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What Is a Satellite Phone Tracker?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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Satellite phones are mobile phones that use an orbiting satellite to make a call, rather than relying on terrestrial call stations. Through these satellites, one can use a satellite phone tracker to find the estimated location of any satellite phone user. This system is generally accurate, but is usually off by 32 to 98 feet (10 to 30 meters) or more. Military forces and international travelers are the main users of satellite phone tracker technology, because it can be used to find enemies or simply to pinpoint one’s location. Tracker programs are both web-based and device-based, and the satellite phone itself may have a tracker program installed in it.

With satellite phones, the satellite sending the signal to the phone has to make constant calculations just to keep a phone call connected. This means the satellite must send a continuous wave at the phone to keep it working and, from these calculations, a satellite phone tracker will be able to track the whereabouts of the phone’s user. The estimated position of the phone is based on Doppler shift, or the changing of wavelengths depending on motion.

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While satellite phone tracker technology is rather accurate, based on looking throughout the whole world, it rarely can pinpoint a phone’s position to within a few inches. For consumer technology, the tracker will usually be off by anywhere from 32 to 98 feet (10 to 30 meters), but it can be off by up to 164 feet (50 meters). Military and professional-grade trackers usually work better and deliver closer estimates.

The main users of satellite phone trackers are military forces and international travelers. Military forces use the tracker to find mobile signals from enemy installations and communication towers. After finding the estimated location of the enemy, the area will be bombed or infiltrated to clear out these installations. International travelers use trackers to determine their location in a relatively unknown country, to help them find specific destinations, and to point them in the right direction if they become lost.

Satellite phone tracker technology is usually either web-based or device-based. Web-based means it is a tracker program that runs from a website and, while it is just as accurate as the device-based version, it is not as mobile. Device-based either comes as a separate device or as part of the satellite phone itself. Whether web- or device-based, the user just types in the satellite phone’s number, and the tracker will deliver the phone's estimated position on its screen.

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