Sep 30, 2022
It's safe to say that today's businesses and governments couldn't function without the Internet, voice communication and other forms of modern telecommunications. Everything from running the business to handling finances, logistics, internal and external communications, and utilizing various safety devices. Few, however, appreciate that all these systems are land based and hence vulnerable to the effects of both natural and man-made disasters. When a disaster strikes, cellular infrastructure can be destroyed or networks can fail, leaving your business vulnerable. Banks, hospitals, public safety organizations, and businesses can use satellite telecommunications solutions to safely coordinate between locations, maintain human contact, keep computer networks running and receive real-time updates on changing conditions. However, having an emergency voice communication system must be the primary concern when a disaster strikes.
In the aftermath of a disaster such as a hurricane, voice communication is the essential need and a natural way to communicate. Voice calls are efficient to provide information reliably, quickly, and efficiently. Voice calls can be made over VoIP using various types of satellite terminals or via satellite phones. However, satellite phones are the primary voice solution, they are portable, easy to operate, rapid to deploy, and some have additional emergency functions.
There are 3 types of satellite phones: regional, quasi global or truly global. All types offer voice and SMS services, along with basic data services (not sufficient for an actual Internet access).
The only true global satellite phone is made by Iridium, a US based company. They operate 75 satellites in low earth orbit— 66 operational plus 9 spares — and six spares on the ground. These phones offer voices, SMS services, Push-To-Talk (Iridium 9575) and basic data. Iridium also offers the IridumGO, a small device that connects to your smart phone and enables it to make calls and send some low volume data over the Internet. In addition, the higher end rugged model 9575 and the IridiumGO have an emergency beacon capable of transmitting someone’s position to a dedicated emergency service.
Two other Iridium based voice solutions are the ICOM satellite radio and the ASE Cross band solution to connect an Iridium Push-to-Talk satellite phone to any LMR Radio network. ICOM handheld terminals function like a push to talk radio. These satellite radios function similarly to a standard VHF handheld radio, but instead of connecting to land-based towers or repeaters, they connect to the Iridium satellites and offer pole-to-pole coverage in areas where other geostationary satellites, cannot operate. Those who already own VHF, UHF, or HF radios can connect them to the ICOM IC-SAT100 via interoperable communications options or use the ASE Cross band solution.
An alternative to Iridium is the Inmarsat GSPS phone. This phone relies on a network of 4 geosynchronous satellites. The phone needs to have a direct view of the satellite to function properly. Most of the earth has service except for the far southern and northern regions of the globe. They cannot be used in Alaska for example.
The third option is Thuraya. A regional system used in Europe, parts of Africa, the middle East, Asia and Australia. It relies on 2 geosynchronous satellites. This system DOES NOT work in the Americas.
Most of these phones can be inserted into a docking station, connected to a PBX, a radio network and serve as a backup phone line in case of an outage or enable over-the-horizon radio communications.
In a nutshell, voice is the easiest way to communicate efficiently in any emergency and satellite phones are the best solution for this. They are the most reliable, lightweight, easy to use and essential tool any organization or individual needs during and after a disaster. These devices integrate voice telephony and, depending on the brand, push-to-talk, texting, gps, emergency beacons and low speed data. Some devices even connect to a smartphone to offer enhanced services such as basic email and weather files. For professional users, satphones and satellite radios can be integrated in emergency vehicles, interconnect with radio networks to offer over-the-horizon radio communication. Before considering data and Internet satellite backup solutions, satellite phones are the primary emergency tool any emergency conscious person or organization must have at their immediate disposal.