What is a satellite phone and when do I need one?

Satellite phones have been in use for over two decades, yet there is still an air of confusion surrounding what they are and who they are used by.

The use of satellite phones is diverse, and they prove indispensable to a wide range of operations, businesses, and individuals. In a world of smartphones and 5G, it is easy to dismiss such rugged equipment, but satellite phones are crucial to many areas of modern life.

What are satellite phones?


A satellite phone is a mobile device that connects to the telephone network through satellites, rather than relying on terrestrial cell sites as cell phones do. This means that with a satellite phone you can stay connected in areas where cellular cover is not possible – for example, in the mountains, the desert, or the Poles.

Satellite networks are either Geostationary (GEO) or Low Earth Orbit (LEO). GEO satellites orbit above the equator, while LEO satellites orbit closer to the earth, and much more quickly.

Due to the curvature of the earth, GEO satellites cannot provide continuous service beyond a certain latitude, whereas a constellation of LEO satellites provides continuous, global coverage as the satellite moves. The low latency nature of LEO satellites allows for faster communications, while GEO networks often experience lag.

Satellite phones that utilise LEO networks are therefore indispensable to workers or individuals in remote areas of the planet, as they offer truly global coverage that is robust and reliable, while phones that utilise GEO networks act as a more affordable alternative to those whose needs are not as far reaching.

You may be surprised by the multitude of ways satellite phones can aid everyday life, ranging from operations and businesses, to the individual.

Who uses satellite phones?

Remote workers

Satellite phones enable those who work in remote locations to stay connected, even when well out of reach of cellular coverage.

This includes scientists based in areas such as the Polar Regions, soldiers conducting training or military operations, crews upon fishing vessels, and many more.

Satellite phones make these areas of work more efficient and easier than ever before. For example, a merchant seaman is able to speak to coastguards and other ships clearly rather than relying on radio, while scientists in remote corners of the world can communicate with each other and their headquarters effortlessly.

Workers also have a method of keeping in touch with friends and family; satellite phones can both make and receive calls.

Disaster response

Perhaps the most important use of satellite phones is for disaster aid.

Local infrastructure is often damaged when disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, or hurricanes strike, making cellular coverage impossible. Satellite phones enable coverage beyond terrestrial communications, which is vital to first responders who must be able to act quickly, and offers a fail-safe contingency plan.

In such scenarios, a satellite phone could mean the difference between life and death, as response teams are able to coordinate more effectively and act much more quickly.

An increasing number of people are buying personal satellite phones to protect themselves against losing contact in the event of disaster. A satellite phone is the only way to have a phone that will always work, no matter what.

The individual

People all across the world enjoy activities such as hiking, sailing, exploring, or remote hunting to get away from civilisation and enjoy nature.

However, this doesn’t always work out as planned. There are several risk factors involved when venturing into the wilderness, and being able to reach help if you need to is essential.

It is extremely likely that you won’t have phone service in these remote areas – a satellite phone offers a reliable solution, acting as a lifeline to emergency calls.

More simply, even those who decide to go off the grid often want a way to contact home. This is particularly useful for business persons who wish to contact their colleagues or tune into conference calls while holidaying in remote areas, such as the mountains or the seas.

With a satellite phone, staying connected is guaranteed.


The data speeds offered by satellite phones may seem outdatedly slow (ranging from 128bps to 1.4Mbps), but this is more than enough for the functions they perform.  In the most remote corners of the planet you can’t expect 5G connection, but with a satellite phone you can browse the web or send emails wherever you are. Many devices also have a built in USB port, meaning you can connect your laptop or smartphone to the network too.

Phones that connect to GEO satellite networks experience issues such as interrupted coverage, non-global reach, and sensitivity to obstacles such as buildings or mountains that block connection.  However, satellite phones that connect to LEO networks do not experience such issues, and offer truly global coverage.


