Cellular phones work great if you stay near-coastal. You can usually use them with no problem as long as you are within 5 miles of the shoreline. However, if you want to venture further out, and still stay in touch, your only alternative until recently was a very expensive IMARSAT system. Now, staying in touch seems to be getting more affordable.
Note: This is not an endorsement or advertisement. We have not yet used this system and have no connection with it or the companies producing it. This information is provided to inform readers of new items and services that may be of interest to boaters.
satellite telephone service is delivered through special multi-mode
phones, which work like traditional cellular phones when you are in
an area with cellular coverage. Globalstar phones look and act like
mobile or fixed phones with which you're familiar. Globalstar's
mobile satellite phones, slightly larger than traditional cellular
phones, are built by three wireless manufacturers, Ericsson,
QUALCOMM and Telit. The difference is that they can operate
virtually anywhere, carrying your call over a secure Code Division
Multiple Access (CDMA) satellite signal.
Globalstar's constellation of 48 Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites transmits calls from your Globalstar wireless phone or fixed phone station to a terrestrial gateway, where they are passed on to existing fixed and cellular telephone networks in more than 100 countries on 6 continents.
"bent-pipes", or mirrors in the sky, the Globalstar constellation of
48 Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites picks up signals from over
80% of the Earth's surface, everywhere outside the extreme polar
regions and some mid-ocean regions. Several satellites pick up a
call, and this "path diversity" assures that the call does not get
dropped even if a phone moves out of sight of one of the satellites.
As soon as a second satellite picks up the signal and is able to
contact the same terrestrial gateway, it begins to simultaneously
transmit. If buildings or terrain block your phone signal, this
"soft-handoff" prevents call interruption. The second satellite now
maintains transmission of the original signal to the terrestrial
This map illustrates the current and expected future Globalstar coverage. Actual coverage may differ depending on gateway development, licensing and other factors. A progressive rollout will bring Globalstar service to most of the populated areas around the world.
If I have peaked
your interest, now for the really good news. Currently, you can get
a tri-mode Globalstar phone from $199-$799 depending on the plan you
choose. The $799.00 price gives you a plan for only $29.95 per
month. Doesn't sound like a bad deal to be connected globally. For
additional information on the Globalstar system and pricing contact
Globalstar US at