The 9 Best Satellite Phones
This wiki has been updated 5 times since it was first published in April of 2020. Those who often travel into unpopulated areas or work in certain market sectors, such as energy, government, and NGOs, will understand the important role played by satellite telephones. When there are no cell towers for miles around, these devices are essential for communicating both for business and pleasure, and can potentially save lives should an emergency situation arise. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
May 05, 2020:
Unlike cell phones, that work with (and are limited to) terrestrial antennae, satellite phones work with high earth orbit (GEO orbit) or low earth orbit (LEO) satellites that relay their signal across the globe, and each of these configurations comes with its own benefits and drawbacks.
Companies such as Inmarsat and Thuraya, makers of models that include the Thuraya XT-Lite, Thuraya X5 Touch, and the Inmarsat IsatPhone 2.1, use GEO orbit satellites, and due to the distances that the signal travels, are subject to a delay of around a quarter second. This may result in your hearing an echo that might be slightly confusing or annoying. These devices also require a much larger antenna, which makes the hardware bulkier, and they are subject to more outages due to the lower number of satellites orbiting the globe.
LEO satellites are used by companies including Globalstar and Iridium, makers of the Iridium 9555, and the Globalstar GSP-1700, and these satellites are more abundant, with up to 60 used per network. These generally have lower delay times, better call quality, and are more economical on battery power. They do, however, have significantly slower data transmission and the user usually needs to stand in the open air in order for the phone to work.
Due to their satellites’ alignment with the earth and the logistics involved in their operation, different manufacturers and data plan providers have their own preferred areas of coverage. Be sure to take into consideration your requirements and whether they meet the network coverage allowances before you venture into buying a handset or opting for a data plan.