Satellite telecommunications services give you access to communications facilities even where there is no traditional network. This means that if you go on sea, in the desert, in the outback or any remote places where your usual GSM phone does not receive any signal, you will be able to use your satellite device to make phone calls, send SMS, stream videos or surf on Internet.
Satellite telecommunications services also work where there is a disruption of the tradition network. For example, if your area suffered an infrastructure breakdown after a natural disaster such as a hurricane, if your network is overloaded but you need to urgently communicate with an external correspondent or if your usual signal is not very reliable and suffer regular cut of power, you can use satellite services and equipment as backups and be sure you will still able to carry on your work, security or family activities.
Satellite telecommunications are for users who, despite prices higher than GSM, critically need a reliable communication tool that will work under any circumstances, anywhere.
Satellite and GSM (traditional) telecommunications are not designed for the same uses. GSM telecommunication targets a very high number of customers while the market for satellite telecommunication is much smaller and confidential. Therefore, the prices will not be the same.
Private customers living in big cities with reliable network and no critical need of communication will prefer the GSM network and find it more cost-effective.
However, other customers, such as customers living and working in remote areas or at sea, or customers who cannot afford to see their work delayed by a network breakdown, may find satellite telecommunications crucial for all sorts of reasons: security, business, crew spirit, social contacts etc. The price will often be much higher as GSM but it will not be for the same usage either.
In some situation, mainly because the price per minute does not depend on the location of the people involved in a call, satellite telecommunications is cheaper than GSM. For example, if you want to call someone located in a foreign country, it is sometimes cheaper to use your satellite phone than your GSM phone. Similarly, if you are travelling abroad, it is very likely it will be cheaper to make and receive calls from your satellite phone rather than from a GSM phone in roaming mode.
Please note first of all that satellite telecommunications are not designed for the general public, which will impact the price. Although the functioning of satellite telecommunication is similar to GSM, the price is generally much higher since the satellite networks used to communicate are very specific.
Once you bought a device and a SIM card, the paying options are the same as it would be with a GSM phone. You can choose the “prepaid option”: buy credit in advance and use it when you need it until it expires or runs out, or the “postpaid option”: pay a fee on a monthly basis and adjust the price according to your consumption.
Phone calls are billed in minutes and seconds while data can be billed in data size. The price will vary according to the network and the device you use but will remain the same whatever the distance of your correspondent. For example, if you call someone located 1 km or 20 000 km on their landline, the price will be exactly the same which can make some foreign calls cheaper than the same GSM calls!
The network is indeed different from the one you use in your country and therefore your GSM SIM card will not work in a satellite phone. For example, in your country you may use a network such as Orange which is called a GSM network and will be difficult to reach in remote areas where there are no GSM pylons.
Satellite networks on the other hand do not use pylons to re-transmit their signals. This way, they don’t need local infrastructure to be built and one single network can cover the entire planet. At Via Space and Satellite Air Time, we work mainly with three different satellite networks: Inmarsat, Iridium and Thuraya.
Iridium covers the entire planet with no forgotten spot. Inmarsat covers the entire planet except for the poles. Thuraya covers specific regions: the network is available over most of Europe, Russia and Africa, the totality of the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Thuraya currently does not cover some of the islands of our customers from the South West Indian Ocean such as Madagascar and Mauritius.
For each of these networks, you will need a separate SIM card.
No, unlike GSM networks, you do not need to change network if you change country. For example, if you use an Inmarsat device purchased with us in Madagascar and you want to use it in Mauritius, you won’t need to change SIM card or phone or even go through any extra process: it will work normally in both countries.
However, although satellite networks technically work everywhere with no disruption, some countries have specific regulations about the use of satellite devices on their territory. We recommend you to check these with us before travelling in an area outside of the country where you purchased your SIM card.
In some cases, it is possible to use your GSM phone but you will need to buy an accessory which will act as an interface between your phone and the satellite network.
Satellite networks send specific signals that common mobile phones cannot decipher without an additional interface (or hub). If you wish to use some models of Android and Apple (IPhone) smartphones and tablets, you can do it on all three networks if you acquire the right accessory for each of them: the Thuraya Satsleeve for Thuraya, the IsatHub for Inmarsat or the Iridium Go for Iridium.
If you do not own an Android or Apple device or if you are planning to travel in rough areas with extreme conditions and prefer not to expose your smartphone, you will need to buy a dedicated satellite phone. They are built and designed to be resistant with long-life battery and specific features such as tracking abilities or SOS buttons.
You just need to buy your own satellite device to make calls anywhere in the world. You can then use it as you would normally use your GSM phone and contact any other phone: it can be a landline, a mobile phone, another satellite phone in any city or country as long as you know the number!
A satellite phone is not like a radio or a talkie-walkie: therefore, there is no range limit in terms of kilometers. You can call your neighbour as well as someone on the other side of the world!
Even if the satellite network you are using does not exist in the country you’re calling, your satellite phone can still reach users located there. For example, if you are working in Dubai and you would like to call your family in Madagascar with a Thuraya device, it will not be a problem even though there is no Thuraya coverage in Madagascar. Indeed, the Thuraya Land Earth Station can connect you with your correspondent on any other network: landline, GSM or another satellite network.
Some satellite devices are simply designed to make calls like a mobile phone would do. However, most devices offer both options: calls and data, which means you can send data or surf on Internet with them as well as making calls. These devices work like modems or antennas: you plug your computer into the device or use it as a Wifi spot, depending on its features.
Some devices are used only to send short emails but others offer broadband Internet and high data rate. It all depends on your needs and your budget!
Yes, satellite telecommunications can be used besides surfing on Internet and making calls. Basically, any time you would do an activity that requires sending information over a GSM network such as paying by credit card, tracking your fleet or sending scientific data, you can also do it over a satellite network.
If you have a project and would like to check how you could use satellite telecommunications for it, we are here to help you find your way among all the available services and products. For fleet tracking in remote areas or areas not covered by the GSM network, you can already check out our tracking application Globeinfos.
The default option to charge your phone’s battery is by using electricity. As part of your phone or device package, there is always an electricity-powered charger. However, there are several models of solar chargers that you can purchase separately.
Alternatively, please note that satellite devices usually have long-life battery that can last many days in standby mode and long hours in talk mode. For example, with the new IsatPhone 2, you can call for 8 hours non-stop or keep your phone switched on for more than 6 days.
Whatever the country you live in, we can take care of your request. Satellite devices can be shipped to the place that is convenient to you. If you live in Mauritius or Madagascar, you can even come to our office to check if we have some in stock.