The satellite phone has always been the most costly option. In recent years however, purchasing and operating costs have become more affordable.
It is a type of mobile phone that communicates directly with an orbiting satellite which relays the call. A single satellite can provide coverage to a much greater area than a terrestrial base cell phone station.
Depending on the system used, it can cover the entire earth or only specific regions.
Their use is typically limited to people in remote areas where terrestrial cellular service is unavailable, such as mountain climbers, mariners in the open sea, and news reporters at disaster sites.
However, if you have the money and you are RVing in very remote areas, it may be the right communication tool for you.
Since they tend to have omnidirectional antennas, no alignment is required as long as there is a line of sight between the phone and the satellite.
The LEO satellite phones utilize low earth orbit satellite technology. It means the use of more than one satellite in orbit at low altitude. The advantage is that it provides worldwide wireless coverage with no gaps.
Two LEO systems, both based in the United States, started up in the late 1990s.
- the Globalstar
A network covering most of the world's landmass using 44 active satellites.
- the Iridium
A network operating 66 satellites in a polar orbit that claims coverage everywhere on the earth's surface.
The cost of making voice calls varies between $0.15 and $2 per minute. The receiver of the call pays nothing unless he is being called via a special reverse-charge service.
However, if you are calling a satphone from a landline or a cellular phone, it is more expensive, from $3 to $14 per minute.
Costs for data transmissions (particularly broadband data) can be much higher. Most networks have pre-paid plans.
More recent units are similar in size to a regular cellular phone while some prototypes have no distinguishable features from those of an ordinary smartphone.
While it is possible to obtain used satphones for Iridium and Globalstar networks for approximately US$200, the newest handsets are still quite expensive.
A new 9505A for example, although released in 2001, still sells for around $1,000.
Since these phones are purpose-built for one particular network and cannot be switched to others, their price varies with the performance of the network.
Among the most expensive models are BGAN terminals, often costing several thousand US dollars. However these phones provide broadband internet as well as voice communication.
Satellite phones are sometimes subsidised by the provider if one signs a contract but subsidies are usually only a few hundred US dollars or less.
Another option is to rent one for the time you are RVing in remote areas of this world.
The cost of the phone service has decreased into the affordable range. Equipment costs can also be reasonable when rented from companies like these:
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