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Satellite Telephones

satellite phone


Satellite telephones are now divided into three categories – hand held, laptop or installed. 

Some satellite telephone handsets have voicemail and SMS capability with later model mobile handsets able to send and receive SMS messages.  For example, the Iridium 9505A is a satellite and data enabled phone with a retractable antenna, 30 hours standby time and 3.2 hours talk time.  Other accessories such as an in-car (12V DC) charger and external magnetic vehicle antenna are available.  The Iridium 9555 has enhanced SMS, email capability and a mini USB data port with 30 hours standby time and 4 hours talk time.  Several accessories such as antenna adapter, auto accessory adapter, headset and mini USB cable are available.

The initial high cost of the telephone and the cost of the calls can be a drawback for the recreational traveller. An option would be to hire a satellite telephone for the duration of your trip that you expect to be in remote areas.


Satellite telephones can be hired from companies such as Satcom, Frequency Communications, AST Australia, Vodafone and Australian Satellite Services. 

Satellite telephone providers are Pivotel Iridium or Globalstar, Telstra Iridium and Optus MobileSat. Take some time to investigate the best plan available to suit your needs.

In the event of an emergency, and even without a SIM card, you can dial 000 (or 112 if on a GSM based service) on your satellite phone to contact police or ambulance.

Satellite telephone handsets can be purchased from Telstra, Optus, AST Australia Pty Ltd and other service providers.


Handset Subsidy

For those interested in buying a satellite telephone handset the Australian Government announced on 14 May 2013 an extension of the Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme until June 2014.  If you are eligible for the subsidy you must get approval before the handset is purchased as the subsidy is paid to dealers who deduct it from the retail price.  A Fact Sheet and Application Form are available on the Department of Broadband, Communication and Digital Economy website The Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme | Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

Telstra IridiumTelstra

Telstra Mobile Satellite uses the Iridium Satellite technology.

Members of caravan forums have had discussions from time to time about which is the best satellite telephone system to have when travelling in remote parts of Australia and the recommendation from seasoned travellers has been to use the Iridium Satellite System through Telstra for the reliability of coverage.

One suggestion made was to purchase the Iridium/Telstra handset outright with no plan (although Telstra staff will persuade you to buy a plan) as Condition 6 of Telstra’s Terms and Conditions for Telstra Mobile Satellite covers Charges for using a Telstra cellular mobile SIM card in a satellite handset/device.  Once you activate or enable your Next G mobile telephone for International Roaming (which can take up to 48 hours to activate) you can insert that SIM card in the satellite telephone handset.  In essence what this means is where you are beyond the Next G coverage on your Next G mobile telephone you can take out the SIM card and put it in the satellite telephone without being tied to a plan on the satellite phone.  Due to the higher cost of the calls you make you should only use sparingly but it does save you being on a plan or any contract.  Just make sure the satellite telephone handset you purchase is compatible with the Next G SIM card. We also understand this feature will work only if your Telstra Next G SIM card is on a plan (i.e: not prepaid and also not a SIM card with another carrier) and there is no bar on your mobile on 1900 numbers.

When calling you hold down the 0 (zero) until a + (plus) appears then add 61 then the Australian number you are calling, minus the first zero (of the area code).

e.g.: calling a mobile number:

+ 61 (drop the zero) 418 000 000

or a home number in Sydney:

+ 61 (drop the zero) 2 9710 0000

Disclaimer:  The above information is provided in good faith from information obtained from caravan forums and other 4WD forums.  Please investigate and make your own enquires to ensure the satellite telephone or phone plan you wish to purchase will meet your needs.


Pivotel Group Pty Ltd is one of the licensed mobile telecommunication companies in Australia.  Pivotel offers two network coverage options – Pivotel Iridium and Pivotel Globalstar supported with regular mobile telephone numbers and a variety of call plans.  Their website has maps of the coverage areas and boasts full global coverage across Australia with the lowest satellite call rates in Australia.  There is no charge for incoming calls and the cost of incoming calls are the same rate as a standard mobile telephone with the cost to the caller’s service provider. See their website for particulars. Search here   pivotel


Optus also have a dual-mode GSM/Satellite phone available with Optus Thuraya Satellite Service that they state will provide you with coverage right across Australia with line of sight to the Thuraya satellite.  To use this voice and SMS satellite service you will need a Thuraya Dual Mode satellite phone, satellite SIM card and an eligible Personal Optus GSM Mobile Plan. The Thuraya SO-2510 satellite handset is touted to be the world’s smallest satellite phone however, it does not have the GSM capabilities (the S0-2520 model does).      optus

A number of plans are available and their website states the Standard Satellite Plans are designed for no or minimal use on the Optus GSM Digital Mobile Network and the Satellite with GSM Cap Plans are designed for a similar amount of use on both the Optus GSM Digital Mobile network and the Thuraya Satellite Network.  The fine print also states - Receiving SMS is not available in satellite mode from other Australian carriers. eg Telstra, 3, Vodafone. Receiving SMS is not guaranteed from other satellite or international operators.

As the coverage is via line of sight with the satellite you may have difficulty picking up a signal if there is heavy cloud cover or you are surrounded by mountains.

For particulars see their website. Search here


Inmarsat offer a satellite telephone under their IsatPhone mobile telephone service however, their coverage map shows satellite coverage for the western half of Australia commencing virtually in the middle of SA & NT.  They state the map depicts their expectation of coverage but does not represent guarantee of service and the coverage on the edge of the service area may fluctuate depending on various conditions.  AST Australia Pty Limited located in Western Australia are listed as a ‘partner’ with this group. inmarsat

Inmarsat also have the RGBAN (Regional Broadband Global Area Network) mobile broadband service and the satellite IP modem is a lightweight note-book sized unit that connects to the end-user’s PC or PDA with satellite network.  The Thrane & Thrane EXPLORER 110 combines design and flexibility so you can access the internet, receive emails and make telephone calls on the ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network – integrates speech and data on the same lines so your can make a telephone call while using the internet) or Bluetooth handset.

For particulars see their website. Search here

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