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April 18, 2014, 3:08:37 am, America/Chicago
Satellite mobile phones connect to orbiting satellites for communication between different phone users on earth. They function in the same manner as the normal cell phones. However, the ones that are normally used connect to transceivers located here on earth. They transmit voice calls, messages and Internet coverage.
They are usually located at an altitude of approximately 35-40,000 kilometers (21-25,000 miles). Coverage of satellite mobile phones depends on the orientation of a certain system and may cover the whole earth or certain specific geographical locations. Use of various services often depend on laws of a country or international treaties that limit alien users from access within a given region.
Geostationary units are usually of most use in providing satellite mobile phone service. They are economical to service providers because they provide worldwide coverage with only four stations. This is because initial cost of setup and launching is very expensive. It is also important to note that some delays occur when making calls because users may be located as far away from each other as thousands of miles.
Low-earth orbiting stations may also be used to provide the phone service. They are located at an altitude of about 600 to 1100 kilometers (372 to 683 miles). The advantage they possess is that they have no coverage gaps such as the ones experienced when using geostationary orbits. The only problem is that they are always orbiting and may thus be out of coverage at times. The only solution is to install many of them to ensure all time coverage.
The devices used for such services have transformed over the years in size and design. The early terminals were large, heavy and usually had large external antennas but the ones currently in use resemble regular cells. Satellite mobile phones are mostly used by government security agencies such as the military because they provide privacy of information across systems. They are of major use in remote areas such as land with no terrestrial cell coverage, or in the deep seas.
In the deep seas, ships are installed with a rotating microwave antenna that is used to track position of overhead stations. This makes it possible to make transmissions available at different positions or even when a ship sets sail. The phone service used on land must be used outdoors to ensure signal quality and good Internet coverage. When using indoors, there must be a connection to an external antenna.
Acquisition for private individuals is possible but is rather expensive. Prices for new device usually costs a few thousand dollars depending on quality of services provided by the phone service providers. They can be used to contact regular cells from anywhere, hence come in handy for emergencies or disaster alert for areas with low cell coverage.
Before acquiring satellite mobile phones, one must be aware of the different laws of a country. Some countries such as Myanmar and North Korea ban the use of such services. This is considered as a result of inability to monitor such technology or sometimes the interference they cause to other cell users.