Spotlight on Globalstar

With Globalstar due to begin the launch of their second-generation satellites tomorrow we take a look at what it will mean for existing and potential users of the Globalstar satellite network.

When you mention the name Globalstar to those familiar with the sat phone market the response is not usually a positive one. Due to satellite degradation, users of Globalstar’s voice and duplex data services have experienced deteriorating levels of call quality and reliability over the past few years. However this is set to change with the launch of six new satellites from Kazakhstan on 19 October 2010. This will be followed by three further launches carrying six satellites each and each launch will bring an increase in the quality of service. By the end of the constellation upgrade Globalstar will have a 32 satellite constellation in orbit.
Technicians working on a new Globalstar satellite. (Photo courtesy of Arianespace)

Once the satellites have been fully deployed Globalstar will have the most advanced constellation within the satellite phone market and one which will have a lifespan into 2025. As a result of the upgrades Globalstar are suggesting that the following features will be available:

  • Increased data speeds of up to 256 kbps in a flexible Internet protocol multimedia subsystem (IMS) configuration.
  • Push-to-talk and multicasting
  • Advanced messaging capabilities such as multimedia messaging or MMS, mobile video
  • Geo-location services
  • Multi-band and multi-mode handsets
  • Data devices with GPS integration
If these features are made available this constellation upgrade would arguably make Globalstar the most advanced satellite phone operator. So what handsets are available on the Globalstar network? Global Telesat Communications offers the GSP-1700, Globalstar's newest model. This handset weighs just 200g and is a fairly compact handset considering its capabilities which include voice, data, SMS and a battery life of 4 hours talk time and 36 hours standby. This model is priced at £650 ex VAT. There have also been suggestions that a new model will be launched in the near future.

Looking at airtime pricing Globalstar currently offer a great value plan with unlimited minutes in certain regions for just €34.99 a month. This plan was launched to entice new customers as a result of the poor service levels and it is likely that new airtime plans, including prepaid options, will become available once the constellation upgrade is complete. Although not a truly global network like Iridium, Globalstar does offer vast coverage over the majority of North/South America, Europe, Northern Africa, Middle/Far East and Australia. Globalstar’s low earth orbit satellites will allow very clear call quality and minimal connection times.We have made recent test calls using Globalstar which show even now with the current degradation problems the call quality is very clear when you use the Globalstar Call Times Tool to work out the optimal time to make a call. Like the recent launch of the Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro this improved Globalstar service is opening up the satellite phone market to increased competition which could lead to lower prices in the future. If you have any questions about Globalstar handsets or airtime please contact us.

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