How Do Satellite Communication Devices Work?





How Do Satellite Communication Devices Work?

How Do Satellite Communication Devices Work?

How Do Satellite Communication Devices Work?

Posted on June 14, 2023

There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of exploring the great outdoors. Veering off the beaten path on your trail run, boating in the most serene areas, and simply enjoying the beauty of nature are some of the best experiences we can have.

As an outdoor enthusiast, you know using a smartphone for communication while you’re on your adventure isn’t enough. You’ll often travel to remote areas where there isn’t any cell signal, leaving you with no way to communicate with others.

Luckily, technology has advanced and we can now communicate with anyone in the world from any location, thanks to satellite networks. 

The advent of satellite communication now means that you never have to be cut off from loved ones, adventure buddies, or even emergency services.

In this article, we will discuss:

➡️ What a satellite communication device is.

➡️ How satellite communicators work.

➡️ Where you can find the best satellite messengers for your next adventure.

What Is Satellite Communication?

Simply put, satellite communication is the process of sending and receiving information using artificial satellites that orbit around the Earth.

Satellites are man-made objects that are equipped with communication systems, antennas, transponders, and other technologies to allow for communication.

Since its inception in 1958, satellite communication has become a vital technology that enables long-distance communication across the globe and facilitates applications like TV broadcasting, Internet connectivity, telephone services, weather monitoring, and navigation systems.

How does satellite communication work?

There are various components of a satellite required for communication. These are:

  • The object that orbits the Earth as discussed earlier.
  • Ground stations on Earth that communicate with satellites. They transmit and receive signals from satellites.
  • The uplink process, which is when the ground station transmits a signal to the satellite. The uplink signals carry information like TV signals, two-way messaging, and Internet data.
  • The downlink process, which is when the signal from the satellite is received by another ground station.
  • The communication path is the pathway for transmitting signals between satellites and ground stations.

Signals travel from the uplink station to the satellite network and then from the satellite to the downlink station, enabling two-way communication over long distances.

Because there are thousands of satellites constantly orbiting the Earth, it allows for communication between devices no matter how remote your location is. This makes satellite communication the ideal system for those who love the outdoors.

What Is a Satellite Communication Device?

Also referred to as a satellite messenger or a satellite communicator, a satellite communication device is a portable technology that is designed to allow seamless two-way communication, particularly in areas where there is no other reliable communication structure, such as cellular coverage.

As manufacturers and stockists of a wide variety of these devices, we can’t stress just how vital they are for outdoor enthusiasts.

How do they work?

A satellite messenger uses the satellite communication technology described above to establish a connection with the satellites that are orbiting the Earth.

Typically, a satellite communicator is a compact and lightweight device, often designed to withstand harsh environments. These devices can send and receive signals to and from nearby satellites.

A satellite communicator is usually equipped with an antenna and a receiver that allows users to transmit and receive messages, GPS coordinates, and other relevant data.

How are they different from cell phones?

While a cell phone can provide convenient and feature-rich communication in areas with adequate cellular service, satellite messengers excel at providing communication capabilities in remote, off-grid, or emergency situations when coverage doesn’t exist.

The key differences between a cell phone and a two-way satellite communicator are:

  • Communication technology: Cell phones use a terrestrial communication infrastructure such as towers and networks to communicate. On the other hand, satellite communicators use satellites to communicate.
  • Coverage: Cell phones use coverage provided by cellular networks, which means coverage is limited to where there are towers and networks available. A satellite communicator offers global coverage in even the most remote regions.
  • Functionality: Phones offer many features other than just communication, whereas satellite messengers are typically designed only for the purpose of communication.
  • Battery life: Satellite messengers usually have a long battery life compared to a regular phone, making them ideal for extended use in areas without access to electricity.
  • Price: Some satellite communication devices can be quite expensive compared to the price of an average smartphone. However, you will soon learn why they’re a worthwhile expense. Also, some brands require that users sign up for a subscription plan when they purchase their messenger. The good news is that if you purchase an ACR satellite messenger device, you won’t have to pay any subscription fees.

Who should use a satellite device for communication?

No matter where you are in the world, you can rely on satellite communication to allow you to send and receive messages and share your GPS location. However, a satellite communicator is typically designed for:

  • Outdoor enthusiasts: Hikers, campers, trail runners, mountaineers, and any other adventurers who want to explore remote areas.
  • The maritime industry: Ships, boats, and other vessels that operate in remote waters can use these devices to stay connected to on-land personnel, access weather reports, and for navigation.
  • Aviation: Aircraft, especially those that operate in vast stretches of remote regions, can use satellite communication systems for air traffic control, weather forecasting, in-flight connectivity, and distress communication.
  • Search and rescue: During natural disasters or search and rescue operations, satellite communicators provide responders and relief organizations with a way to communicate when cell phone infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.

Satellite devices are also usually used by military and defense organizations, telecommunications service providers, and humanitarian organizations. 

What Are the Best Satellite Communication Devices?

Now that you know more about this advanced outdoor communication device, let’s explore some of the best products on the market that you can purchase ahead of your next big adventure.

The ACR Bivy Stick

A Bivy Stick is our brand of satellite messengers designed for seamless communication, GPS location sharing, and transmitting a distress signal when an emergency situation arises.

