Satellite Phones: Do you need one?

by Anonymous
Posted on 1st March 2015

For your missionary work, you may not have been thinking of satellite phones. Maybe you think they are too bulky, too complicated to use, too expensive. If you won't be in a remote location, an international cell phone would be a cost effective method of staying in touch, but if you are headed to a very remote region, or to a region with unstable or unreliable cell phone coverage, satellite phones may be worth a second look. It may seem strange, but cell phones only cover about 10% of the earth's surface: satellite phones can reach the rest.


Voice calling, SMS, email and other ways to stay connected with satellite

Today, satellite phones look and weigh just like mobile phones, and don't require any special training for their basic functions. You can call any landline or cell phone anywhere on the globe by simply dialing the phone number. And satellite phones offer more that just voice calling. They can keep you connected to your church, family and friends in other ways, including:

cell phones only cover about 10% of the earth's surface

  • Email,
  • SMS texting,
  • Image uploads,
  • Web,
  • Facebook and Twitter updates,
  • Video,
  • SOS,
  • GPS Tracking

All of the above are possible today with portable satellite internet equipment. You may not have been considering a satellite phone to stay connected during your mission, but there are some things that satellite phones do really well, and if you are headed to a very remote or unstable region, or are leading a team, they may be worth considering before you head overseas.

Why Consider Satellite Phones for Your Missionary Work?

There are two main reasons business travelers, first-responders, sailors, team leaders and others consider satellite equipment for their communication needs:

  1. Geography: satellite phones work across vast regions of the earth where cell phones don't. In fact, every continent has regions that are only served by satellite communications, and once out at sea, satellite covers the oceans like no other technology. For some very remote missionary postings, it may be the only way you can stay connected in real time for voice calling and data.
  2. Disaster Planning: because satellite phones do not rely solely on terrestrial infrastructure, they work when natural or man-made disasters interrupt the local cell phone systems, or when affected residents overwhelm the local cell towers or landlines and calls cannot go in or out. Satellite phones circumvent these systems when needed. That's why disaster relief organizations, civil and military authorities, and remote industry professionals use satellite equipment for reliably staying connected in any situation.

Finding the right satellite equipment

disaster relief organizations, civil and military authorities, and remote industry professionals use satellite equipment for reliably staying connected in any situation

There are a lot of choice out there if you are considering a satellite phone. The key is to take some time and think about how you and your team works, and build a solution around that. Consider how often you will want to use it, and whether it covers the region where your missionary work will take place. Different satellite phones have different capabilities, but generally speaking, there are several options for you wherever you might be. Satellite phones are built for the field, resist dust and water, and are generally made for rugged, extreme conditions. These characteristics can make a difference if your mission is located in rough terrain, or if you intend to travel into regions where extreme weather or temperatures are common.

We're not recommending satellite phones for every missionary headed overseas: the upfront hardware costs can be higher than other communication solutions, and don't fit every budget. But there are real advantages to including satellite in your communication plans, and for some remote regions, or if disaster planning is part of your approach, having a just one satellite device at a secure location can be a very good idea. Beyond what it offers you and your team during an unexpected crisis, a satellite phone can provide peace of mind for the people at-home or at your church, who know you can be reached when other earth-based systems fail. The question is, how can you manage your costs?

Costs: keeping them predictable and as low as you can

If you are equipping a full team, not every member of your mission needs a satellite phone. Having just one satellite device can spread the costs, and there are various satellite service plans and other practical ideas for keeping your costs as low as possible. Generally speaking, data usage is expensive when compared to what you may be accustomed to paying in a normal office or home environment. So, any steps you can take to minimize your data costs, and make your actual usage lower, can save you significant money over time. Some satellite service providers, such as Iridium and Inmarsat, offer free apps that can be downloaded ahead of time, that are specially designed to minimize the data used for basic functions such as email or IP based voice calls. Its important to look carefully into your own data needs, and find ways to keep them low.

The key is to consider your choices carefully and how you plan to stay connected once you and your team have set-out on your mission. Satellite offers advantages and functionalities that other communications solutions can't match, but it's worth taking the time to make a good choice. Speak with a sales rep and ask them all the practical questions you need in order for you to feel right about your choice.

Satellites give you one more reason to look to the skies above, but our advice is to keep your feet on the ground when choosing your equipment and planning your budgets!

Further Satellite Phone info and links can be found at Sat Phones.

The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous.