What’s the difference between a cell phone and a satellite phone?

The main differences between sat phones and cell phones are:


While cell phones use land-based stations for communications, satellite phones usually communicate directly with a satellite. As a result of this the coverage area of these two types of services varies significantly. While GSM networks cover most highly populated areas, many rural territories still lack such coverage. Satellite phone networks on the contrary can cover very large areas and in some cases the entire globe.


Most satellite phones are still slightly larger and heavier than modern cell phones. A few satellite phone vendors have released though satellite smartphones which resemble quite closely standard GSM cell phones.


In general satellite phones are still more expensive than most GSM phones. A new satellite phone will often cost in excess of $1000.


Most satellite phones are designed to offer basic call, message and data transfer functionality, although common smart-phone features are available on some new satellite phones.

You can find detailed reviews of sat phone accessories and services on the Satellite Phone FAQ website. Learn more about various satellite phone networks:

Find out where to rent or buy popular sat phones such as the Iridium 9555 and GSP 1700.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Check the full list of questions on the FAQ page.