I am planning to cruise to the Caribbean next year, heading from the northeast US down to Trinidad. Then I hope to island-hop my way up to the US Virgins, and then return to New England. Is cell phone coverage available for that area? I've heard of a three-level phone that goes from cell to satellite, can you tell me anything about this?
Sue & Larry respond:
The system that you refer to sounds like the service offered by Globalstar. Globalstar service is delivered through special multi-mode phones. These work like traditional cell phones when you're in an area of cell phone coverage and switch to satellite mode when you're outside of cellular range. Globalstar's satellite coverage is not yet world-wide as there are areas of non-service. For the most part these are in the middle of the oceans.
For your trip from New England to Trinidad, you should have complete satellite coverage. Depending upon your specific location in the Caribbean, a Globalstar phone may or may not work as a traditional cell phone, but it should always work as a satellite phone. Check out www.Globalstar.com for more information.
As of March 2001, Iridium was back in business providing satellite phone coverage world-wide. Their web-site is www.Iridium.com. The company's representatives told us that they would have data transmission available as well as voice by June of this year, but other sailors we spoke to said that it hadn't happened at that time.