Digicom Global, Inc. is your emergency management communication specialists. We specialize in satellite and radio communications devices.
For satellite communications we represent Globalstar, Iridium, Spacenet for voice and data solutions and Spot and Numerex for GPS tracking and communications. Our radio division offers Kenwood two way radios, Raytheon interoperability solutions, and CON-SPACE, OTTO Communications, 3M Peltor, and Impact Communications brands for two way radio accessories.
For our inaugural edition of this newsletter we are addressing satellite phones, their benefits and challenges. For this issue we’re just addressing portable devices. Satellite phones are the phones of last resort and were critical devices during 911, Katrina and other disasters. 25,000 Globalstar phones were deployed in the first two months at Katrina. We haven’t been effected by hurricanes in the Midwest, but of the 10 most deadly tornados in history the worst effected 3 states, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri with 695 dead and the 10th worst was in Flint Michigan in 1953. For the top 25 see: http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/killers.html
In a discussion with the senate FCC chairman Kevin Martin said “if we learned anything from hurricane Katrina, it is that we cannot rely solely on terrestrial communications.” See PDF. When radio towers are knocked down satellite communications may be the best communications tool you have.
Globalstar and Iridium have been the 2 major players for satellite communications over the last decade. For communications in the US Globalstar was initially the best per a Frost and Sullivan report. It sounded better as the satellites were lower earth orbit than Iridium and the data rate was faster. Then came 2007 when the voice portion of the satellites started failing prematurely. 8 first generation satellites were launched to patch the system temporarily while monies were raised for the new next generation constellation. Today the money has been raised. 18 new satellites were launched in 2011, with the last 6 just launched December 28th, 2011. The final 6 should be launched by April 2012 and we should have complete coverage by late summer. The price of the new GSP-1700 has been reduced to $499.00 and rate plans currently include unlimited airtime to US and Canada for 12 months. Next generation products will offer data speeds up to 256K and a host of new features.
Iridium was the first satellite manufacturer to carry handheld phones for commercial use. Iridium satellite phones deliver 99% coverage today. Shortly after Globalstar started having the problems mentioned above, many first responders switched to Iridium for more reliability. Iridium offers more coverage than Globalstar, particularly noticeable in the polar regions, in China and Southern Africa. Iridium is raising funds for it’s next generation constellation, Iridium Next, which is expected to launch in 2015.
Both systems have base stations available for in building use as well. For more information visit our website. We have a more in depth comparison of the 2 carriers in our blog post or at the bottom of the section on airtime.