Cellular networks only provide coverage where there is a lot of people. The moment you go to an area that is unpopulated it is safe to assume that there won’t be any cellular coverage. And in the vast majority of 3rd world countries where cellular networks do exist, they are usually very unreliable. Satellite phones on the other hand are extremely reliable – armies and soldiers rely on them to go about their daily business.
Because there are different and competing cellular networks in every country, travelers are slapped with roaming charges, incoming charges, zoning charges and even peak call time charges. These charges are non existent if you travel with a satellite phone. One sure way to avoid the ‘bill shock’ from a couple of weeks roaming with a cellular phone, is to get yourself a satellite phone.
Satellite phones have safety and tracking features that were originally conceived for workforce management applications, but that are equally valuable to consumer users. The Iridium Extreme for example has a red SOS button with optional emergency rescue services. Some satellite phones can send tracking messages with links to public maps such as Google maps, while the Iridium Extreme has an optional professional web based tracking system that users can sign up to.
Some satellite providers give you access to web apps where friends, family and colleagues can send text messages to your satellite phone free of charge. It effectively means they can communicate free of charge with you, and it is also a very handy feature for travelers who often have their satellite phones switch off for whatever reason, as messages are simply delivered to your satellite phone the next time you switch it on.