The communications marketplace has seen an increased reliance on satellite technology in recent years. But whilst ‘sat nav’ may now be regarded as ubiquitous on garage forecourts, the applications of satellite phones are perhaps less well understood.
Satellite handsets have 2 similar but distinct purposes; to provide communication both where andwhen traditional network technologies simply aren’t able to.
The where relates to remote areas of both the UK and the world generally, where no traditional network coverage exists. Intrepid adventurers and the armed forces for example, are able to keep in touch from some of the most far-flung corners of the world, by utilising satellite connectivity.
The when applies to emergency situations when landline connectivity has failed and mobile networks either aren’t functioning, or have been commandeered by the emergency services, as happened with the 7/7 bombings in London, or with Hurricane Ike in the US for example. Satellite handsets can form an important part of business continuity planning for public sector organisations and for private companies in sectors such as media, that need to retain 24/7 connectivity.
In terms of usage, satellite phones look pretty similar to everyday mobiles and the user experience is becoming increasingly similar too. The price is also coming down and firms such as Cellhire provide a range of alternatives to either rent (for specific expeditions) or purchase (as part of a contingency solution). Incoming calls are free of charge and 24 hour global customer service comes as standard.
Solutions from the two leading industry players, Thuraya and Iridium differ slightly in terms of handset specification and global footprint. Whilst Thuraya’s coverage is particularly strong in the Middle East and Africa, Iridium claims to provide truly global satellite coverage and has recently launched the ultra modern 9555a handset.
Finally, lightweight BGAN units, also available from Cellhire, basically offer stand-alone mobile broadband via satellite, without reliance upon phone masts, ‘hot spots’ or any kind of landline connectivity.
Satellite communication is in no way space-aged or conceptual; it’s making a real difference today, especially in connecting people operating in adverse conditions or remote locations, when and wheremore traditional technologies are simply not up to the task.