Satellite phones commonly known as Satphones are mobile phones that use orbiting satellites to transmit instead of terrestrial cell sites. They allow both short messaging and voice calls, and some even have low bandwidth internet access. Depending on how the phone is built, it may cover a wide specific region or the entire world. The older version satellites were huge and usually came with retractable antennas but the more recent phones look and are almost indistinguishable from the normal mobile phones.
Satphones are popular with shippers who may find it difficult or impossible to receive terrestrial cellular service at sea. They are rarely affected by violent storms and will work practically anywhere in the world. When purchasing a sat phone such as the Iridium 9555, Iridium 9575 and Isatphone Pro and 2 satellite phone models, expect to spend anywhere between $600 and $1700. This will depend on the network and functionalities of the phone. The cost of using a satellite phone is considerably lower than that of your usual roaming cellular charges you may incur in a foreign country. This is especially so for shippers, as communication costs can be exorbitant when travelling across a variety of countries’ sea waters before docking.
You can choose to pre-pay for airtime or obtain a monthly service contract. The most important things to always bear in mind when selecting a satphone include; cost of the headset, economics of use, ease of use, geographical coverage requirements (regional or global), data capacities and special option features such as GPS, phone tracking and panic alarm.
Two of the most truly reliable networks you may consider when buying a satphone are Iridium and Inmarsat. Iridium handsets such as the Iridium 9555 and 9575 handsets, are fourth generation and are relatively small and easy to use. They have history trackers, panic alarms and will even work when the antennae is retracted. They also have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities for remote and data handsets.
Considering the consequences of getting into an emergency with no other way to call for help, a sat phone is a must have gadget for every shipping crew.