One of the biggest questions we get at Walco is ‘will this satellite device work in X location?’ While we do our best to answer client’s questions, this one is a real challenge.
Satellite Device Basics
Satellite devices do exactly as their name suggests, they connect to satellites. The issue is, connecting to a satellite has many variable factors at play.
A key factor in whether you can connect to a satellite is your visibility of the sky. For example, in the image on the left, you will have a very narrow window to connect and make your call or send your message. In the image on the right, you will have considerably more time, and thus likely more success.
A second factor is the satellite coverage for your particular area. In some areas (like north western BC) satellite coverage can be quite limited. It may take up to 20 minutes for a satellite to be present over head. Thus, just because you aren’t connecting, doesn’t mean you have a problem with your device. It could be that there is no satellite to connect to.
Another factor in whether your message gets sent is the successful handoff of your information to the various pieces of the system. For example, much like cell towers, satellites often need to ‘handoff’ the information or the call to another satellite that is closer to your location. Further, the satellite must also send your message to a ground station, which then moves the message onto a standard network.
As Globalstar explains on their website:
” Our satellites transmit customer signals via CDMA technology to antennas at the appropriate terrestrial gateway, then the signals are routed through the local networks. “
As you can see, this is a complicated and multi-step process. Where a cellphone simply needs to connect to a local network, your satellite device has two steps to go through before it even gets to a land based network! This can help explain why messages may take a while to go through, or get lost entirely.
Benefits & Limitations
As with all technology, it is key to understand how it works so you can use best practices. Further, having a realistic idea of what the technology can and cannot do will keep you from feeling frustrated!
Satellite technology allows us to stay connected in some of the most remote places in the world. It is an incredibly valuable safety tool to those who work beyond traditional networks. With proper use and understanding of the device you have chosen, satellite devices can be useful companions in work and recreation.