Satellite vs Cellular - Why Use A Satellite Network Service | Symmetry Blog

Aug 14, 2018
 

Written by Cobus Heukelman
Technical Marketing Engineer at Symmetry Electronics

 

There is more to mobile communication than cellular connectivity. While a majority of mobile phones use a cellular service of some kind to connect with the rest of the world, there are situations when a cellular phone is not ideal. We have all experienced times when cellular reception is poor or non-existent - think of the last time you went hiking in the woods or went driving through a remote part of the country. It’s a minor inconvenience when you want to check your social media channels, but it can become a dangerous hazard if you need to call for help or report a life-threatening situation.

While a situation like this doesn’t always happen to most people, for those who make a living in remote areas, it is a critical tool for work. Workers on oil rigs, freights, national parks, deserts, and other areas with weak or no cellular signal rely on satellite solution to keep themselves safe. The design of satellite phones may seem outdated compared to newer smartphones on a cellular network, but satellite phones have advantages that make them indispensable to workers in remote areas.

 

Here are 4 ways satellite communication compares with a cellular network and 4 reasons why to use a satellite network service:

 

1. True global coverage

In a remote area like the desert, the middle of the ocean or the arctic tundra, a conventional smartphone won’t be able to provide cellular reception – an inconvenience at best and life-threatening at worst. On the other hand, for those who need service across the globe, a satellite phone would provide service in remote areas that cellular does not.

This is only possible because satellite communication providers, like Globalstar, have a constellation of satellites covering 80% of the earth’s surface, across land and sea. Compare this to cellular, which only covers about 10% of the earth’s surface.

Cellular technology is designed for small cells covering a limited geographical area. This is good for cities with a high population density, where cells can re-use the available wireless frequencies without interfering with the other cells. On the other hand, when service is required in remote areas away from a city, cellular falls short.

 

2. Lower certification cost

When wireless communication is integrated into a product design, that product would need to be certified to work on the wireless network. For cellular networks, the certification cost can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. While some cellular network operators have agreements with foreign cellular networks in other countries, this roaming feature usually comes at a premium. However, not all network operators have roaming agreements, so there are many countries in which a device simply won’t work. This can be overcome by certifying the device with all networks, but the user would still have to change SIM cards when switching network areas, which is far from ideal.

 

3. Simpler hardware design

If you’re traveling abroad and want to use a foreign network’s SIM card in your phone, you may find that it doesn’t work. A big reason why this is the case is because different 4G networks use different frequencies, while smartphones are not usually designed to work with all the different 4G frequencies. Smartphone manufacturers are under a lot of pressure to keep costs low, so rather than using an expensive communications chipset that works on many different 4G frequencies, they opt for different models of the same phone using a different chipset for each country and network.

If you wanted to design a product that uses cellular communication in any country, then you would need to use the expensive chipsets or modules that can work on all frequency bands. It also means that you would have to use an antenna that can receive all these frequencies. A satellite module, on the other hand, would avert this issue, as it would be communicating on the satellite network no matter where in the world it is located, greatly simplifying the hardware design.

 

4. Easy billing

With a cellular solution, a company would need to have contracts with all the different network operators where their employees may be located. This is fine if your company has offices in a few locations, so every office can manage its own contracts. If your employees are more mobile, like rescue workers for instance, then this can become an administrative nightmare. With a satellite solution, billing is all on one contract, creating the no-hassle solution.

 

>>Learn more about Globalstar and their Satellite Communication Solutions

 


 

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Why partner with Symmetry Electronics? Symmetry's technical staff is specially trained by our suppliers to provide a comprehensive level of technical support. Our in-house Applications Engineers provide free design services to help customers early in the design cycle, providing solutions to save them time, money and frustration. Contact Symmetry for more information.



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