We have purchased an Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro satellite phone for
peace of mind when travelling in the remote areas that do not have
conventional mobile phone coverage. The SatPhone will only be used for
‘emergency’ use. Normal contact will still be by our mobile phone
and also our Netbook PC with a Telstra USB modem to receive emails
when in mobile range.
The SatPhone will not be switched on most of the time, even when we
are in a remote location & out of normal mobile phone coverage.
Obviously if a critical situation has arisen and we have already
made initial contact with help and are therefore anticipating
further communications, the phone would be left on permanently.
If we know we are out of normal mobile range we will turn on the
satellite phone at least once a day to check for any SMS or email
messages. If an urgent situation arises and someone cannot voice or
SMS contact us on our mobiles, then they need to try one of the
following to contact us via our SatPhone.
Enter the international dial code of the country you are in, then
the SatPhone number to send a SMS message in the normal way.
communications who operate the system in
Australia also provide a free text message facility from their
The box is near the bottom of the home page.
* Enter the satellite phone number in the top box after the 87077
* Enter an email address in the second box. This is a mandatory
* Enter your message of up to 160 characters which includes the
* You do not need to tick the ‘I agree’ box.
* Click the send box.
Enter (our satphone number)@message.inmarsat.com in the ‘To’ field and
up to 160 characters of email content in the normal way. Experience
so far would seem to indicate that SMS and email contact might take
longer to receive via the satellite than conventional means,
assuming we have turned the phone on. If you know we are remote,
there is no reason why you cannot send non-urgent SMS and e-mails
(160 characters) to the satellite phone just to keep in touch, but
we may not reply!
It is very expensive for you to call a satellite phone, although
costs vary dependant on your supplier. Telstra charge $19.99 per
minute in 60 second blocks, even if the call is not accepted or the
satellite phone is turned off. To make a voice call, dial the
international dial code of the country you are in, then the SatPhone
When you call you may experience a relatively long delay whilst your
phone tries to connect, so don’t hang up until you get some sort of
response. We do not intend to activate voicemail on the satellite
phone as it is just as practical to rely on SMS and e-mail contact.
If the satellite phone is turned on and for some reason we fail to
answer it, we will get a missed call message identifying your
number, unless it is private. As already explained, if we are out of
normal mobile reception we will turn the satellite phone on at least
once a day, between 1800 and 1900 Australian Eastern Standard
Time. If the satellite phone is turned off when you call we do not
get a missed call message.
why we might
contact a friend
If we require emergency contact we will normally try to call help
from the appropriate person/organisation directly.
non standard redirected numbers such as 1800, 1300, 13nnnn and
ironically 000, that are redirected within the Australian phone
system can recognise it is an incoming international phone call and
most probably will ignore it. Organisations that operate these types
of numbers such as NRMA, banks, etc normally have separate numbers
if you are calling from abroad and these are the numbers to call
from a satellite phone.
If we cannot reach help directly we may need to contact a friend as
an intermediary so that they can relay our difficulty to the
appropriate person/organisation. We would probably give the GPS
coordinates of our location as well as other general location
details so help can find us.
There is one situation when we might contact a friend via the
satellite phone when it is not an emergency. We will always have
purchased a voucher so we can activate the phone to make calls in an
emergency. These vouchers expire after 12 months, so if we are
approaching that expiry date we will activate the phone and use it
for normal use rather than lose the free airtime.
The use of a satellite phone is somewhat different to a normal
mobile phone. Firstly it is like a GPS in that it must be able to
‘see’ the relevant satellite to function. It will not work inside
buildings, cars, caravans, tunnels, difficult terrain etc. Another
significant difference is that the in-built antennae must be in a
vertical position and not stored within the phone, which makes it
difficult to carry like this.
The most practical way to use the
phone is probably to place it on its side with the antennae upright
and use the included microphone/earpiece connected to the base of
the phone. In voice mode it therefore works better as a sending
device as the cost and practicality of receiving calls, without an
additional external antennae, make it difficult to receive voice
calls unless you are expecting them and have set up the phone
Assuming you are within satellite reception, a satellite phone will
always be able to receive voice, SMS and e-mails worldwide.