Cellhire offers satellite phones that fall under each of these categories, as the former acts as a cheaper alternative for explorers and sailors who stay within the 70th north and south parallels, while the latter acts as a fail-safe option to those in need of truly global coverage.


These come in the form of the Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 and two models of Iridium phone respectively. If you’re cost conscious and apprehensive to buy, you can rent these satellite phones from Cellhire so you can stay safe and connected anywhere on the planet for an affordable price.

Although guaranteeing global coverage, it is important you research local laws before you travel as some countries don’t permit the use of satellite devices.

Visit the Cellhire website out find out more.



Iridium Certus is changing the world

It is the only network able to provide a connection anywhere on the planet, through voice, text, and data – even in the polar regions.

Iridium Certus will greatly benefit almost all businesses and operations, so here’s everything you need to know about the latest, most advanced satellite device on the market.

What is Iridium Certus?  

Iridium Certus is a multi-service platform enabled by Iridium NEXT, the $3 billion satellite constellation of 66 low orbit satellites. It is the only truly global mobile satellite service on the planet and offers the highest speed connectivity available.

Powered by Iridium NEXT, Iridium Certus does not rely on ground-based infrastructure, allowing connections to travel above the earth’s surface uninterrupted – regardless of weather or terrain. This is what enables Iridium Certus to provide greater reach and speed than any other wireless mobile network. Through a range of accessories, IoT products, satellite phones and more, Iridium Certus will keep you connected anywhere on the planet.

For the first time, one terminal can deliver a range of services, from multiple high-quality voice calls to the highest L-band connection available. The previous generation of Iridium satellites provided communication speeds of up to 128bps, while the upgraded Iridium Certus offers 700bps, with 1.4Mbps to be available soon.

While this may not sound very fast in a world where 5G continues to spread, this is astoundingly fast for a satellite, and will be plenty for the applications required.

But how will Iridium Certus be integrated into the worlds of business, government, and the individual?

A diverse range of applications will utilise Iridium Certus. Its support of broadband, narrowband voice, and data capabilities makes it indispensable to a scope of industries, including maritime, land mobile, aviation, the government, and IoT.


Iridium Certus offers the maritime industry a solution to the problems it has faced for years, as mariners have struggled to maintain connectivity at sea due to remote locations and bad weather.

Iridium Certus’ L-band frequency means that sailors will be connected anywhere on the seas, and weather will never influence the quality of the connection. The Iridium network therefore offers countless advantages to business operations, safety services, IoT applications, and crew welfare, as services range from navigational devices to simply using the web.

For example, the reliable Certus network is ideal for fishing ships handling catch information, monitoring weather, or communicating across fleets in the region. Workboats will never ‘go dark’ again, while Government ships such as research vessels have access to low latency communications. This is possible because communications travel above the earth, allowing for consistent bandwidth anywhere across the globe.

In terms of IoT, the Iridium network coupled with its L-Band architecture means that rigs, buoys, and both attended and autonomous platforms can be connected and tied into a corporate network that is robust and reliable.

Iridium Certus occupies the leading market position for stand-alone and VSAT companion use. Vessels that already use VSAT can augment their existing platform with global Iridium Certus coverage, creating an ideal hybrid solution that combines the benefits of low earth orbit with geostationary orbit, as well as the benefits of L-band and Ku-band.

On a more simple level, leisure sailors will find it easier than ever before to stay connected while on the seas, with guaranteed and uninterrupted voice calls, texts, or data suitable for browsing the web or sending emails.

Land Mobile:

The Certus network enables users to extend their mobile use into remote areas where usual mobile networks cannot reach, while avoiding expensive ground-based infrastructure.

This is useful in a plethora of ways; through providing remote transportation with information; enabling the military with dependable communications during training or special operations; allowing scientists in isolated areas (such as the poles) to exchange information; and enabling immediate broadcasting in remote locations.

