Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Satellite Phone for Alaska

Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Satellite Phone for Alaska

Satmodo Store

When it comes to satellite phones, the most important factor to consider is the coverage provided by the phone’s network. In Alaska, the two most reliable networks for satellite phone coverage are Iridium and Inmarsat. Iridium offers global coverage, including the poles, but it is often considered as more expensive compared to Inmarsat, which offers coverage primarily in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Another important factor to consider is the phone’s ruggedness. Alaska’s environment can be harsh, with extreme temperatures and rugged terrain, so it’s important to choose a phone that is built to withstand these conditions. A phone that is waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof will be more reliable in the long run.

Additionally, if you plan on using the phone for extended periods, it’s important to consider battery life. Many satellite phones have a battery life of around 8 hours, but some models can last up to 20 hours on a single charge.

Based on the above considerations, here are some of the best satellite phones for use in Alaska:

  1. Iridium Extreme 9575: This phone offers global coverage and is built to withstand extreme temperatures and rugged terrain. It also has a long battery life of up to 30 hours in standby mode.
  2. Inmarsat IsatPhone 2: This phone offers coverage in the northern and southern hemispheres, and it is dust, water, and shock resistant. It also has a long battery life of up to 8 hours of talk time.
  3. Globalstar GSP-1700: The Globalstar GSP-1700 offers coverage in North America, including Alaska, and it is durable and waterproof. It also has a long battery life of up to 12 hours of talk time.

Ultimately, the best satellite phone for use in Alaska will depend on your specific needs and budget. By considering the coverage, ruggedness, and battery life of different models, you can find a phone that will meet your needs and provide reliable communication in the Alaskan wilderness.

It’s also important to note that Satellite Phones are often subject to regulatory requirements and certifications, please check with relevant authorities in Alaska and service providers to ensure compliance and proper usage.


It’s False, Satellite phones do not work everywhere. They have specific coverage areas and limitations, their signal strength and connectivity depend on the satellite network and also depends on the location, atmospheric conditions, and other factors. In Alaska, there are 4 satellite operators that provide services, each with its own coverage, services, and pricing plans. These services are suitable for different usage scenarios and not all satellite phones work for every situation.

There are four satellite operators that provide service in Alaska and in order to choose the best option to suit your needs, you need to consider several factors. Coverage, services offered (such as email, SMS, and web access), the price of the service plan and phone, service reliability, and geographical location are all important factors to consider when selecting a provider. it’s highly recommended to review the providers’ coverage area and services, compare pricing plans, and also check the reliability of the service before making a decision.

Inmarsat and Light Squared (MSAT) have been providing service in Alaska for many years, they offer high-power fixed-based terminals which are well-suited for marine use but may not be practical for outdoor recreation due to their size and practicality. In contrast, Globalstar and Iridium provide satellite phone service through small handheld phones and Wi-Fi-enabled devices, which are more portable and suitable for outdoor activities. Both services offer nearly unnoticeable delay, and the “Omnidirectional antennas” on the phones do not require the user to know the location of the satellites in the sky, just point the antenna upward towards the sky to acquire the satellite signal.

Globalstar and Iridium are popular among outdoor enthusiasts in Alaska and are the main focus of the article. Both companies have their own constellation of Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites and have local network facilities in Alaska. Iridium operates one of its four Telemetry, Tracking, and Command & Control (TTAC) stations in Fairbanks while Globalstar has a full commercial gateway (ground station) in Wasilla which connects their satellite constellation directly to the long-distance telephone networks in Alaska. The local tie-in with GCI’s fiber optic telephone network allows Globalstar subscribers to have a genuine 907-based phone number assigned to their satellite phones, enabling them to make and receive calls as if they were using a regular landline phone.

The Globalstar constellation consists of 32 satellites, soon to be 24, which orbit around the Earth at an altitude of about 900 miles. Iridium’s fleet of 66 satellites orbits at about half that altitude, at 450 miles above the Earth. At those low altitudes, the satellites of both systems orbit continuously around the globe, traveling at speeds of over 12,000 mph. It takes only about 2 hours for an individual Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellite to make a full orbit around the Earth. Because of that low altitude, the satellites have a much shorter distance to cover to communicate with the ground stations, making it possible for the companies to launch more satellites to achieve better coverage.

