Second is the economies of scale. In the satphone industry, the volumes manufactured are much lower, making unit costs higher.
But the good news is that due to technological advancements made in the industry, satellite operators are able to develop terminals that can now cater to a variety of needs — whether for heavier, frequent usage or for lighter, more casual use.
In addressing affordability, satellite operators have targeted handsets at a cost of between $400 and $500, a price range that is comparable to a standard mobile device. One mobile satellite service operator, Thuraya, has now achieved this key price for a satellite handset.
The key functionality of the Thuraya phone is simple, which is to provide a reliable means of communication in remote areas or in the occurrence of natural or manmade disasters. Affordability in this instance means safety, security and a channel to reach out for help, if needed, for a much larger audience today.
Also, the quality and aesthetic appeal of satellite handsets have improved over the years. Today, they are smaller, sleeker, and can easily fit into any piece of luggage or travel pack.
The final misconception that satellite operators have long tried to dispel, is the preconceived notion that satellite airtime rates are always higher. In fact, the rates are lower than people might think.
If you brought your GSM phone to another continent or country and made a call home, did you know that the charges could be more expensive than if you called using a satphone? Satellite voice price plans, depending on the region a user is in, can be as low as $0.75 per minute. In comparison with standard international roaming charges, satellite calling rates can be a bargain.
These are exciting times, where satellite operators and phone manufacturers are competing and also collaborating with each other to develop the best satellite communication device to date. Innovation breeds fresh ideas and we can’t wait to see what will be next.
Alexander Lachner is senior product manager for voice services at Thuraya