles and they fly over the entire world. From a user point of view, LEO satellite service is better than geosynchronous satellite service.
Satellite services can be used to send data as well as voice, but then the transfer of data is really slow and the cost per minute extremely high. You can use your phone to access the Internet, but then with that amount you can actually buy yourself a luxurious trip to Las Vegas!