Perhaps most importantly, Iridium Certus offers a global solution to aide disaster response. Local infrastructure is often damaged when disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, or hurricanes strike. Iridium Certus provides reliable coordination and information access beyond terrestrial communications, which is vital to first responders who must be able to act quickly.

Iridium also offers hybrid solutions to enhance 5G, 4G, or 3G connectivity. Terrestrial networks cover less than 20% of the earth, and Iridium Certus will ensure that communications are never disrupted as individuals who travel or work in remote locations move in and out of cellular coverage.


Building upon Iridium’s established voice and data satellite services, Iridium Certus adds a high performance broadband service that connects the entire aircraft, keeping crew and passengers alike connected through email, internet, voice, and data.

Iridium Certus has also introduced Aireon, the first ever global flight-surveillance system. Iridium NEXT is the only satellite constellation with the capability and reach to enable global air traffic surveillance, all thanks to its orbital configuration.

The low earth orbit altitude allows aircraft signals to be received without any changes to the aircraft or additional equipment. This will enable real-time delivery of information to Air Traffic Control. If such a system had existed in 2014, the Malaysian Airlines flight 370 would not have disappeared.

On a commercial level, airlines will be capable of offering its passengers high speed broadband to aircrafts of any size. With easily applicable, low-weight antennas, air-travel will be safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable than ever.

US Government:

The Iridium constellation is invaluable to US government operations, demonstrated by the support shown by the Pentagon in 2000. The costs of the Iridium NEXT constellation almost caused the company to go bankrupt, but the Pentagon prevented this with a $72 million two-year contract to serve its 20,000 US government users. With the updated Iridium NEXT constellation, the network will continue to aid the government in unprecedented ways.

Iridium Certus can help mobilise and monitor personnel, data, and assets on the ground, even when they are beyond the reach of terrestrial networks. It offers reliable, robust, real-time voice and data command and control communications required for military, scientific, and research operations.

Iridium Certus provides a secure solution that supports the mission-critical requirements of the military, including hardware that is capable of withstanding high-risk combat zones and turbulent weather.

Internet of Things:

Iridium has partnered with Amazon Web Services to develop Iridium CloudConnect, which aims to be the first and only satellite cloud-based solution offering truly global coverage for Internet of Things applications later in 2019.

Iridium CloudConnect will lower costs, provide faster speeds to market, reduce risk, and allow customers to enjoy complete global connectivity for their solutions.

Matt Desch, Iridium CEO, expects CloudConnect to cater at first to large products, such as cargo ships or agricultural equipment, but will move to smaller and smaller vehicles, such as drones.

Any IoT device connected through the Iridium network will speak natively with Amazon’s cloud-based server and user interfaces, allowing end-to-end data transmission that is wider-reaching, cheaper, and faster than ever before.

Together with its ecosystem of partner companies, Iridium offers truly global communication for the first time ever.

It is hard to imagine an area of business, government work, or personal life in which Iridium Certus could not be utilised. Iridium’s vision of connecting the entire planet is slowly coming to fruition, and the benefits to be had are endless.

Education, Hints & Tips, Satellite, Travel, US News

What is Iridium Certus and how can it be used?

Introducing Iridium Certus

Exciting news is set to arrive in the telecoms industry, with Earth surface wide providers of voice and data coverage to satellite phones, Iridium, pledging to invest $3 billion into researching and developing an upgrade of their satellite network. The proposed development which is set to be the biggest of Iridium’s Satellite Network in 20 years, is believed to be available as early as June 2018, although it is not expected that all desired services will be fully functional by then. Iridium has aptly named this development Certus (which is originally derived from Latin and translates to mean translates ‘sure’ or ‘certain’).  With a $3 billion upgrade on the cards, it’s time to find out what’s involved and how Iridium Certus will be used- and above all will it prove to be a ‘certain’ success!

How does it work?

