Whether you're braving the ice and snow on Baffin Island or finding your way through the jungles of Latin America, you may want or need to be in touch with the rest of the world, even when there are no Internet signals or cell phone towers nearby. Satellite services to keep you connected have evolved tremendously since the days of old military phones the size of a briefcase, but there are still some things you should know. Here's what you should ask before committing to a satellite plan and heading to a remote location.
What devices are included?
You may be fine using just a mobile phone at your remote destination, since they're essentially tiny computers these days. However, if you have any amount of typing to do or need to use a large screen, you'll want to have your tablet or laptop covered by satellite service too.
Satellite phone systems are pretty easy to use. You'll either get a rental phone with a SIM card you can load with data or the SIM card alone to use in your own phone (make sure it's compatible).
Satellite Internet for larger devices is typically delivered via one of two ways. You can get a USB dongle to stick in your device to receive a satellite Internet signal, or with some providers, you can get a wifi hotspot that acts like a modem for wireless Internet sent from a satellite. Whichever option you take, ask if you need to rent or buy any equipment or if it comes free with your plan.
It's worth noting here that if you need to make phone calls, you'll have to have a satellite plan that works with a telephone. Because of the time delays involved in satellite transmissions, you cannot use a computer or tablet to make calls through a VOIP program.
What comes with your package?
Some satellite services come with unlimited data, and this is clearly the best option for you if it's available. Other providers offer packages with different amounts of data. Think carefully about your needs (will you be needing/wanting to stream a lot of audio or video content?) when selecting a package.
Is there a time limit on your data?
Some satellite services stipulate that your data must be used up by a certain date. You don't want to be stuck with a lot of leftover data that you paid for and can't use, so you'll want to gauge your data use to coincide with any deadlines from your provider.
Can you change plans, top off service, or renew your package online?
It doesn't do any good to have a satellite plan that has to be renewed at the provider's store if you're going to be using the services from afar. Make sure your satellite services can be renewed or topped off online if necessary. Also, ask if changing plans is possible in case you find you need more or less data than you thought.
Before you leave town, set up your account with the satellite provider. Make sure you understand their website, and check to make sure the service works before you depart, especially if you're dealing with a foreign language. You don't want to be in the middle of nowhere and discover you don't understand how to leave your credit card information or have major questions about your service.
Is the system plug and play?
Be sure to inquire if your satellite system is plug and play. Know whether or not you need to download any apps or drivers to use it.
As a final note, if you purchase a plan that limits the amount of data you can use, be careful about your Internet or phone call use. Bookmark pages you use frequently to avoid opening extra web pages and watch out for sites that contain ads with streamed content. Set your email to manual check only, and be sure to leave enough data to renew your plan when it's time.
For satellite services, contact a company such as Northern Communication & Navigation Systems Ltd has satellite phones.