Satellite Communications: What system is best for you?

back to SatCom index page

Posted: 4/15/2004

Before investing in a satellite phone (satphone) or terminal, it is important to review your needs. There are many communications solutions, but it is not difficult to narrow the range of options to two or three. You can then analyze cost vs. utility and make a decision with confidence.

We will be happy to assist you in this process. Please email us at

As you review your needs, consider whether local telephone service or cellular service is adequate, both in cost and reliability.

A. Does your work necessitate a portable phone or terminal?

  • If you need portability (lightweight devices), go to "B" below.
  • If you are planning communications for a fixed location, go to "C" below.

B. Portable solutions

  • Do you need worldwide coverage? If so, the Iridium satphone is the only option. The Iridium is used primarily for voice communications, but it works well for email also. You can use Iridium in remote and rural areas of one region only, but it is your best option if you travel to different regions.
  • Do you need voice communications in remote or rural areas? Again, the Iridium satphone may be the best solution. For voice only, in the Middle East and much of Asia and Africa, the Thuraya satphone has a proven history. The Globalstar satphone may also be suitable. In the area of interest, you should investigate cell phone service, but be aware that coverage in most parts of the world is reliable only in cities. Remember that you can send and receive email over the Iridium phone also.
  • Do you need reliable email access, but not voice communications? The RBGAN terminal is probably the best solution. The RBGAN is well suited for travelers who must send and receive email regularly, as opposed to occasional visits to an office or cybercafé.

C. Fixed solutions (one location)

  • First, check the costs and reliability of telephone, cellular, and Internet access in your location. Internet access can be dialup or broadband service. Ask other users in that location what they think of their service, and note down the total costs.

If local Internet access is unavailable, costly, or unreliable, continue:

  • Determine if you need broadband connectivity, which means that you can access the Internet at a bandwidth at least as fast as DSL (256 kilobits per second = 256 kbps). Also, determine how many people will use the connection at one time, for example a network in a country office.
  • If you need to access Web sites regularly or send and receive large amounts of data, you will need broadband VSAT. The name (Very Small Aperture Terminal) is technical, but it means "dish antenna connected to a modem." VSAT systems are common throughout the world. However, the selection of a VSAT solution requires assistance from a qualified service provider. Please contact us for the names of service providers for your area of interest.
  • If your requirement is primarily email, with occasional activity on the Web, you should consider the RBGAN terminal. You may install an external antenna for the RBGAN, with a 12-meter cable. One advantage of the RBGAN is that you can pick it up and take it to the field when you travel. Also note that the RBGAN will have global coverage in mid-2005.

D. Other solutions

  • There are other solutions as well, including HF radio and the rapidly growing possibilities of wireless data connectivity, including WiFi and WiMax. Depending on your area of interest, we can refer you to experts and service providers who can advise you on these and other options.

For further information and assistance, contact us at

back to SatCom index page