Globalstar vs Inmarsat [Selecting the Optimal Network for Seafarers]

Globalstar mainly focuses on satellite coverage across North and South America, Europe, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia, making it a suitable choice for those who require regional connectivity. 

On the other hand, Inmarsat provides global coverage, except for the polar regions, by harnessing the power of geosynchronous satellites. This makes it ideal for mariners needing more extensive worldwide ocean coverage.

Drawing upon over two decades of experience in the field of maritime communication, I have crafted this article with a mariner’s perspective in mind. The final judgments and conclusions may not apply to your specific use case.

Key Takeaways

  • Globalstar offers regional coverage, while Inmarsat provides wider global coverage.
  • Both satellite networks cater to diverse user needs and applications.
  • Cost analysis and affordability are crucial in choosing the right satellite communication provider.

Company Profiles

Globalstar, founded in 1991, is a leading provider of mobile satellite communications. They offer voice and data services solutions, particularly for users who require connectivity in remote locations. 

Globalstar uses a constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites that provide coverage in many parts of the world, with certain limitations on global coverage due to gaps in their satellite network. 

The company continuously pushes to expand its coverage and improve its service offerings. If you want to know more about how Globalstar compares with other satellite networks, check out this Globalstar vs Iridium article.

Inmarsat has a longer history, having been established in 1979. They specialize in global satellite communications, offering a wide range of voice and data services to businesses and consumers across the globe. 

Instead of focusing solely on LEO satellites like Globalstar, Inmarsat uses both Low Earth Orbit and Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites. With this combination, Inmarsat can deliver more consistent and reliable global coverage.

They have a network of ground stations, which helps boost the performance of their satellite network and ensures seamless communications for their users.

However, they aren’t truly global because they don’t cover the poles. Read this informative Inmarsat vs Iridium article if you’re interested in polar coverage satellite providers.

Products and Services

Data and Communication Services

Globalstar provides mobile satellite voice and data services to users in 120 countries, but its coverage is not as comprehensive as that of Inmarsat, whose IsatPhone 2 is regarded as one of the best satellite phones available. 

Here’s a summarized table of Globalstar’s sat phone service plans:

Plan NameTypePriceTermMinutes IncludedAdditional Voice Minute CostExtras
ORBIT 150Monthly Service$99.99/month12 months150 minutes99¢ per additional minuteFree Voicemail
ORBIT UNLIMITEDMonthly Service$199.99/month12 monthsUnlimitedN/AFree Voicemail
GALAXY 1800Annual Service$1,200/year12 months1800 minutes99¢ per additional minuteFree Voicemail
GALAXY UNLIMITEDAnnual Service$2,400/year12 monthsUnlimitedN/AFree Voicemail

⚠️ Note: Globalstar no longer holds stock of their GSP-1600 and 1700 sat phone models but still offers service plans and product support.

Inmarsat operates slightly differently and outsources service plans to partners. So depending on where you are in the world will determine who you use. For example, in America, there is BlueCosmo, and in the UK, there is Global Telesat Communications.

Here are the IsatPhone Global Monthly Service Plans from BlueCosmo:

Plan Feature15 Minutes Plan60 Minutes Plan200 Minutes Plan (Best Value)
Monthly Cost$45.00$59.00$119.00
Minutes Included15 Global Voice Min.60 Global Voice Min.200 Global Voice Min.
Term1 Month1 Month12 Months
Incoming Voice CallsFreeFreeFree
Incoming SMS/TextFreeFreeFree
U.S. Number Dialed$3.39/Min$3.39/Min$3.39/Min
Outgoing to Landline/Cell$0.99/Min$0.99/Min$0.99/Min
Voicemail Retrieval$0.99/Min$0.99/Min$0.99/Min
Other IsatPhone$0.99/Min$0.99/Min$0.99/Min
Outgoing Text Messages$0.49/Msg$0.49/Msg$0.49/Msg
Other Satellite Network$9.99/Min$9.99/Min$9.99/Min
Data Calls$0.99/Min$0.99/Min$0.99/Min
Other Inmarsat$2.99/Min$2.99/Min$2.99/Min

One critical aspect of choosing a satellite phone network is its voice communication performance. 

Globalstar has less extensive coverage than Inmarsat, but they offer unlimited plans.

When deciding between these two providers, you should consider your specific location and communication needs.

