Choosing a Satellite Phone And Network Thats Best For You

Posted by NorthernAxcess Satellite Communications on 5th Mar 2014

Choosing A Satellite Network, and Reviewing the Coverage, Advantages and Limitations

Choosing a satellite network is very simple in the fact that basically you are deciding on the network that has the least amount of limitations for your needs. Such limitations that all satellite networks have is the fact that you have to be outside with a clear view of the sky to use the satellite phone,.. however one limitation that is specific to Geosynchronous (Stationary/Fixed) satellite networks such as the Inmarsat system is the need to have a more direct line of sight to the satellite, which means the satellite phone antenna needs to be pointed in the satellites direction. All satellite systems require the need for 'Land Earth Stations', or 'Gateways' that basically send the signal up to the satellite. These Gateways are strategically placed around the globe for each network to ensure the best signal and in the most secure area. So satellite communication is not designed to replace a cellular network largely because of these types of limitations, but instead these satellite communication networks make up for the gap that cellular systems leave. Only 10% of the earth is covered by cellular, whereas certain satellite systems are global. However integrating cell phones with satellite technology so they can work with both is well on its way. This can be seen in our recently released iridium Go wifi hotspot.

So listed here below is the top four (more like the only four) satellite phone communication networks. Each section goes over the coverage of the satellite system, with advantages, and limitations of each.

iridium Satellite Communication Network Coverage and Use

Iridium System & Coverage

There are many coverage maps depicting the iridium satellite network, but ultimately the iridium network is the only completely true global network available.

The system is made up of 66 LEO (Low Earth Orbiting) satellites, which hover around 500 miles above the earth covering the entire earths surface moving from pole to pole.

Advantages & Limitations

  • Works Completely globally
  • Works in mountainous regions
  • Does not need direct line of sight to satellite for use
  • Ready to make a phone call within a minute of being powered on
  • Needs to be used outdoors with a view of the sky (unless you have a external antenna mounted or placed outside with the same )

Satellite phone models through Iridium

  • Motorola iridium 9500 Satellite Phone - 2nd phone made
  • Motorola iridium 9505 Satellite Phone- The first motorola design which is now the 9505A. Still reliable phone.
  • iridium 9505A Satellite Phone- Currently in use by military, and manufactured as a USA made satellite phone. reliable model to buy used or refurbished. first to have 2 way texting
  • iridium 9555 Satellite Phone- first of the lighter smaller models. Total design change. more advanced antenna, and speaker phone
  • iridium Extreme 9575- military IP rating of 65, which is the first satellite phone to have this toughness rating. It also has integrated GPS, and an SOS button which can be programmed to send messages to up to 4 numbers or emails in an emergency free of charge. You can also get paid tracking services with the phone which can be customized to your needs. Also has features from the 9555 such as the speaker phone.

Inmarsat System & Coverage

The Inmarsat network is also a global system and consists of 3 Geosynchronous (Stationary, or Fixed in one position) satellites set on the equator thousands of miles above the earth. Because of the fact that the satellites are GEO, or fixed satellites, which means that they do not move from their set position, whereas LEO satellites are constantly moving. This makes it so that the equipment needs to be pointed directly at the satellite to register on the network.

Inmarsat Satellite Network Coverage and Usage Map

The Inmarsat network is actually one of the oldest networks. Their name 'Inmarsat' stands for 'International Marine Satellite'. They started as a largely marine based satellite network and mostly still are to this day. However as of about 3 years ago they came out with their competition to iridium which was the IsatPhone Pro satellite phone.


  • IsatPhone Pro satellite phone is half the price of an iridium phone
  • If your primary use is only going to be on a boat or out on the water then getting the Inmarsat IsatPhone satellite phone will be a great choice
  • The battery life on the isatphone is the longest in the industry at around 8 hours of actual talk time.
  • Airtime prices for isatphone are lower than iridium
  • Has GPS


  • Have to point the satellite phone directly at the satellite, so if you are farther north, or if you are in a valley where the satellite is farther down on the horizon then you might not be able to get any signal
  • Satellites are fixed and do not move (although this could also be a plus)
  • Takes a much longer time to register on the network, which means the phone cannot be used until that time. Can take sometimes longer than 5-10 minutes and maybe more depending on where you are.
  • The GPS also makes registering the sat phone on the network take longer
  • Only have two satellite phone to choose from

Inmarsat Services

  • IsatPhone Pro - main satellite phone
  • IsatPhone Link - fixed mounted satellite phone
  • Fleet Phone - specific for smaller marine vessels that need voice
  • BGAN - Broadband Global Area Network that allows for IP Based sessions of data and data streaming up to around 450 kbps. For use on Land and Vehicular.
  • Fleet Broadband - Marine based BGAN terminals with fixed installations for smaller to larger vessels
  • Swift Broadband - Aeronautical BGAN systems for use on all size airplanes
  • BGAN M2M - lower cost High level data transmission for use on permanently unmanned environments, and used in monitoring fixed assets such as pipelines and oil well heads, or backhauling electricity consumption data within a utility
  • IsatM2M - short burst data, store and forward service that will deliver messages of 10.5 or 25.5 bytes in the send direction, to 100 bytes in the receive direction.

Thuraya satellite communications network coverage and use

Thuraya System & Coverage

The Thuraya systems coverage is largely over Africa and parts of the Middle-East and Asia. This system however is a moving ahead rapidly. Their line of satellite phone are more advanced than other competitors. So if you live in this any of these regions then this might be a wonderful choice for you.

Thuraya System Phones are:

  • XT Satellite Phone
  • Dual Mode XT Satellite Phone
  • SatSleeve for iPhone 4/5

Globalstar Satellite Network coverage and use

Globalstar System & Coverage

Globalstar has been out of the large part of the industry for many years now and mostly selling airtime and satellite phone packages at highly reduced rates to hold on to customers. They started loosing their satellite many years ago, however they started launching of a new system about a couple years back and are starting to promote the system again and raising prices for competition. The system still has a lot to lack but when used the signal and voice quality on the Globalstar system cannot be beat for clarity and strength.

Globalstar Coverage Map

The one thing that has kept them in the game has been there line of 'SPOT' equipment and services, such as the SPOT Connect, SPOT Messenger, and the current SPOT Global Satellite Phone, which operates no the updated Globalstar system and is the same model as the Globalstar 1700 satellite phone. The only models phones available are:

  • GSP-1600
  • GSP-1700
  • SPOT Global Phone

So if after this you have any questions feel free to call us at NorthernAxcess with 24/7 sales and support at 877.299.9931, or you can email us at Click here to contact us

Also if you are looking for the best in satellite phones, or sat phone sales (click here) or BGAN satellite data terminals (click here), or satellite airtime packages and plans (click here), or satellite phone rentals (click here) you can find everything you need very easily on our website at

We also have an in-house service and repair centre that specializes in satellite phone repairs like: (to send in a repair you can download our RMA form here)

  • Iridium satellite phone repair
  • Inmarsat IsatPhone repair
  • Thuraya satellite Phone repair
  • Globalstar satellite phone repair
  • BGAN repair