One of the main debates in the satellite phone industry is which system provides the best coverage and why. Some people believe that Iridium’s 66 satellites provide better coverage than Globalstar’s fewer satellites, but this reasoning is not always accurate. Coverage is determined by several parameters, including the satellites’ altitude, inclination, and functionality. Factors such as altitude and inclination affect the visibility of the satellite from the ground, whereas functionality refers to the capabilities of the satellites to support various services such as voice, SMS, and data. Each system has different advantages and disadvantages and it’s worth researching and comparing the different options to find the best fit for your needs and location.
The altitude of a satellite plays a significant role in determining its coverage or footprint. Generally, the higher the altitude of a satellite, the larger its footprint, meaning fewer satellites are required to provide coverage. Therefore, in terms of the satellite footprint’s size, Globalstar’s satellites that orbit at 900 miles have an advantage over Iridium’s that orbit at 450 miles. The higher altitude of Globalstar satellites allows them to cover a greater area from a single satellite, however, this comes with the trade-off of higher latencies and weaker signal strength closer to the horizon. On the other hand, Iridium’s closer altitude allows for lower latency and stronger signal closer to the horizon but with a smaller footprint. Additionally, Inmarsat satellites are in geosynchronous orbit at an altitude of 22,000 miles, thus they require only 4 satellites to cover most of the Earth.
The inclination of a satellite refers to the tilt of the satellite’s orbit relative to the equatorial plane of the Earth, it’s measured in degrees. The inclination of a satellite plays a significant role in determining its coverage area. Globalstar satellites have an inclination of 52 degrees relative to the equator, which was chosen to provide service up to the 70th parallel, near Prudhoe Bay. This inclination was chosen because the area around Prudhoe Bay is relatively remote and has low foot traffic and flight paths. Globalstar likely decided against the additional cost required to cover the poles. This inclination allows the satellite to cover a good portion of the Northern Hemisphere including Alaska and Canada, but not the southern hemisphere. On the other hand, Iridium satellites are inclined at a 86.4 degrees relative to the equator which allows for near-global coverage.
The functionality of a satellite refers to the capabilities of the satellite to support various services such as voice, SMS, and data. If you were to imagine flattening out the Earth and watching the Globalstar satellites orbit, they would produce an image of a sine wave, with the crest rising as far north as about Ketchikan. The view from 1,000 miles up in outer space is vast, and Globalstar’s broad satellite beams shadow the entire state of Alaska as they pass overhead. The only requirement is that Ketchikan is always to the south, so wherever you are in Alaska you need a good view to the south when using Globalstar services. Iridium on the other hand, being closer to the Earth and with more satellites, it allows for lower latency and stronger signal closer to the horizon but with a smaller footprint. It has better coverage in the poles and other remote areas that Globalstar might not cover.
Iridium provides telephone service at the South Pole, the North Pole, and everywhere in between by tilting the satellites at 90 degrees relative to the Equator, creating a mesh network that routes calls through the chain of satellites. Because the satellites are inclined at 90 degrees to the equator, they pass over both poles, thus providing coverage in these remote areas. To achieve this, Iridium has a network of 66 Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites, and each one of them is connected to the other, allowing for continuous coverage of the earth. When a call is made, it’s routed through the chain of satellites until it reaches the nearest gateway station on dry land. In Iridium’s case, these gateway stations are located in Tempe, Arizona, where the calls are then transferred to regular landline networks for connection to the final destination. This allows Iridium to offer near-global coverage, including the poles and other remote regions.


The Iridium satellite network was first proposed by engineers at Motorola in the mid-1980s as a means of providing global cellular telephone coverage. The idea was to launch a large number of satellites into low Earth orbit, which would then be used to relay communications between mobile devices on the ground and the public switched telephone network. The network’s initial slogan was “One World, One Phone, One Number,” which reflected the company’s goal of providing seamless, worldwide communication coverage. However, the project was extremely ambitious and expensive and faced several challenges before becoming operational.
Motorola partnered with Lockheed Martin to develop the Iridium satellite system, which was the world’s first cross-linked satellite system. The Iridium system is a network of 66 satellites orbiting the Earth in six different planes, and providing global communication coverage. The system uses cross-links between the satellites to relay signals between mobile devices on the ground, which allows the network to provide coverage in remote and hard-to-reach areas, such as the poles and oceans. The idea of having most of the system’s intelligence and communication routing in the sky was ambitious and required a lot of advanced technologies to be developed to make it happen, but the team was able to accomplish it successfully. The system was launched in the late 1990s and became operational in 1998.
The Iridium satellite network is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation that currently has 66 operational satellites and several spares in orbit. The network provides worldwide voice and data communication by using a system of satellites that orbit the Earth at an altitude of about 780 km. The constellation is made up of 66 satellites orbiting in six different planes, with each plane inclined at an angle of 86.4 degrees relative to the Earth’s equator. Each plane contains 11 operational satellites and several spares. The network uses cross-link technology between the satellites, which allows the network to relay signals between mobile devices on the ground, enabling global coverage. The network also relies on several active Iridium Earth Stations which serve as gateways between the satellite network and the public switched telephone network.

What’s the future hold for Iridium?

Iridium’s launch of its second generation of satellites has been delayed until August 2016. The company is required to wait a minimum of four months after launching two test satellites before launching the ten Iridium satellites into space on Falcon 9 rockets, provided by Space X. Additionally, Iridium’s service quality has recently declined and some believe this trend may continue due to the low fuel and power levels of the older generation of satellites.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *