Some of the satellite phones are bigger in size than the mobile phones that you see today and heavier too. It is more expensive to buy compared to your mobile handset. In the event you find yourself in a situation where you require the guarantee of connectivity, where the other alternatives do not exist or are scarce, a satellite phone becomes an invaluable means to meet your general communication requirements and possibly a life saver as well. In such cases you may consider renting a satellite phone, which is affordable and becomes a valuable and essential asset in your journey to the middle of no-where.
An Iridium sat phone needs the open sky to operate. It cannot be used from inside a building or in such places where the sky is not visible. It is the antenna of a satellite phone which should have the sight of the clear sky above, for the phone to operate. This would mean that such phones will not work indoors unless you are by the side of a window with a view of the clear sky. Not only that, the window should face such a direction where the concerned satellite currently is, if the satellite happens to be a Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellite. There is the other type, which is called a Geostationary Earth Orbiting (GEO) satellite, remains in the steady state relative to the Earth’s movement. While LEO satellite orbits the Earth at a relatively low altitude, a few hundred miles above the Earth, GEO satellites are placed at about 22,000 to 32,000 miles above the Earth, where they remain in the same position above the Earth’s surface at all the time.
If you are on a ship, you might have to go on to the deck to be sure to have that open space for a reliable operation of your satellite phone. If you are in a car, you would put that external antenna that came along with your phone on the roof of the car to have a reliable connectivity. But mind you, you may have difficulties of dropped calls in urban areas because of the high rise buildings. If you are outside but in the middle of a forest, the trees might block the line of sight of the satellite iridium-9505-9505a-battery and your calls may get dropped or disrupted.
The GEO satellites, being placed much higher than the LEOs, cover a greater part of the earth, are able to see a larger area. On the other hand, the LEOs would need a constellation of satellites to relay the communication information from one satellite to the other, for it to reach the desired destination. The LEO satellite orbits the Earth once in about 90 to 100 minutes and this is the reason why the round-trip time for transmission is minimal. More-over, being at a lower altitude, some 600 miles above the Earth, the power required to transmit signals from Earth is much lower compared to the GEO satellites. Satellite phones, serviced by LEO satellites, require a shorter antenna, while the ones meant for the GEOs are quite larger in order to accommodate for the power required to transmit signals to the concerned satellite. The disadvantage of LEO satellites is that they need to operate in a fleet as they orbit the Earth at a larger speed, synchronised in the manner that when one satellite moves out of a certain position, the next one takes over.
There are several companies offering satellite phones on rentals – Iridium, Globalstar, Inmarsat and Thuraya.
The Iridium space sector comprises of a network of 66 satellites in orbit at a distance of about 500 miles above the Earth. These satellites are Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites and work as a constellation of 66 satellites. Iridium satellites cover the Earth’s surface with narrow beams that provide a clear established link, which does not cause iny delay in transmitting. Iridium phones are small and light-weight, having a small antenna and have the feature to connect you worldwide.
Iridium provides you with the flexibility in taking your handheld Iridium 9505A or 9505 phone on or off your vehicle or boat. If you have a docking station along with it, you will have a RJ-11 port to plug in your conventional analog and cordless phones. The Iridium phone is provided with a sophisticated filter that removes most of the noises that are usually present on the Iridium network.
As soon as your Iridium phone is activated, the closest satellite will detect your phone and determine if the phone belongs to that group of satellites and will also check your user’s account for its registration and validity. The satellite also determines the position of your phone. On making a call, the phone communicates with the closest satellite directly. This is then transferred from satellite to satellite, till it reaches the concerned satellite which will then re-transmit the information to the desired Earth Station. Your Iridium phone connects you a landline infrastructure anywhere in the world.
The features of your Iridium service includes –
Voice, fax, email and data communication to and from anywhere in the world.
A roaming phone that you can take with you anywhere you want. One phone one number anywhere you go. Fast connectivity. One simple bill for your entire account, in one currency. You can have options of post paid or pre-paid connections. Affordable call charges with one basic charge fixed to call PSTN lines. Incoming calls are free. Extremely easy to use. It provides a standard data rate of 2.4kbps and has the option to provide 10kbps via the direct Internet Data Service.
