Satellite Phone Options

Are you considering purchasing a satellite phone?  If so, you will quickly learn that it can be more complicated that buying a mobile phone.  Below are some points to help compare themajor networks.  For starters, if you want global service, you want either Iridium or Inmarsat networks.  If you want coverage only in Europe, the Middle East, parts of Africa, or parts of Asia, choose Thuraya for their low rates and great phones.  If you want a phone to use in the US only, consider GlobalStar.  Any way you look at it, you will make an intial investment of $700-$1,700 and likely have a monthly contract or purchase prepaid service.


  • Global coverage
  • 66 satellites in a low-earth orbit – 485 miles away
  • Motorola handsets
  • Large US corporate customers, including US military
  • Country codes – 8816, 8817
  • Prepaid and postpaid options available
  • Iridium to Iridium – $0.75/minute
  • Iridium to other satellite phone – $9.72/minute
  • SMS outgoing $0.45 (incoming free)


  • Global coverage
  • 11 geosynchronous satellites – 22,183 miles away
  • Country code – 870
  • Prepaid and postpaid options available
  • SMS outgoing $0.45


  • Europe, Middle East, North/Central/East Africa, Central/South Asia coverage
  • Handsets are affordable, small, and offer many advanced features
  • Country code – 88216
  • Thuraya to Thuraya – $0.89/minute
  • SMS outgoing $0.49
  • Thuraya to other satellite phone – $9.75/minute
  • Thuraya to a landline phone$1.49/minute
  • Thuraya to a mobile phone $3.99/minute


  • North America coverage
  • Country codes – 8818, 8819
  • Calls cost $1.49/minute

More information:

Radio Phonetic Alphabet

alphaThe NATO phonetic alphabet is a system where key words are used to represent letters and numbers when using two-way radios or other verbal communication.  Often with international speakers, accents, stress, and poor communication links, letters such as b, c, d, e, g, p, t, v, z, and the number 3 can sound alike.  Assigning a commonly agreed upon word helps avoid confusion when spelling words.  This is different from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which is a method of documenting each sound in language.  Below is each letter, its word, the pronunciation, and the IPA spelling.

A Alpha AL FAH ˈælfɑ
B Bravo BRAH VOH ˈbrɑːˈvo
C Charlie CHAR LEE
D Delta DELL TAH ˈdeltɑ
E Echo ECK OH ˈeko
F Foxtrot FOKS TROT ˈfɔkstrɔt
G Golf GOLF ɡʌlf
H Hotel HO TELL hoːˈtel
I India IN DEE AH ˈindiˑɑ
J Juliet JEW LEE ETT ˈdʒuːliˑˈet
K Kilo KEY LOH ˈkiːlo
L Lima LEE MAH ˈliːmɑ
M Mike MIKE mɑik
N November NO VEM BER noˈvembə
O Oscar OSS CAH ˈɔskɑ
P Papa PAH PAH pəˈpɑ
Q Quebec KEH BECK keˈbek
R Romeo ROW ME OH ˈroːmiˑo
S Sierra SEE AIR AH siˈerɑ
T Tango TANG GO ˈtænɡo
U Uniform YOU NEE FORM ˈjuːnifɔːm
V Victor VIK TAH ˈviktɑ
W Whiskey WISS KEY ˈwiski
X X-ray ECKS RAY ˈeksˈrei
Y Yankee YANG KEY ˈjænki
Z Zulu ZOO LOO ˈzuːluː
Digit Word Pronunciation
0 Zero ZE RO
1 One WUN
2 Two TOO
3 Three TREE
4 Four FOW ER
5 Five FIFE
6 Six SIX
7 Seven SEV EN
8 Eight AIT
9 Nine NIN ER

SPOT Satellite Messenger

I came across an interesting product this week in BrigadaSPOT is a satellite messenger.  This handheld battery operated device can broadcast your location to up to ten people you choose.  Every time you press the ok button, your friends receive an email or text message letting them know that you are ok and giving them your longitude and latitude.  When you press the help button, your friends are sent an email or text alerting them that you need help, along with the GPS coordinates for your location.  If things become worse, pressing the 911 button will alert the SPOT response center who will contact you friends, police, and other rescue services.  SPOT retails for $169 and the service fee is $99/year.  Another $50/year allows your friends to track your movements on Google Maps while another $150/year provides search and rescue assistance.  It doesn’t cover the whole world so check the coverage map – Sub-Saharan Africa is not covered.  The help button differentiates SPOT from traditional personal locator beacons, as it offers a middle option between calling 911 and doing nothing.  In addition, the ok button gives peace of mind to friends and relatives.  This is a very handy device that I would classify as a mix between a “poor man’s satellite phone” and a “poor man’s Codan.”  By that, I mean that if you worked in a rural area and your friend or emergency contact worked in an urban area, you could use the help button to send him a text message and he could contact you via HF radio.  If you use HF radios and can’t afford a satellite phone this may be a good option to let friends know that you’re ok or that you need help.  Visit the SPOT website.