How Do I Choose the Best Satellite Phone?

Bryce Clinton

To choose the best satellite phone, you need to consider coverage, portability, price, and usage plans. Different services work in different parts of the world, and some phones are smaller and easier to carry than others. For very limited use, services can be prepaid, or you can pay month to month like a cell phone. The best satellite phones include data for those who need Internet access.

Satellite phones vary in size, but all rely on a satellite network.
Satellite phones vary in size, but all rely on a satellite network.

One of the first questions to answer when choosing the best satellite phone is use. The main buyers of satellite phones are the military, people on assignment in remote locations, and people conducting business in parts of the world that don't have land-based networks. Such places include countries that lack network infrastructure, regions at war, and remote wilderness locations where it might be necessary to service utilities, conduct geological surveys, or perform research. In each of these cases, users will likely need more than just voice access.

Satellite phones use satellites for telecommunication.
Satellite phones use satellites for telecommunication.

People mountaineering, hunting, or guiding groups in the wilderness may need to have small, portable satellite phones in case of medical emergencies. When carrying packs and gear in the wilderness, the best satellite phone will be as small and lightweight as possible. A very limited, prepaid phone without data is probably adequate; however, if the phone is actually needed, it's imperative that it works.

Some other important uses for satellite phones are natural disaster situations and emergency or remote access for ocean-going craft. Both of these situations could require more than just voice, but how much data is needed will depend on the user and what types of information need to be communicated or received. Portability, coverage area, and satellite phone reliability are again critical in both of these instances.

There aren't a huge number of companies competing in this market, so each of the major players must stand by its product, meaning that a primary factor in choosing the best satellite phone will be coverage area. Companies are growing and changing, but it's essential to choose one that services the part of the world in which you'll need access. You may only have a few options, depending on where you'll need a phone or the Internet, so price, payment method, and variety of features will decide which company is best for you.

Among the many other features that might determine the best satellite phone for your needs are type and style, which ranges from laptop to handheld, voice quality, multi-user capability, interface availability such as Bluetooth®, and the amount of dedicated and simultaneous data per minute. Additional concerns include security and ease of set up in extreme weather situations. Finally, the best satellite phone will have the best battery for the best price.

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