Our Bivy Stock uses the Iridium satellite network specifically. These are private networks of satellite systems that are designed specifically for communication.

The Bivy Stick provides you with a dedicated phone number and email address which allows incoming messages. This means that your friends and family can reach you at any time without you initiating contact, providing peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.

The Bivy App not only allows you to track all of your adventures, including pace and altitude, but it also has more than 50,000 pre-loaded adventures ready to be explored.

A Bivy Stick can be used by outdoor adventurers, mariners, and aviators.

Perhaps the most vital feature of the ACR Bivy Stick is that it can be used in emergency situations to communicate with rescue services, providing them with your GPS location and other important information so that they can find you.

Our Bivy Stick can connect to a smartphone using Bluetooth, or it can be used as a standalone device. You can use either the device or your phone’s full qwerty keyboard to send and receive satellite text messages.

Other Bivy Stick features include:

  • A 120-hour battery life.
  • Satellite SOS monitoring via Global Rescue.
  • Satellite weather forecasts. 
  • Download offline maps. 
  • Send and receive messages from other Bivy Stick users.
  • Unlimited free check-in messages.
  • A small, lightweight, and rugged design.
  • Location tracking and sharing.
  • Bluetooth connectivity.
  • GPS tracking.
  • Customized messages.
  • Zero activation fees.
  • Off-grid group messaging.

Additionally, you can purchase our new Bivy Stick kits that include solar panels so that you can conveniently extend the battery life of the device while off-grid.

ACR personal locator beacons (PLBs)

A personal locator beacon (PLB) is another communication device that uses satellite technology to operate.

These devices are specially designed with emergency situations in mind. A personal locator beacon can be used to send an emergency signal to nearby search and rescue operators, letting them know that you are in danger.
We have a variety of PLBs to choose from, including some specifically designed for marine activities and aviation.


Our range of PLBs uses the Cospas Sarsat satellite system to send your emergency signal to the nearest rescue team from your location. 

The signal that the device sends includes your location data, accurate to 100 meters, to the rescue personnel, and—thanks to the built-in return link service (RLS)—you’ll be notified the minute your signal has been received, providing the comfort of knowing help is on its way.

This simple satellite communication device could be the thing that saves your life.

It’s worth noting that you must register your PLB with your local authority, which is required by law in many countries. Registration is typically free and ensures that search and rescue services can access the emergency information associated with your PLB, such as your emergency contacts. In some instances, rescue personnel can get vital information by getting in touch with your listed emergency contacts.

2361 Complete Kit Picture_Bag Black

Other key features of most ACR personal locator beacons include:

  • A dedicated SOS button to send distress signals.
  • Smartphone connectivity with near-field communication (NFC).
  • Return link service (RLS).
  • Seamless installation into most life jackets.
  • Over 24 hours of battery life.

How to choose the right device for your outdoor activities

We stock a wide range of two-way satellite messaging devices for you to choose from. However, we realize that you might not know where to start when shopping for your device.

Here are the top factors and features you should consider when purchasing a satellite communication device.

Battery life

If you encounter an emergency, it might take some time for rescue teams to locate and reach you. For this reason, you want your device to include decent battery life so that it lasts long enough for search and rescue to find you.

Extended battery life also mean you can continue your adventure for as long as you’d like.

The ACR Bivy Stick, for example, boasts over 120 hours of battery life, making it the perfect device for longer adventures.

A phone app

You want the device you purchase to come with a smartphone app that you can use to manage and maintain the device. An added bonus would be activity tracking features like those in our Bivy App.

When it comes to managing your ACR PLB, you can use the built-in near-field communication (NFC) to connect your device with our app. Within the app, you can run self-tests to ensure the device works properly, access beacon data, and set up your emergency contacts and information.

Weather forecasts

Accessing a weather report on your Bivy Stick isn’t just a nice-to-have feature, it’s essential to your safety.

If you’re out on a boating adventure, for example, weather reports can help you steer clear of harsher weather conditions and keep you and your crew safe.

A device that offers weather forecasts can help you monitor changing conditions in real-time, meaning you can make informed decisions about your next move, whether that’s to get back to shore before a storm hits or to seek cover while you’re on your hike.

User interface

Your communication device needs to be easy to use. Not only because it’s simply a hassle to use a complicated device, but because you want the product to be easy to control in the event of an emergency.

Having to fumble around with small buttons and a tiny screen can make an emergency even more dire. You need to get help as quickly as possible.

Seamless messaging

Your device should allow you to send and receive messages effortlessly, both when you’re having fun outdoors or during an emergency.

The ACR Bivy Stick, for example, provides a superior messaging experience for all users, making it easy to communicate with anyone in the world and get help when you need it most.

A Device That Could Save Your Life

Having a satellite communication device allows you to keep in touch with family and friends—and your fellow adventurers—making it a worthwhile investment if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. However, more importantly, this device could save your life.

Whether you’re out on the water or climbing a mountain, a satellite communication device could save your life and the lives of others. By being able to communicate with emergency services through your device, you and your loved ones can rest assured that you can get help when you need it.

If you’re new to the world of Bivy Sticks and PLBs, visiting our website is an excellent place to start. You can browse our range of satellite communication devices to find one that suits your specific needs and your next outdoor activity. We’ve got your back on your next adventure, big or small.