Satellite Phone Test Center

[Why, When, Where and How to Test Your Satphone]

How To Test Your Satellite Phone

Whether there’s a hurricane heading your way or you’re about to cast off on an adventure, it’s a good idea to test your satellite phone. That way you can be prepared for whatever life brings, whenever and wherever.

Satellite phone networks work in the times and places that cellular networks don’t because they rely on satellites miles above us, not local ground infrastructure that can be damaged or destroyed like cell phone towers. But if your satellite phone has a dead battery, or your service plan is inactive, or you just don’t know how to use it, the satellites will work, but your phone might not. A little preparation will make sure that doesn’t happen to you.

Best of all, you can download the Pivotel e-Book "Satellite Phone Test Center: All About How To Test a Satellite Phone."

Get the Book "Satellite Phone Test Center" - Immediate Download

Overview

We’ll provide instructions for all popular satellite phones, including Iridium, Inmarsat, Globalstar and Thuraya satellite phones, whether your service is from Pivotel with our exclusive easy-to-use local numbers, or from another provider with complicated dialing requirements.

Not only how, but also:

  • Why test your satellite phone
  • When to test your satellite phone
  • Who should test their satellite phone
  • Where to test your satellite phone
  • How to test your satellite phone
  • Along the way, we’ll give you links to additional resources to make sure you’re prepared.

    This guide is useful for anyone who wants reliable satellite communications, whether you’re an emergency response communications manager, responsible for your organization’s business continuity communications, or planning to make sure you can stay in touch with family or friends after a hurricane or on a trip.

    Why test your satellite phone

    Satellite phones are extremely reliable and designed to keep working in situations that make a typical cellular phone crack under pressure. But unlike cell phones which we regularly use, satellite phones can be left on shelves or in gloveboxes for months at a time. Checking your phone and completing a call regularly is the key to making sure your phone is ready when you need it.

    When considering whether your satellite phone is ready for an emergency, you should consider these common troubleshooting questions:

  • Are your batteries charged and able to hold a charge?
  • Is your service plan active?
  • If you have prepaid service, is it topped up and not expired?
  • Do you remember how to make and receive a call on your satellite phone, and do your contacts know how to call you on it?
  • By inspecting your hardware, reviewing your plan and completing a test call, you’ll know that everything is in good working order and you’ll be prepared.

    When to test your satellite phone

    It’s good to test your satellite phone regularly, but it’s particularly important to do so with enough time to either be confident that everything is in order, or to address any problems: buying replacement batteries or activating a satellite service plan can take a little time. You don’t want to do it with an emergency already bearing down.

  • Best practice is to test your phone monthly.
  • Good practice is to test your satellite phone one month before you need it, and no less than once a year.
  • Bad practice is to never test and hope you’re lucky.”
  • If you’re planning a trip, make sure the phone is in good order one month before you leave so you can correct anything you need to with plenty of time and then focus on the trip. If you bought your phone for an annual event like fishing season or hurricane season you should test no less than a month before the season starts. For less predictable events like earthquakes or man-made emergencies, be sure to test your phone at least annually.

    Seasonal Service: Prepaid vs. Monthly Plans For Emergency Communications
    If you only need service seasonally – like during hurricane season - consider how Pivotel’s exclusive monthly plans are better than prepaid service for emergencies and seasonal use.

    With prepaid service, you buy a certain number of minutes good for a certain number of months. When the time is up, or you run out of minutes, your service (and your money) is gone. It’s like a weird kind of insurance that stops as soon as you really need it.

    With Pivotel monthly plans you get a real local number and service plan that can be used for any number of months and then deactivated at any time with no fee. If you want to keep your number for the next season, it’s just a $5 fee to keep your number so you can reactivate it at any time with no reactivation fee. Often three or six months of a monthly plan are cheaper than a prepaid plan that’s good for the same amount of time. But with monthly you have the choice of keeping your number for the next year, you don’t need a new SIM every time, you avoid reactivation fees, and you never run out of minutes.

    Who should test their satellite phone?

    Anyone who wants their satellite phone to work should test it! Still, there are some best practices to consider depending on who you are.
  • Emergency responders
  • Business continuity managers
  • Individuals and small businesses
  • Emergency Responders

    Because emergency responders often are in the situation that the person responsible for the gear is not the person who will be using the phones in the field, they will often split the testing. The person responsible for communications will:
  • Ensure phones are inspected and physically ready with charged batteries and sources of power to recharge in the field
  • Phones have an active service plan associated with them
  • Key personnel are trained on how to use the phones
  • Phones include a quick start guide to instruct the end user
  • Business Continuity Managers

    Some businesses such as utilities or news organizations may follow a similar pattern as emergency responders, but many will have a different model where executives or other key personnel keep their phones with them at home or at all times in case of emergency. In this case, many will send regular reminders, or schedule time together with the key person to make sure both they and the gear are ready to make a call.

    Individuals and Small Business

    It’s pretty straight forward for any individual to test a satellite phone following the directions below and have a good result. Some best practices that customers have reported as being useful in an emergency include:
  • Have a phone tree with some contacts outside your local area
  • Have a written list of important phone numbers laminated with your phone; few of us remember people’s numbers any more
  • Have your contacts also make a test call or send a text message to you. This ensures you can be reached as well as calling out. Pivotel makes this easy because all Pivotel satellite phones are assigned a local number just like your home or cell phone if you’re in the US, UK or Canada. On many Pivotel plans, incoming calls are free or there’s some included value for this purpose. Check your plan for details.
  • Where to Test Your Satellite Phone

    “Satellite phone work everywhere, so it shouldn’t matter, right?” Generally, that’s true: however, there are some very important considerations about satellite phone coverage.
  • You must have a clear view of the sky
  • Different satellite networks have different coverage
  • Some service plans have regional limitations
  • You Must Have a Clear View of the Sky

    Satellite phones use a small radio signal to communicate with satellites that are miles above us. For example, Inmarsat satellites sit stationary about 20,000 miles above Earth over the equator; Iridium satellites fly overhead about 485 miles above Earth at about 17,000 miles per hour. Because the satellites are so far away, and satellite phones use about the same amount of power as a 1990’s cell phone, anything that blocks the radio signal from your antenna from reaching the satellite will stop your call from getting through.

