A satellite phone is a type of mobile phone that connects directly to a telecommunications satellite. It provides generally similar functionality to that of a terrestrial cellular phone with voice, SMS and internet narrowband (2.4 – 9.6 kbps).
Depending on the architecture of the satellite network, it can have global coverage (eg, Inmarsat, Iridium and Globalstar or regional coverage as Thuraya and Terrestar).
Satellite phones have a size comparable to mobile devices from the 90s, generally equipped with a retractable antenna which extend into the sky before the call. The first satellite phone with a size close to a mobile phone was the Iridium 9500.
Satellite phones are designed to communicate in remote areas where telecommunications infrastructure is limited or nonexistent. The locations can be in the mountains, remote recreation areas, inter-oceanic flights, open sea, rest homes, etc. The phones are useful in disaster situations where conventional communications infrastructure has been damaged. In cases such as the earthquakes in Chile 2010, they were particularly useful and aid donations were received by agencies and companies like OEA.
Satellite phones are usually delivered with a numbering which includes a special country code. For example, Inmarsat satellite phones have the code +870, while Iridium satellite phones have the code +8816. Some systems are equipped with satellite telephone country codes according to the ground station, as in the case of Globalstar and Thuraya.
The newest satellite phone is the IsatPhone Pro from Inmarsat which began service in June 2010.3 overall Incopora GPS, a lithium-ion battery for up to 100 hours standby, Bluetooth services and is the most robust satellite phone.
The equipment costs vary according to manufacturer and network while new models range between 1000 and 1500 USD FOB USA. The cost per minute of voice communication is between 1.00 and 1.50 USD FOB USA. Generally to provide satellite phone service is necessary to obtain a license or concession by the telecommunications regulator as with telephone operators.