Satellite phones are expensive

Satellite phone: our TOP 3 in comparison

What is a satellite phone

With a satellite phone, telephony is also possible in regions without cell phone reception. This is the case in the mountains, in uninhabited or very sparsely populated regions or on the high seas. Mobile phone reception is also possible in structurally weak regions. Thus, the satellite phone offers more freedom in terms of telephony. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Satellite telephony is also not possible across the board. The phone must be able to establish a direct connection to the satellite. So you have to stay in the open area.

Differences to a classic cell phone

When making a direct comparison between the classic cell phone or smartphone and the satellite phone, there are differences that you should be aware of before you decide on this type of telephony.

Connection via a satellite

With classic cell phone telephony, the connection is established via a radio network. This works very well in large cities and in structurally strong regions. If you move around or go to a structurally weak region, holes in the supply can appear. These cause the connection to break off.
With satellite telephony, the telephone call is made through a direct connection to a satellite. There are four providers to choose from:

  • Global star
  • iridium
  • Thuraya
  • Inmarsat

Before investing in a phone, you need to decide on a provider. The reason for this is that a satellite phone only works with one provider. When making a decision, you should consider the range of the satellites. Knowing which regions you are going to be in before buying the phone is a great advantage.

Type of phone

The design of the satellite phone differs very clearly from the smartphone. It looks similar to a cell phone from the first generation. The satellite phone is operated with buttons. It's big and looks chunky. The antenna is on the top and can be clearly seen. The display is small and has a low resolution. The design is designed for use as an outdoor cell phone. If you are used to the smartphone, the design will initially seem a bit unusual. During your activities, however, you will notice that the design is very practical.

Reception only in the open air

Note that you can only make calls with a satellite phone outdoors. Here the technology is similar to the GPS tracker or the module in a navigation system. The antenna in the phone must connect directly to the satellite. Otherwise telephony is not possible. Even in dense forests or in shelters, a phone call can sometimes not be made. The clear view of the sky is therefore a very important criterion for successful telephony.

What can a satellite phone do?

If you want to buy a satellite phone, it is advisable to find out about the possibilities of telephony in advance. Basically, satellite telephones are used for classic oral communication. You can also write text messages or surf the Internet. A satellite phone does not offer the large range of functions of a smartphone. It is therefore not a fully-fledged replacement.

Accessibility away from the cellular networks

An outdoor cell phone that connects to a satellite is mainly used for communication away from cellular networks. It is important to be able to get help in an emergency, especially when doing activities far away from populated areas or on the water. Communication with the base station, but also with relatives, is sometimes necessary. Cell phones are not suitable for this type of accessibility. The radio network is not expanded. In addition, smartphones can only be used to a very limited extent as outdoor cell phones. Thus, the satellite phones have various advantages that can be used particularly well outdoors.

How does a satellite phone work

Satellite communication differs from classic communication with a smartphone in the type of connection. As the name suggests, it is not a wireless network. Rather, the phone is able to connect to a satellite. This satellite receives the signal from the phone. The realization takes place through radio waves. The signal is transmitted to the telephone network. In this way it is possible to call another person. The person you are talking to does not need to have a satellite phone. You can call on a smartphone or on the landline. The calls are possible worldwide.

Receive calls

Of course, it is also possible to receive calls on a satellite phone. Here the functionality is exactly the opposite. Your satellite phone is associated with a phone number. When a caller dials this number, the connection is made using the radio waves transmitted by the satellite phone. When your phone is connected to the satellite, you can receive the call. Note, however, that not only when telephoning, but also when receiving calls, you have to be in the open air. Otherwise it is not possible to have a telephone conversation with a caller.

What does a satellite phone cost

The satellite phone costs are significantly higher than the costs for using classic mobile communications. With the purchase of a satellite phone you can have a say in the costs. The most expensive provider is Iridium. You can make calls anywhere in the world. For this unrestricted mobility you pay a call price of up to two euros per minute. You pay around 1,300 EUR for the phone: You can choose from different models. Note that there are different providers that differ in terms of price.
The devices from other network providers are significantly cheaper with a price of EUR 500. However, the minutes of calls also cost around one euro per minute. Note that these are prepaid plans. So you have to top up the cards with the Iridium provider in order to be able to make calls. You should plan an appropriate budget for longer trips.

What to Consider When Buying a Satellite Phone

When buying a smartphone, you are sure to pay close attention to its design and features. With the satellite phone, other things are important. The device is functional and should enable you to make telephony in many parts of the world, even away from the cellular network. For this it is important that the device is robust and establishes a secure connection. You also have to make a decision when choosing a provider.

Material & properties

The satellite phone is large and heavy compared to a smartphone. It is also not particularly handy, because the weight is quite high due to the large battery and the overall heavy construction. The materials used are plastics that are particularly resistant. Many models convince with a particularly robust housing that is very well suited for outdoor activities. The phones can take bumps and blows very well. They are also sealed against dust and moisture. So you are choosing a very good outdoor cell phone when you buy a satellite phone.

Battery life

Many models offered by the manufacturers are characterized by a long battery life. In this area, the outdoor cell phone has a big advantage over the classic smartphone.
Satellite phones have a smaller display compared to smartphones. The case is also larger. This makes it possible to integrate a more powerful battery. As a result, the battery life is convincing. These two properties allow a much longer battery life than is possible with a smartphone. In addition, you can use a satellite phone for much shorter calls. Due to the high cost, the phones are not suitable for long-term calls. This in turn saves the battery. Powerful models enable availability for a period of a week or more. It is important that some outdoor activities do not allow you to charge the device on a daily basis.

The battery should be replaceable

When purchasing the satellite phone, look for a battery that is replaceable. You have the option of taking a second battery with you and thus changing your individual battery life. With the use of an external charger you are even more mobile. You can recharge one battery in the device and one in the external charger. So you stay mobile at all times.


Performance is an aspect that can be neglected when buying a satellite phone. It's about having a very good reception. Performance is not that important as there are no memory-hungry applications running. The voice quality and the fast connection to the satellites are more important.

The choice of provider

There are many satellite networks for the use of outdoor cell phones. Before buying the smartphone, decide which network you want to use. The satellite telephone cannot selectively log into different networks. You should therefore know your whereabouts and routes that you are planning for your outdoor activities before buying. The four providers that exist worldwide do not only differ in the satellite phone costs, but also in the accessibility.

An overview:

  • Iridium - worldwide telephony is possible
  • Inmarsat - usable worldwide with the exception of Poland
  • Thuraya - Reception in Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania
  • Globalstar - Reception in 120 countries, with the exception of parts of Africa, China, India, Southeast Asia and Poland. The open sea is only partially covered.


Satellite phones differ in terms of network coverage, but some features that fall under the scope of optional equipment. The models can be equipped with Internet access via GMPRS / WAP. An integrated GPS module is an advantage if you want to use the device for orientation. In terms of costs, there are differences with some providers in terms of the contract design. As a rule, you pay the fees via prepaid in advance.
The satellite telephone is a special feature that is bug-proof. It is expensive to buy and is particularly suitable for calls that are subject to confidentiality.