The $3 billion revamp of Iridium’s satellite network, will focus on creating a brand new network of brand new satellites located in the earths low orbit (66 to be precise!), which is enabled by the Iridium NEXT. It has been estimated that Iridium Certus will be capable of providing its users with broadband speeds reaching the dizzy heights of 1.4 Mbps (this is astoundingly fast for Satellite!). The aforementioned 66 low orbit satellites, coupled with L-band transmissions from its user ensures that the Certus network will not be damaged or interrupted as a result of adverse weather conditions. On top of this, through using L-band connectivity, Iridium Certus intends to provide an innovative broadband service, designed to serve the entire earth- you really can stay connected wherever you are!

Where will it work?

The innovative nature of Iridium Certus combined with a great deal of research and development has enabled Iridium to provide a service with capabilities facilitating usage over both land and sea, as well as taking you to aviation heights! With that said, you’ll struggle to find an industry unable to take advantage of Certus’ perks!

Land: With a goal of connecting the entire planet, Iridium Certus could prove to be an imperative tool across multiple industries, with almost every land based sector catered for. It is envisaged that Iridium Certus will provide a perfect solution whether its service is required for personal, commercial or military usage. The versatility of Iridium Certus will guarantee connection in the remotest of locations aiding deliveries and the like for individual and corporate purposes- worried about a lost delivery, never again! Another core user able to benefit from Iridium Certus is response units and will prove to serve as an effective means of communication during day to day emergencies. Additionally Iridium Certus will be paramount to response units addressing periods of crisis and natural disasters; not only will this facilitate situational awareness, it will also allow for potential lifesaving information to be transferred. Furthermore, Iridium intends for Certus to be used in Military training exercises before being incorporated into military operations. Is there really a land based situation where Iridium Certus can’t be taken advantage of?

Sea: Setting sail from the shore and worrying about a lack of connection? Think again! Shipping or cruising, commercial or leisure, Iridium Certus is sure to meet your needs when sailing the seven seas. The L-band frequency incorporated into Iridium Certus means that weather will not influence the quality of connection- an essential factor to consider when out at sea! This uninterrupted access to connection provided by Certus, makes the service suitable for shipping and leisure purposes alike, ranging from navigational and sensory devices to simply checking emails or browsing the web. Iridium Certus also prides itself on being able to provide connections to businesses with off shore bases such as rigs, these are utilized by operated unmanned sensors- gone are the days of being isolated for months off shore!

Air: Internet connection whilst on the plane? Never has a long haul flight flown by quicker (pardon the aerospace pun!). It is envisaged that Iridium Certus will have the capabilities to provide high speed broadband to aircrafts. Iridium Certus provides the perfect solution to keeping both crew and travelers connected whilst in the air. The adaptability and size of Iridium Certus, has led to the design of miniature antennas sized less than 6 cm in height- this makes Certus the ideal solution for providing broadband connectivity on aircraft regardless of shape or size! With its benefits of passenger occupancy and malleable installation, the question on all of our minds really is how long will it be before Certus becomes a mainstay in air travel?


With an innovative approach fueled by extensive investment, Iridium Certus offers huge potential across a range of different fields (oceans and heights!) of industry. The ability to serve as a useful tool and provide connection to such a broad range of businesses and individuals alike, creates the perfect pre requisites to help Iridium achieve its objective of connecting the entire planet! It would be fair to say Iridium Certus is ‘sure’ to be a ‘certain’ success!

Satellite, Travel

What is a Satellite phone?

What is a satellite phone? Why are they used and why would I need one?

A satellite phone, quite simply, is a mobile phone handset which has satellite capabilities built in to send and receive phone calls via satellites orbiting the earth. If the bit about satellites orbiting the Earth doesn’t make sense at this stage, might I suggest you nip off to Google and do a little research? I’ll wait for you here.

For those of you that already know about the above, you’ll also appreciate that your standard mobile phone signal and the cell towers that provide that signal, do not cover everywhere on the planet. Everyone has had those phone waving moments in the attempt to gain one bar of signal so you can call or text I’m sure.