    In the movie “World War Z,” we watched with amusement as Brad Pitt’s wife called him from the inside of a metal aircraft carrier using her prop Iridium satellite phone. Spoiler: it was Hollywood magic. That call wouldn’t have worked in real life.

    Different Satellite Networks Have Different Coverage Areas

    Because satellite networks are quite different in how the satellites and earth stations work, coverage varies by satellite network.

    Inmarsat Satellite Coverage

    Because Inmarsat satellites are at the equator, you need a view of the sky over the equator to connect. In practice, this is not an issue, but if you’re blocked from that sky because you’re in a ravine or between skyscrapers, for example, your test call will not work.Inmarsat currently offers service across the entire Earth minus the poles, but they are expanding coverage.

    Iridium Satellite Coverage

    Iridium satellites are constantly moving, and you should be aware that if you have only a very limited view of the sky you will eventually have coverage, but you might not have it all the time.

    Globalstar Satellite Coverage

    The Globalstar system relies on many earth stations to pass along the satellite signal, so coverage is dependent on where the earth stations are.

    Thuraya Satellite Coverage

    Thuraya covers Europe, Africa, Asia and northern Australia but their satellites do not cover the Americas.

    Additionally, some service plans offer different rates depending on where you are. If you bought a regional plan and you are not in that region, you may get unexpected charges or be blocked from certain services.

    How to Test Your Pivotel Satellite Phone

    We’ve included testing instructions for the most popular satellite phones. These testing calls are free for active airtime customers using Pivotel. (That is, they won’t consume any of your airtime).

    There is one very important thing to note: You must have active airtime on your satellite phone in order to test if it’s working! There is no way to test your satellite phone without active prepaid or postpaid (subscription) airtime enabled on the phone.

    If you want to test your satellite phone far in advance of needing to use it on a more routine basis, we recommend purchasing a small amount of prepaid airtime for testing purposes and then loading a bigger amount of airtime for when you start to use it more.

    Pivotel’s FREE test call service allows you to make free calls to a test number from your Pivotel Satellite Phone on selected rate plans to check that your Pivotel satellite service is in good working order.

    Your satellite phone is often your lifeline while you are outside cellular coverage areas, so it is vital that the service is tested, charged and ready to use in the event of an emergency.

  • As Pivotel satellite services do not require any complex dialing strings, you just dial the free test service in the same way as you would any normal local number.
  • If you perform this test as part of your safety routine before heading outside mobile coverage areas, you will be familiar with how simple using a Pivotel satellite phone is, so in the event of an emergency you can make a lifesaving call quickly and easily.
  • If testing is built into a pre-check safety routine, you will know if the battery needs charging before the device is needed for an emergency.
  • Get the Book: Satellite Phone Test Center

    Iridium Satellite Phone Test Instructions

    Pivotel's local numbers makes testing easy, but if your phone is registered with another provider, Pivotel still has you covered with the information you need. Dialing can more complex, but we’ve still made it easy for you.

    1. Turn on your phone and make sure it registers on the network.
    2. Call 1-480-752-5105 (one of the few US- based numbers you can dial directly)
    3. If your phone is working, you will hear a call completion confirmation message as well some quick tips on proper handset usage. If you discover that your phone is not operational, contact us at +1-865-379- 8723

    Inmarsat Satellite Phone Test Instructions

    Pivotel's local numbers makes testing easy, but if your phone is registered with another provider, Pivotel still has you covered with the information you need. Dialing can more complex, but we’ve still made it easy for you.

    1. Turn on your phone and make sure you have a registered signal.
    2. Dial +8707 7699 9999 (You may need to dial "00" first)
    3. Press the green call button.
    4. If the call is successful you will hear a recorded message from Inmarsat. If you discover that your phone is not operational, contact us at +1-865-379- 8723

    Globalstar Satellite Phone Test Instructions

    Pivotel's local numbers makes testing easy, but if your phone is registered with another provider, Pivotel still has you covered with the information you need. Dialing can more complex, but we’ve still made it easy for you.

    1. Turn on your phone and make sure you have a registered signal.
    2. Dial #TEST Press the green call button.
    3. If the call is successful you will hear a recorded message from Globalstar.
    4. If you discover that your phone is not operational, contact us at +1-865-379- 8723

    Thuraya Satellite Phone Test Instructions

    Pivotel's local numbers makes testing easy, but if your phone is registered with another provider, Pivotel still has you covered with the information you need. Dialing can more complex, but we’ve still made it easy for you.

    1. Turn on your phone and make sure it registers on the network.
    2. Call 11 11 2
    3. If you can hear a confirmation message it means your phone is in working condition and your subscription is valid.
    4. If you discover that your phone is not operational, contact us at +1-865-379- 8723

    Satellite Phone Test Resources

    If your satellite phones cannot successfully complete a call, it's usually one of a few things. Some basic troubleshooting will help you determine if the problems are related to power, hardware, or active subscription services. Questions? Call us at +1-865-379-8723 to speak with an expert. Looking for quick links?

    Buy replacement batteries or power supplies in our shop

    Purchase monthly or annual service in our shop

    Purchase prepaid service in our shop

    Find current satellite phone firmware