Geostationary satellite phones versus civilian use satellite phones
Although satellite telephones can be used for geostationary orbit connecting the whole world with only three or four satellites, the most popular civilian system is Inmarsat. Geostationary satellite phone requires a large antenna system for signal receipt and transmission. This makes the entire system inconveniently large and affects mobility and ease of use, quite adversely. Civilian satellite phones such Inmarsat, is quite handy to use and does not require such a large system of antenna. However, every satellite hand held phone system suffers from a big disadvantage that they need a clear link with the sky and are unusable inside a building. Here the requirement will be that of external antenna and it makes the whole process quite cumbersome and costly too.
Satellite phones using Low Earth Orbit technology
These satellite phones have the rare advantage of covering the world without wire and without any gaps. Low Earth Orbit satellites go round the earth at a very high speed but at lower altitude with an orbital time of around 90 minutes. The altitude at which these satellites move are somewhere between 600 to 1,150 Kms. The original two LEO systems are Iridium and Gobalstar could not become popular.
Satellite phones models
Satellite phones have been quite popular in films and stage shows. They are available in various models and come from divergent brands. The most popular ones are Globalstar, Iridium, and Inmarsat. A prospective user need not always purchase one since satellite phones on rental are also available. Satellite phones can also be purchased by ordering online. Most of the providers also have the system of same day delivery or door delivery, as preferred by the customers. In addition they offer attractive plans to gain customer support like no deposits, an extra free battery, and unlimited use with no bundled minutes, fastest shipping, and many more. An example is the International Cell Phone rental package offered by some, that provides connectivity to 130 countries with pulse rate payment ranging from 89 cents to $1.69.
Transition from commercial to consumer use
At the start of the millennium, satellite phones were yet to make a big headway and most of the providers were struggling for self-sufficiency. The most pertinent reason behind such a state of affairs was the high payable cost and high payable pulse rate. For example the Globalstar handheld phone cost around $1,200 and the pulse rate payable was $2.49 per minute. Inmarsat was also providing a bulky suitcase set at $3,000 to $10,000. Therefore, initially the users of satellite phones were the Government and big business houses. They used the satellite phone services to approach remote areas having none other means of communication. Even the rental charges in 2001 were an unfriendly $159 per week with call charges at $3.99 per minute. However, over the past five years there has been a sea change in this area. The first popular service of satellite phone system was provided by Iridum with a cost of $1,995 or the same was available on rent at $19.99 per month. The pulse rate payment was a reasonable $1.99 and these rates were much lower than earlier rates charged for satellite phones.
The initial steps in transition from commercial to consumer based satellite phones took place in 2001 with the launching of Iridium World Data Services. It provided for dial up throughput of 2.4 kbps and direct Internet data throughput at about 10 kbps. A package with a pulse rate payment of 99 cents per minute was also introduced. And the most important addition was the prepaid phone service at an average pulse rate of $1.09 per minute. The satellite phone service, originally opened for Government only, has now become open to the private customers. Today, providers like Globalstar has reduced the satellite phone costs by 80% of its cost in 2001.
The user scenario
However, the largest user till date of satellite phones is the Military. Today, Globalstar provides handheld satellite phone at $645, and sets are available at a lower price of $599. The 2006 Inmarsat has voice and high speed data service. But the cost is higher at $1,650, with the advantage that it provides for BGAN services not available till now. This technology eliminates the necessity to use terminals that earlier cost a customer nearly $8,000. The advantage of this technology is clear digital voice and high speed data transfer. Gradually, the popularity of satellite phones started increasing and the average revenue collection marked at 30% increase for the industries involved. With a 60% downfall in the rentals for satellite phones, the consumer strength has multiplied into virtual millions. The growing consciousness among prospective customers about the ease of transmission of data and voice through the satellite service has resulted in further growth of the satellite phones industry in the United States. The growth has been indicating an upward trend for last five years.