How Do Satellite Phones Work?

by : Rex Strong

Global connectivity has made practically every spot on the Earth accessible. Whether one is on the top of Mt. Everest or in the vast icy landscape of Antartica, civilization is just a phone call away.

Most of the world is connected to each other with fixed land telephones and cellular phones.

However, sometimes cell phones are just not enough. In times of distress and disaster management like during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita or on adventure holidays, satellite phones can save hundreds of lives and help rescue operations.

Any damage to local telephone structures can result in suspension of telephone services. However, satellite phones continue to work under such conditions. The reason that satellite phones are still working in situations where other phones don't is that satellite phones rely on satellites in space for their functioning. Satellite phones do not use local infrastructure to route the calls.

When an individual makes a call from a satellite phone the signal is sent to the satellites of that particular company. These satellites process the call and relay it back to Earth via a gateway. The gateway then routes the call to its destination using the regular landline and cellular networks. The Globalstar constellation is made up of 48 satellites and every call is relayed by up to 4 satellites down to Globalstar gateways on Earth. Clifton, Texas is home to one of the major Globalstar gateway that services the US.

If an individual uses a satellite phone to call another satellite phone then the call is sent up to the satellite from the caller's phone. The satellite then routes the call back down to the receiver's phone without using any land infrastructure. Thus, satellite phones on the same network can be used to call each other without using any landline or cellular phone infrastructures.

One important thing to keep in mind with satellite phones is that the phone or the phone's antenna must be located in the open to allow it to have an unobstructed view of the sky. Satellite phones require a clear line-of-sight view of the satellite to be able to send and receive signals from the satellite. While Iridium phones use a non-directional antenna, which means that the antenna need not point in any particular direction, Inmarsat uses geostationary satellites. In this case, the phone's antenna must point directly at the satellite with a clear, unobstructed view to get transmission.

What Are Hand Held Satellite Phones?

Hand held satellite phones provide the same convenience as cellular phone with one major difference. While cellular phones provide interrupted service if you are out of the networked area, satellite phones cover a much larger network area and provide you with a personal, portable communication device with uninterrupted service.

Hand held satellite phones are optimum for adventure travelers, rescue operations and in times of disaster management.

What Are Fixed Site Satellite Phones?

Fixed site satellite phones are like regular landlines except they use satellites instead of local infrastructure to route calls. The big advantage they have over hand held satellite phones is that they can work from inside buildings and homes. The antenna is placed on the roof or any other spot that allows the antenna to have a clear line-of-sight view of the satellite.

Thus, in a world where effective communication is the key to success, satellite phones ensure you never have to be out of touch.