The Best Satellite Phone For Sailing

Let’s get straight into this by stating that the best satellite phone for sailing must use the Iridium Network. Why? Because Iridium is the only satellite communications network that has global coverage.

So I’m not even going to bother recommending phones that use other satellite networks such as Inmarsat or Globalstar.

If this were an article for land-based sat phone communications, then sure, but this is about marine satellite phone reviews, and your lifeline MUST have global coverage.

In my 10-year career working in the yachting industry, I have personally used the Iridium network and never once had an issue. From Kodiak Island (Alaska) to the Amalfi Coast (Italy), the Iridium 9555 satellite phone always got through to a shore-based party.

๐Ÿ† Editors Choice
Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone (Unlocked)
5.0
Pros:
  • Has global coverage
  • Designed to withstand harsh marine environments
  • Easy to use with a simple interface
Cons:
  • Potential for dropped calls
  • Airtime and other fees can add up
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So there you have it. The best satellite phone you can get for a sailing voyage is the Iridium 9555. I will also recommend other fantastic options because satellite phones are expensive, and some budget-friendly options still give you global coverage and peace of mind.

Now let’s dive into this!

๐Ÿ† Iridium 9555 Satellite Kit (Editors Choice)

Key specs ๐Ÿ—๏ธ
Supports Iridium voice and text messaging services
Battery life: up to 4 hours of talk time
Weighs 9.4 oz
1-year manufacturer’s warranty

Pros ๐Ÿ‘
Has global coverage
Designed to withstand harsh marine environments
Easy to use with a simple interface

Cons ๐Ÿ‘Ž
Potential for dropped calls
Airtime is expensive

As I already mentioned, the Iridium 9555 is my choice for marine satellite phones. Simplicity is key.

The model has been around for a while, and Bluecosmo has newer models, but the 9555 was the first to make connecting and calling via satellite foolproof. If you have ever used a cell phone, you don’t need instructions on using the Iridium 9555.

However, familiarizing yourself with all your emergency equipment, including your sat phone, is still a good idea.

But my point is that this model makes contacting emergency services second nature which is critical if you are ever unfortunate enough to need them.

Okay, enough of the ranting! What makes this the best? For a start, it is lightweight, so making calls doesn’t require more than one hand. It is also durable, so being in a salty environment won’t affect its performance when needed.

An extendable antenna increases the signal strength, and you have a hands-free earpiece in the box.

The interface is simple and doesn’t require any learning curve, while the illuminated keypad is a premium touch that makes the 9555 the complete package.

If money is no object, then every time, I’ll give the Iridium 9555 the title of the best marine satellite phone. Other models have more features, but you only need to talk or text in an emergency.

It’s stood the test of time and does what it needs to when it needs to. This model is worth the investment to have on board.

๐Ÿ† Editors Choice
5.0

Connect anywhere with the Iridium 9555 satellite phone. Global coverage, a rugged design, and a simple interface make it the perfect communication tool for marine adventures. Stay connected and safe on the water with the Iridium 9555.

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๐Ÿฅˆ Iridium Extreme 9575 Satellite Phone (Runner Up)

Key specs ๐Ÿ—๏ธ
SOS button
GPS-enabled location tracking
Talk Time: Up to 4 hours
Military-grade durability

Pros ๐Ÿ‘
Designed to withstand harsh environments
Long-lasting battery life
Less prone to dropped calls

Cons ๐Ÿ‘Ž
It’s an expensive device
Prepaid airtime expires

The first thing I’d like to talk about is the difference between the Iridium 9555 and the Iridium Extreme 9575. They are similar in many aspects, but the Extreme is made to be more durable. In addition, it has a dedicated SOS button and GPS tracking functionality to share your location.

The 9575 Extreme satellite phone is a fantastic piece of equipment, and its military-grade durability makes it suitable for any environment.

In addition, the water-resistant (IP65) housing means that the charging port is sealed to prevent water ingress. So to charge the phone, you’ll need to attach the special adapter found in the box.

However, this is the only way to connect the charger to the Extreme, so be sure you keep it stored safely with the box’s contents. I’d also recommend buying the locking accessory pack for the Iridium 9575.

The 9575 is lightweight and features an extendable and articulating antenna, so you can always ensure the phone is pointing directly up toward the Inmarsat Network.

This is Iridium’s smallest satellite phone to date, and you have voice, text, and email capability enabled in this model.