The average price offered for an Iridium phone for renting would be around $9 a day, with theft and loss protection insurance at $6 a day with $400 deductible. The outgoing call charges would be in the region of $1.99 per minute, with voicemail retrieval at $1.50 per minute. Calls to other Iridium phones may cost about $1.50 a minute and calls to Inmarsat Satellite Phones are at $10 per minute.
Globalstar first came into service on a progressive basis in the year 1999. Its commercial services were introduced in three phases: the so called ‘friendly users’ service trials in the October of 1999, the introduction of a preliminary service to a handful of users in November, 1999 and the full commercial introduction of its services in North America in February, 2000.
With the introduction of Globalstar, the entire communication scenario changed. The advent of satellite telephony brought forth the era when communication became possible even from those 50% area of the world which has little or no telecommunication facility what-so-ever.
Business houses, governments and even the recreational users had the ability now to communicate no matter where they are, whether they are travelling in such regions where such infrastructures as landlines and cellular coverage, are not available. The Satellite phone proved its distinct advantage.
Globalstar services started to find its way into many areas of industries and these include:
Companies in the natural resources business, specifically oil and gas, mining and forestry enterprises Maritime industry, fishing boats, and recreational boaters Transportation, such as railways and trucking Cellular users who are looking to extend the range of their existing service Various federal and provincial government agencies Leisure businesses in remote areas and recreational enthusiasts, who fish, hunt, snowmobile etc. Recreational vehicles, cruise ships etc. Global business travelers who travel to destinations where local telephone service is unreliable or expensive
The IPhones from Globalstar, which is the mobile unit, the GSP-1600, has a sale price of about $750, being the most competitive equipment in the market today. To rent a GSP-1600 mobile phone, it would cost you approximately $40 per week, having the following options and accessories:
Voicemail $15.00/rental. Internet/email access with Data Kit (serial PC cable & software) $25.00/rental. 12 volt DC cigarette lighter adapter cable $10.00/rental. Leather carrying case $8.00/rental.
As far as call charges are concerned, Globalstar offers:
Home Area (USA) – $1.59/Minute. Canada Roaming – $1.59/Minute. International Roaming/Long Distance – $3.49/Minute. 19-Character Text Messaging – Free.
The above prices are all average figures, liable to change.
Thuraya is a regional satellite service provider, mainly serving Europe, Middle East, and Africa. The service centers on one single geostationary communications satellite, with one back-up and the third coming up and is planned for launch in the year 2007. 2007. The Company is based in the Middle East and provides its services through different authorised service providers.
The company provides voice communication with handheld terminals and maritime or land-based fixed stations. It provides Short Message Service (SMS) and data and fax services at 9.6kbit/s. It also features 144kbit/s high-speed data services via notebook-sized Hughes terminal (ThurayaDSL), with built-in GPRS services along with services such as news, call back, voicemail, WAP, etc.
Thuraya has more than 250,000 handheld subscribers at present, with the growth slowing down during the course of the year 2005. The handsets offered by Thuraya have dual-mode features, facilitating operation on the Thuraya satellite and also as GSM mobile phone working on the 900MHz bandwidth. This is unlike the one from Iridium, while having the same feature as Qualcomm handsets on the Globalstar system. Qualcom is a CDMA/Satellite featured phone.
Thuraya has the following average charges:
Calls to any destination except not shown in their list – voice: $1.25 per minute, Data/Fax service – $1.80 per minute. Calls to other Thuraya phones – $0.85 per minute, Data/Fax service – $1.40 per minute. Calls to Iridium – $3.00 per minute, Data/Fax service – $3.00 per minute. Calls to Inmersat – $3.00 per minute, Data/Fax service – $3.00 per minute. Calls to Inmersat A – $5.50 per minute, Data/Fax service – $5.50 per minute.
Charges shown above are average and may be different from offer to offer.
Communication satellites have brought a telecommunication revolution. It has brought connectivity to the entire world, reaching out to those areas where none of the basic infrastructure of communication exists
John Dulaney is an international traveler and an expert in overseas audio video equipment and cell phone communications when traveling abroad. His website Planetomni.com, offers [http://www.planetomni.com/COMM_SATP_rent.shtml]Deals on Satellite Phone Rentals for all your international travel needs. Tel. # 800-514-2984
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