Is It Worth Getting A Satellite Phone? [pros & cons]
Yes, it is certainly worth getting if you are out at sea and having trouble acquiring a signal to reach out for help.
While the usage of your sat phone, airtime, and data may cost more, having a direct line and GPS could mean the difference between life and death.
Out at sea, a satellite phone can also provide bad weather data and access to emergency services should things get rough.
The content team at Sailing Savvy collectively has 20+ years of sailing experience, and we know that having one is essential to any sailing trip.
Before you decide to procure one of these devices, you must look at its size, costs, and airtime packages.
It’s also good to know long they can last and if you can use a satellite phone at sea when you need them most.
📱 Do Satellite Phones Work Better Than Mobile Phones?
Yes, they do, and this is because cellular phones are limited in their operational scope. After all, they need cell phone towers to connect to a network.
If you are more than 50 miles offshore, you won’t have a signal because mobile phones only have a range of about 25 miles.
Satellite phones use a series of Low Earth Orbit satellites, so even in poor weather conditions, they can connect and get you help when needed.
But you may not get a signal in very heavy seas with severe storms.
You may get a very weak signal from your mobile phone away from shore. But at sea, you will need a cellular device if you want any sort of satellite communication despite being remote from everything and everyone.
Sat phones provide a continuous and secure line of communication through the satellite network.
Companies such as Iridium and Inmarsat have as many as 60 or more satellites, so you will get a signal no matter where you may find yourself in the world, and you’ll have that ability to make and receive contact.
When you need help – you will be grateful you have a satellite phone!
Are Satellite Phones More Expensive Than Mobile Phones?
Satellite phones are more expensive than mobile phones due to device and air time costs.
However, there are a good number of service providers that offer value-for-money packages on satellite phones.
Consider the Inmarsat Isat Phone 2, selling for ~$845.
While you may think it is expensive, if you have lives at stake and find yourself near impending doom, that is an excellent investment!
A yacht or boat that would cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars and an $845 sat phone should not be a problem. You could get a basic contract for $59.99 a month with 50 minutes at $0.79/ minute on that same phone.
Now, that is much higher than mobile minutes; to be able to call friends or family or call for help while out at sea is worth the price.
🛰️ Satellite Phones Offer More Than Communication
A satellite phone has a built-in GPS tracker, which can give rescue ships or a plane your location and determine how near or far you are.
This allows them to lock them on target to come and assist you using the network of satellites available.
The days of flares and manual navigational tracking are over as GPS is more accurate.
Keeping your phone connected to the LEO network relays GPS data to the controllers. In an emergency situation, they can pinpoint your location anywhere on the globe.
Should your boat sink or you have to abandon the ship, your satellite phone can transmit an SOS signal at the touch of a button.
This will notify the coast guard through the emergency operator networks.
Most satellite phones can also download weather information which is important when you are at sea.
Knowing the positions and bearing of dangerous weather can save the lives of your crew and your boat. Safety at sea is another excellent reason to own a satellite phone.
Unlike mobile phones, satellite phones have unlimited coverage anywhere in the world.
This means you are only a phone call away from saying hello, sending a message, or calling for help if the situation requires it.
Another plus is that they are far more secure than mobile signals, so your conversations or data are hyper-secure!
📋 Satellite Phones For Documenting Adventures
Some phones can upload videos and images to social media sites like smartphones so that you can document extreme adventures on your blogs and pages in real time.
Whether climbing Everest or crossing the world’s oceans, you will never be out of touch with your followers!
But using the internet on one of these devices is pretty slow – dial-up slow – so if you need high-speed internet, you may have to take up a data service via a satellite terminal.
Are Calls And Data Free On A Satellite Phone?
No. Service providers charge for airtime and data, just like cellular phones.
Vendors like satellitephonestore.com offer packages from $55 per month with 10 minutes of talk time and 10 SMS.
Satellite airtime is expensive, and you would also be charged for incoming calls.
Are Satellite Phones Bigger And Heavier Than Mobile Phones?
A satellite phone is bigger than a smartphone but not as big as you think.
The iPhone 14 comes in at 5.87″ x 2.82″ x 0.31″, while Inmarsat’s SatPhone 2 comes in at 6.65″ x 2.95″ X1.41″.
Iridium’s Extreme is smaller than the iPhone at 5.5″ x 2.36″ x 1.41″.
Satellite phones can weigh around 9oz, while the iPhone 14 weighs just over 6oz.
While the satellite phone is heavier, a 3oz difference isn’t much more.
The iPhone is much thinner; the overall dimensions are pretty similar.
Do Satellite Phones Have A Good Battery Life?
The Inmarsat Satphone 2 would give you 8 hours of talk time and 160 hours of standby time and is rated IP65.
Other phones, like the Iridium 9575, provide 30 hours of standby time and four hours of talk time.
If these phones are used intermittently, the battery can last as long as a week!
Could I Turn My Cellphone Into A Satellite Phone?
With Iridium Go, you can turn your mobile phone into a satellite phone! This portable, lightweight satellite communicator works with Android and iOS.
To use Iridium GO, you download the app and use WIFI to connect to the unit. It has a small antenna that links to the satellite network.
Iridium Go! Satellite Wi-Fi Hotspot
- Wide coverage area
- Reliable connectivity
- Easy to use
- Data limitations
🗣 Final Words
Modern satellite phones bring a vast range of features and accessories. As a result, they now form a valuable part of marine communications systems on boats of vastly different lengths.
They can create wifi hotspot connectivity, instant SOS, phone books for storing contacts, and SMS and email capability.
While their cost is higher, you cannot beat a satellite phone for global coverage and secure connection when you need it most, indoors or out.
If you are planning on being away from cellphone towers for any time and need to ensure you can still stay in touch – best not to leave home without it.