Inmarsat provide a free test facility for you to
check that your phone is working. From the SatPhone call
00870776999999 to receive a recorded message.
Satellite phones, like mobiles, can operate on a plan or pre-pay
basis. Unless you are on a plan, if you want to make calls/SMS etc.
you have to purchase a voucher which must be activated within 12
months of purchase or it will expire. The vouchers are sold in a
number of units and each denomination lasts for a specified period
once it is activated.
* 25 units last up to 30 days and cost $33
* 50 units last up to 90 days and cost $65
* 100 units last up to 180 days and cost $130
Voice calls are charged in 15 second increments at a cost 25 cents
of a unit, so a one minute call costs about $1.30. To send an SMS is
half a unit or about 65 cents
Normally we will purchase a 25 unit voucher and not activate it
unless we need to make an ‘emergency’ call/SMS or the 12 month
expiry deadline of the voucher is approaching.
New pre-pay vouchers can be purchased from -
TC Communications 02 97145100 e-mail:
Videosat 02 94823100 e-mail:
A satellite phone is also capable of receiving data and fax
communications through separate contact numbers, but this is not
relevant to us.
To make a call from the satellite phone:
- Turn on the phone by pressing the red button for a few seconds. It
may take several minutes for the phone to detect a
satellite and will display 'waiting for the satellite' before it has a service and you can use
If a voucher has not yet been activated enter -
16 digit voucher number
then press the green key
We keep the latest inactivated voucher number in the phone contacts
as VOUCHER NUMBER. The first eight digits are in
‘telephone’ and the last eight digits are in ‘mobile phone’ as it will
not display clearly in only one field.
To call from a satellite phone irrespective of your location, dial
00, then the country code of the
http://countrycode.org/ Australia is 61,
then the phone number without the leading zero of the area code or
- to a home phone within Australia as an example
- to a mobile within Australia as an example
NB There is also an option on the menu to activate a pre-pay
voucher, ‘Settings’ - the spanner - then ‘Prepay’.
The phone knows its location and can display these GPS coordinates
for reference in the menu screen bottom row middle option and if
required send them via e-mail and SMS. The GPS location is in the
L dd mm ss - where as L=Latitude with N=north, S=south, dd = degrees,
L dd mm ss - where as L=longitude with E=east, W= west, dd = degrees,
A useful website is
latitude degrees=minus if South
longitude degrees=minus if West
If you enter these coordinates in the bottom
righthand boxes you can see the location on a map. For example -
S 33 40 16 - enter as –33 degrees, 40 minutes, 16 seconds
E 151 6 35 - enter as 151 degrees, 6 minutes, 35 seconds
I have compiled a separate list of emergency contacts within
Australia that will accept satellite calls and these are also stored
in the phones contact menu together with personal contacts. A
can be found here.
If you are in the USA you can make an emergency call by dialling 911
even if the phone is inactive.
The phone comes with a 240volt mains charger, 12volt car cigarette
charger, computer USB lead/charger and a microphone/earpiece lead.
- good points
* It now seems more sensible to have a satellite phone rather than
an EPERB emergency device.
* Provided you have satellite reception you can receive voice calls,
SMS and e-mail from anywhere in the world, irrespective of your
* You may be eligible for an Australian government subsidy of 50-85%
of the cost of the phone.
* If you do not want to make calls, send SMS or e-mails on a regular
basis, you can leave the phone in receive only mode and carry a
voucher which you only activate if needed. A $33 voucher will expire
after one year if not activated, and once activated will operate for
* Call costs from the phone are relatively cheap $1.30 per minute
and $0.65 an SMS.
limitations of use
* Reception is not as flexible as with a normal
mobile although an external antenna may help in certain situations.
* The cost of calling a satellite phone is probably prohibitive
except in critical situations.
* Certain redirected numbers especially 000 will not work in
* You will not get a missed call message if the phone is not turned
on, so you may need to use voicemail if necessary.
Thanks to Mike Sargeant for the article