Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, satellite phone networks allow seamless communication without wires and without cell phone towers.
This provides several advantages, chief among them the ability to function regardless of conditions, literally, on the ground. However satellite networks do not provide the same functionality and coverage. In fact a significant criterion to selecting a satellite phone solution is based on the service and service area of your need/application.
They typically fall under 2 categories:
- LEO (Low Earth Orbit)
LEO (Low Earth Orbit) - Reliable
Iridium and Globalstar are 2 examples of LEO satellite phone networks. LEO satellites are small, mobile and as their name suggests they are in a lower earth orbit. Typical service features are easy to get a signal, connect and high voice quality. While data is available it is usually at a very slow speed (think of your usrobotics modem from 1996) at 9.6kbps. Network reliability is superior to due to the fact that there are more satellites in orbit as part of the network thus reducing any risk of a single point of failure. An example with the Iridium network, the failure of one, two or even three satellite does not bring the network down and does not necessarily mean a loss of signal as there are 60+ satellites in orbit and a subscriber may have a variety of satellites providing a signal.
Geostationary - Powerful
Inmarsat and Thuraya exemplify a geostationary constellation. Geostationary satellites are big powerful satellites in a high-earth orbit and a single satellite will beam a signal over a large portion of the earth's surface. Geostationary networks are capable of providing service for data hungry applications like file sharing (uploads and downloads) and video streaming. While reliable a Geostationary network is typically made up of only 3 or 4 satellites so when there is maintenance, planned or otherwise, with just 1 satellite you may lose service over an entire continent and ocean. s
Thinking through your solution
As you may have already guessed your satellite phone solution will often involve the layering of products to ensure you always have connectivity. When an application or business need requires high-speed data a Geostationary option is the default however it may always be wise to have a separate voice option on a LEO network.
Inmarsat bgan and iridium phone satellite networks provide seamless GPS asset tracking, First Responder communications and support contingency planning for commercial and government applications.
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