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Satellite Phones vs. Cellular Phones

Post by Steve Manley

A Closer Look at Cell Phones and Satellite Phones

Once upon a time, people who were away from their home had no way to stay connected unless they found a phone booth and had plenty of change hidden away in their pocket. Today, you're not likely to find a phone booth anywhere, and everyone from your youngest child to your elderly grandmother probably has a cell phone in their possession at all times.

For decades, people have been depending on their cellular phones to stay in touch with the world, but the world has moved on, and you can now find something better in the form of a satellite phone. Here's some more information that should help you decide whether you're going to stay with your old cell phone exclusively or explore the option of adding a satellite phone to your most useful possessions.

About Cell Phones
Cell phones are great until you don't have a signal, and just about everyone has experienced a time when they simply had no bars. The truth is that you can find yourself without service for your cell phone when you travel through rural areas or in various countries outside of America. Your cell phone sometimes fails simply because of the way that it works, and that can cause problems.

Pros of Cell Phones

  • May be used indoors and outdoors
  • Often used to replace home phone
  • Low prices available on basic models and plans
  • Small and portable

Cons of Cell Phones

  • Calls often dropped
  • No service at all when no cell tower is available
  • Very high prices for advanced models
  • Often require expensive, long-term plans

How Cell Phones Work
While it would be nice if your cell phone worked constantly with no interruption in service, that's just not the way that this product is set up. As you probably already know, your cell phone has service thanks to the existence of cell towers, and you'll get a signal from different cell towers as you travel from place to place. However, it's a little more complicated than that. 

Simply switching from one cell tower to another requires a special signal to be sent to your cell phone, and the Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) must also connect all cellular calls with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Ultimately, the MTSO controls every cell tower, and all cell phones must be registered with the control channel so that the system is able to find each cellular phone and provide it with service. Your cell phone actually has to go through all that just to give you service, and the truth is that cellular providers leave a great many areas without any access to cell towers because it's been determined that there's not enough usage in those particular areas to make it a profitable endeavor.

All of that simply means that your cell phone can't be guaranteed to work 100 percent of the time, and you could find yourself without service a lot more often than you might think because your phone can't work if it can't find a cell tower. For instance, if you can't live without your phone, then don't even think about taking an ocean cruise because there definitely won't be any cell towers out in the middle of the ocean. Chances are good that your cell phone will also become useless if you plan on camping in the woods, hiking in the outback or hitting the slopes high in the mountains during a ski trip.

You may have also noticed that you sometimes don't have cell service in areas where your friends do. This is usually because your friend is using a cellular provider that works with a tower with a different form of technology that is not recognized by your particular cell phone.

About Satellite Phones
Absolutely no cell tower is needed for a satellite phone to work. Instead, the hand-held satellite phone gets its signal from Low-Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites. Because these satellites orbit the planet, you'll be able to depend on having service for your satellite phone virtually anywhere that you roam.

Pros of Satellite Phones

  • Much stronger signal than cell phones offer
  • No dropped calls
  • Equipped with voicemail and incoming phone number to indicate waiting messages
  • No cell tower required
  • Excellent connectivity all over the world
  • Great rental options
  • Provides more secure connection

Cons of Satellite Phones

  • Only work outside
  • Must have a clear line of sight to satellites in the sky
  • Severe weather may interrupt service 
  • Usually bigger in size than traditional cell phones
  • Per-minute charges often higher than cell phones

How Satellite Phones Work
Whenever you turn on your satellite phone, it will immediately send a signal out to any number of compatible satellites that your phone is registered to. At this time, Globalstar has 48 satellites and Iridium has 66 satellites that orbit the earth and are fully functioning. These two companies are currently the top providers of satellite phone services.

When a call is made from a satellite phone, the signal quickly makes the journey to the satellite and then down to a ground station or gateway, which directs it to the number that you are calling. Your call can be directed to a traditional landline, a PSTN or any cellular network, and you may also receive calls from any of these locations to your satellite phone. Because this gateway system processes and manages these calls, you can use your satellite phone even when you're out in the middle of nowhere with no cell tower to be found anywhere.

Additionally, when you use your satellite phone to call another compatible satellite phone, the call is transmitted in four quick pings, up to the satellites, down to the ground station, back up to the satellites and then to the receiving satellite phone. Because the encryption is completely handled at the ground station without ever going to a landline or a PSTN, this type of call provides the ultimate in privacy and security.

Consider a Satellite Phone Today
With a satellite phone, you can enjoy exploring the world without worrying about the location of the nearest cell tower. Be free while always staying connected with a satellite phone, and you can enjoy hunting in the Australian outback, skiing on the Swiss Alps, digging for treasure in Egypt or simply discovering America while always staying in touch with the rest of the world.

Many people opt to keep their cell phones while adding a satellite phone as well. If your home is near a tower, then your cell phone can always be used while you're at home or driving around your city. The satellite phone is extremely valuable when it comes to emergency situations that occur in a location where no cell towers are available. At any time, you can step outside with your satellite phone to make a call for help. The satellite phone is also a must for those who travel the world because it ensures that you're only a phone call away for help if something goes wrong, and you can keep in constant touch with your friends and family as well.

Those who travel often may want to buy their own satellite phone, but satellite phone rentals are available as well. Renting is a great way to learn about the satellite telephone before you make the decision to buy, and you can learn more about how this type of mobile phone works and some great satellite phone rentals. Get yours today, and you'll soon realize that a satellite telephone is a great addition to your life.

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