How To Choose A Satellite Phone for Use Aboard Your Boat

Sat phones let you reach out from just about anywhere on the water.

Portable Satellite Phones
A portable satellite phone allows you to stay in touch when outside of cellular coverage areas.Courtesy Globalstar

So, you want to stay in touch when cruising outside of cellphone coverage areas. One of the best choices is a portable satellite phone. With some phones offered free with coverage plans, a sat phone might rank as the most cost-effective means of global voice and ­text communications.

Today there are a number of sat-phone models and calling plans ranging from $26 a month to thousands of dollars a year. Three of the major brands are Inmarsat, Iridium and Globalstar. The Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 features a water- and shock-resistant design, and retails for as little as $599, but retailers such as satellite phonestore.com offer it free with an $89.95 (100 ­minutes per month) monthly plan and a one-year contract. The IsatPhone 2 features global coverage (with the exception of the poles), GPS, Bluetooth, SMS, an SOS button, and a battery that powers eight hours of talk time.

Iridium's Extreme 9575 sat phone retails for as little as $705 with a deluxe case at satphonestore.com. Basic plans start at $39.95 a month for global coverage, but you need to pay an additional $0.99 for voice calling (in or out) and $0.50 for an outgoing text message. Incoming texts do not incur an extra charge. The 9575 includes military-grade toughness, an SOS button, and a battery that offers four hours of talk time.

The Globalstar GSP-1700 sat phone is the least expensive in this group, retailing new for as little as $500, with refurbished models selling at $375 at satphonestore.com. Plans start at $64.99 per month for 100 minutes at satellitephonestore.com. Globalstar does not offer the wide-ranging coverage of the others, but does extend well into the North Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The GSP-1700 includes a position location service and up to four hours of talk time on a single battery charge.