Satellite phones
ARE YOU READY FOR IT? If things go as planned, you may get a signal anywhere in the world, with space-based phones about to enter mass market. Image Credit: Gulf News File


  • Satellite phone services: prices, packages, all you need to know.
  • The age of satellite smartphone for everyday users is drawing near, if not already upon us.

“Dead spots", or out-of-network areas, for your mobile phone can be a head-scratcher. Now, it turns out ordinary phones may soon be getting global satellite connection.

That’s what Lynk Global, a little-known space-phone company, demonstrated in September 2021. The company has been working, apparently on stealth mode, to provide connectivity via nanosatellites to regular phones. Lynk, alongside Starlink, are relative newcomers. Established satellite phone services include the likes of Iridium, Globalstar, Thuraya and Inmarsat — each using their own technology.

As competition hots, a new play has emerged: affordable satellite phone access to ordinary folks — anywhere on the planet (or at least most part of it). Fast forward to September 7, 2022: Apple launched iPhone 14 — with an emergency and SOS service linked to the Globalstar satellite network.

Signal everywhere

Fast forward to September 8: Elon Musk, who owns rocket launcher Space X, said they are also in talks with Apple for Starlink connectivity. There are persistent rumours Tesla is launching its own 'Pi Phone' as a Starlink-native device.

Satellite-based communications has been used for years by governments, especially for disaster response, and for limited civilian applications. Now, the age of satellite smartphone for everyday users is drawing near, if not already upon us.

If things go as planned, you may get a signal anywhere in the world, with space-based phones about to enter mass market. 

The top satellite mobile phone companies today offering a roadmap to a “no-dead-spot” future:

#1. Iridium

CEO: Matthew J. Desch

Year founded: 2001

Headquarters: McLean, Virginia

Employees: 497 (2019)

Orbit: Low-Earth orbit (LEO)

Number of satellites: 66


The Iridium communications service was launched on November 1, 1998, formerly known as Iridium SSC. It enables voice, messaging, and data services anywhere on Earth through rugged hardware designed for lone workers, adventurers, international travelers, and government workers.

Price: Iridium 60 Minute Monthly Plan, $74.00 ($1.29 / additional minute)

#2. Globalstar

CEO: David Kagan

Year founded:  1991

Headquarters: Covington, Louisiana, US

Employees: 346 (2020)

Orbit: Low-Earth orbit

Number of satellites: 48 (+4 spares)


On September 7, 2022, Apple announced they signed up with Globalstar for iPhone 14’s out-of-network emergency services feature, becoming Globalstar’s biggest customer. It is known for its crystal clear, “land-line quality” voice service, and higher-quality transmission path for low to mid-latitude users. 

Downside: Satellite communications depend on having a clear line-of-sight to the satellite in the sky. They work most effectively when used outside, with no obstructions (tall buildings, mountains, trees, etc.)

Price: $79.99/month (150 minutes); $99.99/ month (200 minutes); $0.99 per minute (additional minutes). $199.99/month (unlimited minutes); $50 activation fee.

#3. Starlink

CEO: Elon Musk (Space X)

Year founded: 2019 (start of satellite launches)

Headquarters: California

Employees: 375 (2021)

Orbit: Low-Earth orbit

Number of satellites: 3,259 (in orbit as of September 2022), up to 42,000-satellite full constellation planned


Its mass-produced small satellites communicate "talk" to each other and with designated ground transceivers to provide internet service, via a small satellite dish and router. As of June 2022, Starlink is already providing internet access to over 500,000 subscribers.

Coverage is still lacking, self-installation is required, slower and less reliable than cable; obstructions can cause connectivity issues; won’t work as well in cities. As more satellites go up (in multiple launches), coverage will expand rapidly, with up to 200 mbps data rate.

Price: One-time “starter kit” at $549, $110 monthly subscription.

#4. Kuiper Systems

CEO:  Rajeev Badyal

Year founded: 2019


Employees: 1,000

Orbit: Low-Earth orbit

Number of satellites: 3,276 (planned)


The company, backed by Amazon, won the Federal Communications Commission's go-ahead in 2020. The full constellation will provide internet to "tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet”. Amazon has announced it will "offer broadband service through partnerships with other companies”. Two initial prototype satellites “KuiperSat-1” and “KuiperSat-2” are planned to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2022, and to launch the satellites with ABL Space Systems on their RS1 rocket.