If you’re traveling somewhere remote like the middle of the Sahara desert or the summit of Mount Everest (good luck to you first of all and well done) then I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find that there’s no mobile coverage there. This is where the humble satellite phone comes in, all you need is a clear line of sight to the sky and you can make your call.

Take out your satellite phone, point the antenna to the sky and you call shoots off to a satellite orbiting the earth 500 or so miles up, traveling at 17,000 miles per hour and back down to a ground station where your call is routed to the number you’ve dialed.

Your typical satellite in the Iridium constellation (that’s a network of orbiting satellites that are used by the Iridium brand of satellite phones, not a constellation of stars!) sends down 48 coverage beams and each beam covers a diameter of 250 miles meaning each satellite’s 48 overlapping beams cover a diameter of 2800 miles. The Iridium network has 66 satellites in a polar orbit (that means they go from South to North in a clockwise direction around the planet) so as you can imagine, that’s one heck of an area covered.

The Inmarsat system works slightly differently and consists of just 3 geostationary satellites (that means they stay in the same position over the same point on the planet) at a higher orbit so they have greater ground coverage. These satellites provide an almost global level of coverage, one covering the Americas, one covering Europe, Africa and the Middle East and one covering Australasia.

Here’s some key fact about the main two satellite networks available:

Iridium satellite phone – Coverage: the whole plane

  • Constellation of 66 satellites in a near circular polar orbit moving at a speed of 16,800mph
  • 7 spare satellites in a lower storage orbit in case any satellites fail.
  • The only handheld satellite voice solution that works at both poles.
  • Main form of satellite voice comms used by US and UK militaries.
  • Strong product portfolio of devices and accessories now including the ability to create a wireless access point and also allow GPS tracking for security & Safety purposes (Iridium extreme handset only).
  • Extremely easy to operate and acquire signal
  • Low cost of calls around the globe and free incoming calls
  • Free to send a text message to a sat phone from the Iridium web page

Inmarsat satellite phone – Coverage: everywhere but the poles

  • 3 geostationary satellite constellation positioned above the equator giving near global coverage. Only the poles are not covered.
  • One handset made, the Inmarsat iSat Phone Pro. Good quality robust handset ruggedized to IP54 rating for water, shock and dust resistance.
  • Excellent call quality.
  • A little thought required in order to ensure best signal strength is kept during a call.
  • Low cost handset compared to other solutions.
  • Much better data capability and connection speed on the Inmarsat network using BGAN.
  • BGAN terminal coupled with a Bluetooth handset makes for an excellent voice and data solution in one package.
  • Free to send a text message to a sat phone from the Inmarsat web page.

Low cost of calls around the globe and free incoming calls – Satellite phone rental.

Satellite, UK News

Satellite Phones

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.

Satellite, UK News

Scouting with satellite phones

Cellhire’s satellite phones helped the Scouts in their recent adventure to Kenya.

With 46 young people and a support team of 20 adults spending three weeks in the African bush, reliable communication was of paramount importance. The intrepid team needed to be able to keep in contact with the UK from a geographical area where traditional network coverage would simply not exist.

Cellhire supplied the team with 4 satellite handsets for the duration of the adventure. These phones are designed to provide connectivity in the harshest of terrain. The handsets look and feel like ‘traditional’ mobile phones, so the Scouts found the user experience reassuringly familiar. All incoming calls are free of charge and a handy inbuilt GPS location facility enabled the explorers to pinpoint their position at any given time. The phones came complete with a full accessory pack including rapid charger, travel adaptor, and instruction booklet. And for added peace of mind, Cellhire provides 24 hour global customer service, 365 days a year on all satellite handsets.

“The satellite handsets stood up to the task very well. They were easy to use, the coverage was consistent and they provided a vital lifeline back to ‘civilization’. The support service from Cellhire was very professional. We’ll certainly consider returning for our next expedition”. Ian Chappell County Commissioner.