Satellite Phone for RVers
For some folks a satellite phone is a necessity. You have to stay in touch with family or businesses. If you know you are going to be boondocking in out of the way places, you may not always have good cell phone signals. One answer is to go with satellite phone service.
This service is not cheap. You are charged pretty hefty per minute charges, and the phones themselves are relatively expensive, however coverage is generally good even in remote places as long as you follow the coverage guidelines. If you feel you must go with a satellite phone you have some decisions to make as to the type of phone.
Some providers use a geostationary orbit which is a very high (21,748 miles) orbit and is located near the equator. These systems have a small number of satellites, (3 or 4) that are fixed in one position in the sky. Theoretically, you will always be under one of the satellites. Generally, if you stay in north America, you will always have good signals, however there is a noticeable delay in transmissions due to the distance the signal must travel. In addition you may at times find a mountain, building or other object in your line of sight to the satellite requiring you to move your position to where you can pick up the satellite. Msat and Inmarsat use these orbits.
Low earth orbits systems have more satellites that travel around the earth in orbits that follow each other. These are much lower orbits (400-700 miles) and require many more satellites in order to provide coverage. Each satellite stays in range for 4 – 15 minutes before passing the signal off to the next following satellite, or in some cases simply dropping the call. The low earth orbit (LEO) satellites orbit the earth nearer the poles so they will be found lower in the sky. There is usually less noticeable delay in transmission with these orbits. Examples are Iridium and Globalstar.
Iridium, Inmarsat, Globalstar, and Isatphone are good search terms to help you select the best phone and plan for your own purposes.
One example of a lower cost satellite system that might work for you if you just need to stay available to family or business associates might be Globalstar’s emergency plan. It gives you 10 minutes of satellite phone service for $24.99 per month after activation fees, phone costs, etc. Talk times go up quickly after the contract time is used up, but if emergency contact is what you need, this might work.
Spend a little time learning about the different orbits for the different satellite systems and determine which best fits your situation. Generally if you are on planet earth one of these phone will keep you in touch. There are differences in phones and plans, but good information is available on the internet. A little study can help you make an informed choice.