The key benefits are the GPS location-sharing feature which gives a location fix from the satellite network so that your emergency contact can track you online.

However, any good seafarer will have a dedicated GPS as part of their navigation equipment.

The SOS button is a premium feature and allows you to contact up to 3 emergency contacts at the touch of a button.

And for monthly subscriptions, you have access to the GEOS 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Service. Who then notify the appropriate search and rescue authorities.

4.5

The Iridium Extreme 9575 is a rugged and reliable satellite phone that provides global voice and data communication in even the most remote locations. Equipped with an SOS button and a long-lasting battery, the Iridium Extreme 9575 is the perfect choice for outdoor enthusiasts and professionals working in challenging environments.

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๐Ÿ“ป ICOM IC-SAT100 PTT (Best Satellite Two-Way Radio)

Key specs: Push-to-talk; up to 5 hours talk time & 90 hours standby; IP67 water resistance rating; GPS receiver built-in;

The IC-SAT100 isn’t technically a satellite phone, but rather it’s a satellite radio. But I have chosen to recommend it because it’s a great piece of equipment that can still be used in place of a satellite phone when sailing.

This makes them the top choice for ocean sailing races so that boats can stay in contact even when they are out of VHF range.

Satellite radio is also far more reliable than the old-school MF/HF, although you should still carry one as part of GMDSS if you are doing ocean crossings/races.

ICOM is a UK-based manufacturer that makes quality VHF products for the marine environment. Their satellite phone uses the push-to-talk functionality you’ll already be accustomed to from your VHF unit.

They also made to smart choice by building this satellite phone to work on the Iridium satellite network. So you can have the peace of mind that your coverage is global.

The IC-SAT100 has an emergency call function that alerts everyone in your talk group at the push of a button.

And the IP67 water rating means it can be submerged in 1m of water for up to 30 minutes and still works perfectly.

Pair that with outstanding battery life and powerful internal speakers for clear communication, and you have a satellite radio ready to accompany you in even the most hostile marine environment.

๐Ÿ“ถ Iridium GO! (Best Satellite Wi-Fi Hotspot)

Key specs ๐Ÿ—๏ธ
Turns your smartphone into a satellite phone
Built-in GPS and SOS button
GEOS Support
Up to 5.5hrs talk time
10.75 oz (305 grams)
Short Burst Data Services (SBD)

Pros ๐Ÿ‘
Wide coverage area
Reliable connectivity
Easy to use

Cons ๐Ÿ‘Ž
Cost of data
Data limitations

The Iridium GO! essentially acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot on steroids! And it’ll allow you to turn your smartphone into a satellite phone capable of global coverage.

Currently, you can only use it with the latest iPhone and Android devices, but the technology is incredible.

This technology allows you to have a secondary satellite phone if, for some reason, your primary fails. Although if you have the Iridium 9555, that won’t happen. It’s always good to have a backup.

There is definitely a significant learning curve to using this device, and for those who aren’t tech-savvy, you’ll need to study the manual or watch the tutorials on YouTube.

But essentially, you will transfer your SIM card into the GO! and download the app onto your phone.

The GO! does the job of communicating with the satellite, and you can communicate over the app just as you would in your network provider’s cell phone range.

So voice calling and even sending images over the Iridium network is possible no matter how remote you are.

In addition, you get all the features you would expect on an Iridium network device. With a programmable SOS one-touch access to the GEOS support services.

IP65 water resistance and shock resistance, as well as the compact portable design

๐Ÿ“ถ Best Satellite Wi-Fi Hotspot
4.0

The Iridium Go! satellite WiFi hotspot is the ultimate solution for reliable internet connectivity anywhere in the world. With its wide coverage area, reliable connectivity, and easy-to-use app, you can stay connected to the internet even in the most remote and isolated locations.

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๐Ÿ›ฐ๏ธ ZOLEO Satellite Communicator (Most Affordable)

Key specs ๐Ÿ—๏ธ
Text, Email, and App-to-App Messaging
GPS & Location Sharing
5.30 Oz (150 grams)
GEOS Support
ITU Certification

Pros ๐Ÿ‘
Worldwide coverage on the Iridium network
Simple and intuitive interface
Extremely affordable

Cons ๐Ÿ‘Ž
No ability to make phone calls

Moving away from a satellite phone in the sense that the ZOLEO doesn’t allow for voice calls. I’ve included this device because it sends and receives SMS/text, email, and app-to-app messages from anywhere on the planet.