Price: Not available

#5. OneWeb

CEO: Neil Masterson

Year founded: 2012

Headquarters: London, UK

Employees: About 600

Orbit: Low-Earth orbit

Number of satellites: 648


First six satellites were launched in February 2019, the first large batch of 34 satellites was launched in February 2020, and another 34 were put into orbit in March 2020. These were followed by more launches in 2021.

Backers include Bharti Enterprises, Eutelsat, the UK Government, SoftBank, Hanwha, Hughes Network Systems and others. Airbus is manufacturing its satellites. OneWeb claims that each satellite is capable of delivering at least 8 gbps of throughput allowing Internet access to homes and mobile platforms.

Price: Not available

#6. Thuraya

CEO: Sulaiman Al Ali

Year founded: 1997

Headquarters: UAE

Employees: 273 (source:

Orbit: Geostationary

Number of satellites: 5 (160 countries covered)


As the UAE’s first home grown satellite operator, Thuraya offers communications solutions to a variety of sectors including energy, government, broadcast media, maritime, military, aerospace and humanitarian NGO.

Since its launch in 1997, Thuraya (a subsidiary of Yahsat, fully owned by Mubadala Investment Company) has increasingly expanded its coverage and capacity across Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East.

In March, the company launched the “Thuraya SatTrack for Land”, a secure, affordable, web-based tracking/monitoring service for land vehicles equipped with tracking and monitoring terminals in real-time across Thuraya’s satellite footprint.

Device price: $999

Thuraya Prepay NOVA Plus: $25, Thuraya Prepay Plus: $59; Thuraya Prepay 100: $399


#7. Lynk Global

CEO: Charles Miller (also Nanoracks founder)

Year founded: 2016

Headquarters: Washington DC

Employees: Not clear

Orbit: Low-Earth orbit

Number of satellites: 6 (+10 planned)

Milestones: In 2020 they sent the first ordinary SMS directly from a satellite to a normal phone. The company is developing a satellite-to-mobile-phone constellation, with a “cell site in space" (using nanosatellites) capability is aimed for underserved (rural) areas without cellular coverage.

Renamed from Ubiquilink, its network is designed to allow any modern phone (unmodified smartphones, tablets, internet-of-things devices) to link up directly with a satellite overhead — without a need for special antenna or chip.

In 2020, Lynk sent the first ordinary SMS directly from a satellite to a normal phone, demonstrating how its system could broadcast to an entire city. Lynk’s demo in 2021 showed a two-way data link, its first network partners in Africa and the Bahamas were announced. In February 2022, Lynk signed contracts to bring satellite-direct-to-phone connectivity to 7 Pacific and Caribbean island nations.

Price: Not available.

#8. AST SpaceMobile

CEO: Abel Avellan

Year founded: 2017

Headquarters: Texas, USA


Orbit: Low-Earth orbit

Number of satellites: 100+ satellites (planned, with first 20 due in 2023; 90 in 2024); 243 originally planned

Milestones: With its BlueWalker test satellite, the company claims to be the “first and only cellular broadband network” in space. It use provides a cellular broadband signal that mobile phones will connect to directly. Technology is backed backed by 2,400 patent and patent-pending claims. Test satellite to be launched later this September on Space X Falcon 9 rocket. AST SpaceMobile had initially planned to launch its first 20 operational satellites in 2022. In August 2022, this was delayed until late 2023.

#9. Inmarsat

CEO: Rajeev Suri

Year founded: 1979

Headquarters: London, UK

Employees: 1,500

Orbit: Geostationary (14) + LEOs in-orbit testing

Number of satellites: 14


At 34 years old, Inmarsat is of the most mature satellite-based mobile communication service. The British satellite telecommunications company has passed the 10,000 Fleet Xpress installation milestone, coinciding with a doubling of average data use by ships since mid-2020. The offers global mobile telephone and data services. The service is approved for use under the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.

In December 2021, Inmarsat announced the activation of its low earth-orbit satellite. Details of the in-orbit testing remain confidential.

It is understood that Inmarsat is testing LEO-to-ground and LEO-to-GEO communications, which are key steps in its mission. The LEO satellite features a “reprogrammable payload”.

Price: $845 (IsatPhone 2 handset); IsatPhone 50-minute monthly plan ($59.00), $0.79 per additional minute; IsatPhone 100-minute monthly plan $89.95 ($0.65 per additional minute).

[All prices are indicative and updated as of this posting. Please refer to company catalogue for actual pricing and service plans.]