Manufacturers describe satellite phones as "global" or advertise that they work "everywhere". Be careful. It's not exactly true!
Yes they work where cell phones can't and in the middle of nowhere, but many times they don't work at all. Before you decide to buy your own satellite phone there are a few limitations you should be aware of:
- The satellites must be able to "see" a phone's antenna (you must be outdoors with the antenna facing up and a clear view to sky). You can't leave it in your pocket and expect to recieve calls.
- They're large and bulky compared to cell phones.
- They have slow, inconsistent data capabilities and require 3rd party apps for speed optimization.
- Functionality is limited - not even close to "smart".
- Expensive - prices start at $500 plus service plan and over $1 per minute.
- Inbound calls from land lines are very expensive - up to $10 per minute.
- Compared to cellular, voice quality on satellite phones is low. There is also delay, called latency, between speakers.
Combine these factors and you can see, satellite phones are far from replacing cellular phones. For many people though, they are an indispensable supplement that fills large gaps in cellular and terrestrial coverage.
Satellite phones are a great choice when terrestrial infrastructure is unavailable or damaged and the cost to deploy new infrastructure is cost prohibitive or will take too much time.