Satellite phone update

As promised, A Pirep on the Globalstar satelite telephone. The rate plans have been cut the base rate is about $34/month for 30 minutes or $49/month with 120 minutes. I was previously paying $59/month for 20 minutes. So the rates are actually quite good now. The phone is tri-mode so you can use it on an anolog or the Verizon (CDMA) system. From what I can gather it should be legal to use the satellite mode in the airplane since it doesn’t interfere with ground based cells. I have it linked to my laptop and can load a decent radar summary from the web, while airborn in 1-2 minutes. Having the phone is also good for semi-remote areas where cell service is often poor despite the cellular buildout. The phone now sells for $599. Other details can be had at ARNAV is supposed to have a built in system for aviation, but this was announced a long time ago and I’m not aware of any progress.

The minutes were satellite based minutes and you can activate the cellular portion with verizon and you get a seperate plan and telephone number for that.

Thanks Daniel, that’s really great to hear. Any comments on practical matters such as use in the plane, cabling, interfacing to the intercom or earpiece use, or antenna placement?


You mention you can download a web-based radar image in 1-2 minutes. In your view, is this a viable alternative to the various on-board weather links now being touted (which generally start at several thousand, plus subscription fees)?

I do not think the phone has a headset jack, so I don’t think it can be used with the headset. The antennae needs an open view to the sky. Concrete, steel and other heavy materials seem to block the signal, but the composites do not. For the weather radar download, I just had the antennae on the phone up and I held it in my right hand at shoulder height. Supposedly, the phone has 4-5 satellites in range at any time. Dropped calls are definately more frequent than cellular service, but not to the degree that it becomes unusable.

If you own a laptop and think it would be reasonable to spend $599 on the satellite phone and 30-50 dollars per month for service, and would like to occasionally be able to load a reasonably current weather radar image, then Yes I think it is a reasonable option. My understanding is that the weather link is not yet ready for prime time. I do have a stormscope, but I am a newly minted instrument pilot and feel that a picture is worth a thousand words. Coming back from Duluth with my airplane I got my first taste of bad weather and had to make a quick diversion to land. I did check in with flight watch a few times, but found their verbal description of the storms difficult to digest. The satellite phone is also useful for making calls at airports that don’t have good cellular coverage.