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As developments in business, travel, technology and environmental
issues have led to an increased human exploration of remote corners
on earth, the demand for a system of communication, beyond that of
cellular phones, has arisen. It is for this reason that satellite technology
has been developed at such degree.

Over the past few years the use of satellite phones services has
increased exponentially. They are now cheaper and more available
than ever, although it doesn't necessarily make it easier for the
consumer to choose one. If you decide that you need to use a satellite
phone, you need to decide which satellite network is best for you. You
must assess what functions are most valuable to you. Do you need
total global coverage? Do you need the ability to send and receive
data? Do you want something that is easy to carry? Once you make up
your mind and decide what you expect from satellite communication,
you're ready to take action from a more informed and confident

There is not one all encompassing system that can out perform its
rivals in all areas. Each has certain strengths and certain weaknesses.
The main companies that have gained wide spread popularity are
Inmarsat, Iridium, Globalstar and Thuraya (which doesn't cover the
US). Although they are all attempting to meet the same demand,
they each go about this in different ways.

Globalstar is the world's most widely-used handheld satellite phone
service, providing high-quality, low-cost voice and data services to
businesses, communities and individuals around the world. Globalstar
was developed specifically with the business traveler in mind. They
envisioned their customers as people who were working on the
fringes of cellular networks, crossing in and out of coverage areas.
Therefore they designed a compact tri-band handset that would work
on both the cellular AMPS and CDMA networks and, the Globalstar
network of 48 Low Earth Orbiting satellites. These satellites orbit the
Earth at an altitude of 875 miles.

Inmarsat, originally designed for the maritime industry, now has over
100,000 registered Mini-M satellite phone terminals that are used
across a broad range of industries. The network consists of four geo-
stationary satellites 35,600km above the Earth. The satellites are
positioned at equatorial points over the Indian Ocean, the Pacific
Ocean and the Eastern and Western sides of the Atlantic. The
'footprint' created by this configuration is able to provide almost total
global communication coverage with the exception of the Poles.

Iridium is probably the most famous satellite systems on the market.
Iridium provides true worldwide coverage with one per minute rate
no matter where you are. The data rate that is available from an
Iridium phone is only about 2400bps (compared with 9600bps for
most GSM phones and 30,000- 45,000bps for a POTS line). However
because Iridium provides access to the Internet via their own server
with compression, it's possible to send and receive text e-mail via an
Iridium phone. Iridium Satellite Phones use a constellation of 66 low-
earth orbiting satellites and operates as a fully meshed network. This
is the largest commercial satellite constellation in the world.

Thuraya is a regional mobile satellite system that provides satellite
telephone services to a region covering 99 countries - the Indian
Subcontinent, the Middle East, Central Asia, North and Central Africa,
and Europe. Thuraya offers satellite-based telephony through a
dynamic mobile phone that combines satellite, GSM & GPS. Thuraya
was the first mobile satellite service to truly integrate satellite and
terrestrial mobile services through one handset, allowing users to
move freely in and out of terrestrial coverage or within structures
which impede satellite coverage.

Satellite phones now have a relatively cheap setup cost, because
there already exists the infrastructure of satellites in space. A satellite
phone is used just like a normal landline or cell phone, you turn it on
and dial the number. No additional training, labor, or expertise would
be necessary to use satellite phones. Since most people do not have
satellite phones, they would have to be shipped into a disaster area,
taking at least a day. To purchase a new satellite phone it costs from
$300 to to about $1,500, but you can rent one for as low as $40 per

In terms of operating costs, satellite phone companies charge high
costs per transmission to connect to use their networks, in addition
to monthly service fees of about $50 per month. Prices range from
about $1 per minute to satellite phones by the same provider to
$8.50 per minute to satellite phones by other providers. To call any
international number its about $2 per minute. Calls to satellite
phones from cell phones and land lines are also very expensive,
up to $6 per minute. Data can be sent for about $7 per minute or
$.25 per SMS message.

Satellite phones are open in the sense they can call any other phone
number, however it is much more expensive, especially when calling
other satellite phone providersí numbers. Also, one satellite phone
cannot connect to another satellite phone companiesí network, similar
to cell phones. In terms of legal issues, technically you need
permission to use a satellite phone in many countries.

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