Letter: You sure it’s a satellite phone?

As we know the Rappahannock County Planning Commission has approved the AT&T cell tower and the decision now goes to the county board of supervisors. It is pretty much assured that it will be approved. However, I would like to address some individuals who sent in letters to the editor suggesting that people buy satellite phones, and that they can be bought for $100. Before making bold statements and claims it is wise to understand the technology you speak of and what you actually own.

One reader wrote that he bought a satellite phone from mobal.com for $100 five years ago. This is not likely; satellite phones currently range in price from $500 to $1,600. With the downward trend in the cost of mobile electronics that $100 phone would probably be around $50 today, which it is at mobal.com. However, it is not a satellite phone, it is a GSM or world phone. GSM and satellite phones operate totally different.

Satellite phones use fixed orbit satellites versus land-based towers for communication. GSM phones rely on land-based cellular tower networks. If you have a true satellite phone you can get and make calls anywhere you are, even a deep hollow of Rappahannock County. GSM phones, however, rely on being able to pick up the signal of a cellular tower. It may be able to use the cellular network of multiple carriers, but the phone still needs to find a signal. Back in the hollow where no one on Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile can make a cellular call because they can’t get a signal off of a tower, the GSM phone will fair no better.

If buying a satellite phone is the easy answer then why doesn’t everyone have one? It is the cost. As noted above the cost of a satellite phone can range from $500 to $1,600. That is just the phone. The monthly service is another $38 to $50, and then the cost of the calls.

For my basic Verizon service at $40 a month, which only works in parts of the county, I get 450 minutes included. On a satellite phone I would only pay for what I use, but the cost is $1.39 per minute, so for the equivalent 450 minutes it’s $625. Owning a satellite phone just for the rare instance that I need it in Rappahannock County does not make sense when I have a perfectly good Verizon cell phone that just needs an improved cellular network for better coverage.

I don’t disagree with the many that are concerned with the visual beauty of Rappahannock County and the impact that these cell towers can make. However, in today’s world the necessity of mobile communications is becoming an ever more important part of daily life. I believe that after this tower is installed and we are a few years down the road most won’t even notice it, and the majority won’t be able to tell someone where it is.

And as John McCarthy noted at the planning commission meeting these towers are a part of current technology. It is entirely possible that within a few years this technology will be obsolete and a newer less intrusive technology will take its place. The new technology may be more cost-efficient for the cell operators so they will have an incentive to take down the old technology and install the new.

We all have a different opinion, which is good, but when we talk to each other I think it is wise to know about what you speak and not take it upon oneself to decide what is good for everyone else because it is what you have done. And to the person with the $100 “satellite phone,” I hope you don’t need it where there is no cellular coverage.

Bradley Schneider

About Staff/Contributed 5589 Articles
The Rappahannock News welcomes contributions from any and all members of the community. Email news and photos to editor@rappnews.com or call us at 540-675-3338.


  1. Good thing for his company Mr. Al Scott is not in sales. I suggest he tries his product in Rappahannock County, as I have for the past five years, before asserting it “…will not be much use in the situation you describe above.” The fact is that the Mobal world phone, which in fact yes, did cost me just under $100, connects with all and any signals from all and any carriers, everywhere, all the time, including in the United States and North America — including, yes Mr. Scott, Rappahannock County in the state of Virginia. The per minute cost is significantly higher than a regular cell phone, but if the primary purpose is for use as a safety back-up for road emergencies or for that really important business call — it serves that purpose just fine. What it’s not suited for is endlessly nattering away while driving — which is precisely why its a good alternative to cell tower installation in our home county. Safety first.

  2. I work for Mobal and can confirm that we have never sold a satellite phone as cheaply as $100.

    As mentioned, the phone referenced to earlier is likely to be one of our Mobal World Phones, which is a GSM phone that works on GSM networks throughout the world. It’s ideal for taking with you when traveling overseas, but will not be much use in the situation you describe above.

    For those interested, our satellite phone page can be found here:

    World phone here:

Comments are closed.