The outside is constructed of a rubberized material, and the internals is rated to a Military Standard of 810G, so it’ll endure in the harshest of elements and any butter-fingered drops onto the deck.

In addition, a water resistance rating of IP68 means it can be submerged in 5 ft (1.5m) of water for up to up 30 minutes.

It’s got a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that needs just 2hrs to go from flat to 100% fully charged, which will last an incredible 200 hrs on standby. The GPS tracking is accurate to within 9 feet (2.5m) using the GLONASS system.

The free ZOLEO app integrates your smartphone and satellite communicator seamlessly. In contrast, the subscription plans range from $20 for 25 satellite messages to $50 for unlimited. They both include unlimited SOS messaging with 24/7 emergency response monitoring.

If you are boating near shore and don’t need voice capability, then this is something I’d highly recommend you consider adding to your marine safety and communications equipment.

๐Ÿซฐ Most Affordable Sat Comm
4.0

The Zoleo satellite communicator is a reliable and durable device that allows you to stay connected and track your location from virtually anywhere in the world. With its simple interface and range of safety features, the Zoleo is perfect for adventurers and anyone who needs reliable communication.

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๐ŸŽ–๏ธ Our recommendation process

Between myself and Craig, we have nearly 20 years’ worth of experience within the yachting industry. We have used numerous satellite communication devices and satellite phones.

The recommendations we share are 100% impartial and bias-free. We only offer genuine advice on what we have come to know as the best and most reliable satellite phone. And we also strongly advocate that the best satellite phones must use the Iridium network.

๐Ÿงพ Boaters Buyers Guide To Marine Satellite Phones

Most satellite phone models can only be as good as the satellite communications network they can interact with. The three main satellite communications networks are: 

  1. Iridium satellite network – Global coverage (Editor’s recommendation)
  2. Inmarsat satellite network – Everywhere except the poles
  3. Globalstar satellite network – Most of Africa and South East Asia are missing coverage

Iridium Satellite Network

The Iridium network has the most extensive coverage. They have a constellation of 66 satellites.

The global coverage includes Antarctica, Greenland, Alaska, and northern Canada. At low latitudes and the signals are subject to ionospheric interference.

Satellite Phone Service Costs

Using a sat phone is an expensive endeavor, so it’s a good idea to do your homework about the costs involved and your limits.

A fully-fledged sat phone will need a plan that allows for voice calls which can be monthly or pre-paid.

While other satellite communication devices may not have that functionality so get a plan that doesn’t charge you for it.

The Number Of Satellites In A Network

The user may experience a dropped call if the satellite cannot pass on the signal because there is no satellite within view or it is blocked.

Iridium calls are handed off to the next satellite every 50 seconds. The technology behind the handoff system is essential to whether the call is dropped or not. The call will be dropped if one satellite in a constellation is unserviceable.

The Network Licensing Agreements

The satellite routes call to a base station from which the calls are routed into the conventional telecom networks.

This requires licensing agreements to be in place with different networks. In countries like China, there is resistance to some satellite phone operators, resulting in no coverage in those.

๐Ÿ—จ๏ธ Final Thoughts

The best satellite phones use the Iridium network. There may be a case for the Inmarsat network, but I have chosen the polar coverage of Iridium as the deciding factor. And it’s from my personal use of the 9555 that it gets the title of best satellite phone from Sailing Savvy.

๐Ÿ† Editors Choice
Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone (Unlocked)
5.0
Pros:
  • Has global coverage
  • Designed to withstand harsh marine environments
  • Easy to use with a simple interface
Cons:
  • Potential for dropped calls
  • Airtime and other fees can add up
Check The Latest Price
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

As technology accelerates at ever-increasing velocity, it’ll become increasingly common to see better integrations between smartphones and satellite communication devices.

So much so that we will be able to voice call using an iPhone from the South Pole. We can already send images from there using Short Burst Data Services.

Using a satellite phone on the ocean should hopefully only be to stay in touch with loved ones. However, should the worst happen, and it’s needed for an emergency, you’ll need to be prepared. Check out our marine safety knowledge hub to learn more.ย 

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I’m a lover of being out on the water and sampling Caribbean rum! Currently, I run an SEO consultancy in addition to this little corner of the interwebs. Welcome, and I hope that we can provide the portal you need to dive into your next aquatic adventure.