Frost & Sullivan evaluate sat phone services

Wednesday, 22 September, 2010

Individuals and organisations routinely require global, 24/7 access to communications even when a wireless network or a wireline phone isn’t available. These users include emergency first responders, maritime users, remote oil and gas workers, disaster recovery personnel, military and government agents, and countless others.

In an effort to provide satellite phone users with information on two of the handset products currently available in the market, and provide an independent evaluation of their service quality, Frost & Sullivan conducted an exhaustive study of the differences between satellite phone devices and services and detailed those in a report published  this month. Frost & Sullivan’s intent is to aid those end users and decision-makers responsible for purchasing, deploying or using personal satellite communications devices.

Frost & Sullivan found it valuable to compare the features and performance of the latest industry model, Inmarsat’s IsatPhone Pro, with those of  the Iridium 9555 satellite phone. Frost & Sullivan also compared Iridium’s network of 66 low-earth orbit satellites to that of Inmarsat’s constellation of three geosynchronous orbit satellites. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses were conducted.

For the qualitative portion of this analysis, the following features for each phone were evaluated:

  • Size and weight
  • Keyboard
  • Display
  • Antenna
  • Battery use and charge life
  • Battery charger
  • Construction and overall feel

For the quantitative section of the analysis, test locations were selected in order to understand the variations in performance referenced in the FAQ section on an Inmarsat reseller website. These locations included Anchorage, Alaska; Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Fort McMurray in Canada.

In Frost & Sullivan’s testing and analysis, the Iridium 9555 satellite phone was found to be a superior device to the Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro in all locations. Iridium’s satellite network also offered better coverage, including the ability to use a satellite phone in Anchorage, Alaska, where the Inmarsat phone was inoperable. The Iridium phone provided better call quality, and was faster to find the satellite network and make a call. The Iridium phone offered the ability to receive an incoming call with the antenna down - something the Inmarsat phone could not do. The Iridium phone also offered the ability to use the phone as a modem for a laptop for email or web access. However, the Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro was less expensive than the Iridium 9555 and also had lower per minute usage charges.

“Frost & Sullivan recommends that heavy users of satellite phones and first responders who rely on satellite phones for emergency communications, select the Iridium phone and service,” advises James Brehm, Frost & Sullivan senior consultant and project leader. “We believe that Iridium is a proven and reliable service that works well in all locations and, therefore, justifies the added premium for the hardware and service.”

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