Navigation and Tracking Services

Both Globalstar and Inmarsat offer products designed to support navigation and tracking services. 

Some popular devices in this category include the Spot X, Spot Trace, and Spot Messenger from Globalstar, allowing GPS location tracking, asset monitoring, and emergency communication through the built-in SOS button.

Inmarsat also offers devices for navigation and tracking, such as the Garmin inReach Mini, which provides GPS location tracking and can send text messages and emails over the Inmarsat network. 

The Thuraya XT-LITE from Inmarsat is another example of a satellite phone with built-in GPS navigation capabilities.

Cost Analysis and Affordability

When comparing any satellite phone services, it’s important to understand the cost and affordability of their respective plans. 

The tables earlier in the article looked at fixed monthly plans. But if we look into prepaid plans, things get interesting.

Globalstar offers its lowest cost prepaid plan at $45.99/month for 10 minutes of airtime. On the other hand, Inmarsat provides a more affordable option at $59.99/month for 20 minutes of airtime. This allows users to better gauge which plan suits their needs and budget.

In terms of hardware, Inmarsat is known to offer reasonable value for its handsets combined with superior network quality. 

The Inmarsat IsatPhone 2, for example, is regarded as one of the better satellite phones available on the market today. It can call, text, send SOS alerts, and even email.

While weighing the costs and benefits of satellite phone services, consider additional charges, such as Satbill, which streamlines the billing process for satellite phone users. These charges can add up depending on the provider and individual usage patterns.

I’ve also written more about this, discussing whether it’s worth getting a satellite phone, which provides great insight into the advantages and disadvantages in various contexts. 

It’s always crucial to assess the value and cost-effectiveness of these communication tools based on one’s own needs and requirements.

Applications and User Base

Some of the common sectors where these satellite communication providers are utilized include maritime, transportation, mining, oil and gas, utilities, international businesses, and government agencies.

Maritime applications are particularly important for both satellite networks. In this industry, reliable communication is essential for managing crew safety, navigation, and operational efficiency.

For instance, satellite phones at sea have become increasingly popular for leisure sailors, commercial shipping, and fishing vessels.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which satellite phone has better coverage: Globalstar or Inmarsat?

In terms of coverage, Inmarsat has more extensive global reach than Globalstar. Inmarsat provides near-global coverage, excluding the polar regions, while Globalstar mainly covers North America, Europe, and parts of South America, Africa, and Asia. However, your choice should depend on your specific needs and the regions where you plan to use your satellite phone.

What are the main differences between Globalstar and Inmarsat satellite phones?

Globalstar satellite phones generally have a lower initial cost and more affordable airtime plans, but they have limited coverage compared to Inmarsat. Inmarsat’s hardware delivers a better overall user experience. Both providers have pros and cons, and your choice will depend on budget, coverage needs, and desired features.

How do Globalstar and Inmarsat plans compare in terms of pricing and features?

Inmarsat’s airtime plans tend to be more expensive but provide access to a broader range of features, such as data services and faster internet access. Conversely, Globalstar typically offers more affordable plans but with more limited features and coverage.

Is Globalstar or Inmarsat more suitable for use on a boat?

Both Globalstar and Inmarsat satellite phones can be used on boats, but their suitability depends on your location and specific needs. Inmarsat’s near-global coverage makes it a better choice for those traveling in international waters or remote areas. However, if you plan to stay within the coverage area of Globalstar, their more affordable plans might be worth considering.

Can Inmarsat and Globalstar phones provide internet access?

Yes, both Inmarsat and Globalstar phones can provide internet access, though the speed and availability may vary. Inmarsat typically offers faster data services, suitable for light email and web browsing. Globalstar provides data services at slower speeds and may have more limitations depending on the coverage area.

How do Globalstar and Inmarsat compare to Iridium and Starlink?

Iridium has a truly global coverage, including the poles, making it an ideal choice for users requiring connectivity in remote areas. Starlink, a satellite internet service from SpaceX, is still in its early stages but promises to provide high-speed internet access worldwide once fully deployed. In comparison, Inmarsat offers near-global coverage, and Globalstar has more regional coverage.

Nice to e-meet you. I’m Justin, a seasoned sailing journalist and communications pro with more than 25 years of extensive industry experience. And a track record of successfully promoting teams and events on the global stage.