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How much does satellite tracking cost & how does it compare to GSM

How much does satellite tracking cost & how does it compare to GSM

You might be surprised at the how differently satellite and GSM terminals operate to remain competitive on airtime. There are applications where the airtime costs are identical to GSM solutions, which are regarded as the lowest cost solution in the industry. Hardware pricing is still more expensive than GSM solutions simply based on the complexity, volume of terminals, and transmission distance and power to the satellite. This does have an interesting tradeoff though, as satellite hardware is built with much more processing power and efficiency onboard to reduce the amount of satellite airtime consumed. For example, a satellite terminal can be easily installed and monitor location, sensors, geofences, movement behavior, etc. and only report when one or a combination of these parameters is exceeded. Another factor is most satellite trackers pack their payloads in an efficient binary format vs. most GSM trackers use ASCII, which is 500% more efficient to transmit a number such as one billion (1000000000). You will find that satellite tracking terminals simply transmit less frequently than GSM devices because of this additional processing power. Also, satellite trackers have their ID appended at the ground station instead of transmitting it over the air with every data packet like GSM, which reduces packet size significantly. All of this adds up to the traffic that the terminal generates which is directly proportional to the cost of running the terminal.

There are also a few factors based on your application that significantly help pricing. First is the simplicity of the end application and how much if any wiring or sensors are involved. Secondly is the volume of terminals you will be deploying as high volume projects have additional airtime benefits such as pooled plans and hardware discounts. The end application is entirely dependent on what hardware fits your needs but there are satellite trackers as inexpensive as a few hundred dollars for hikers and more common enterprise trackers are less than a thousand. Airtime can easily be under ten dollars a month for simple SCADA monitoring with daily reports, and high usage fleet management airtime is under fifty dollars a month. Your use case directly reflects the amount of airtime consumed so designing a custom usage model for your application will determine the actual costs.

Satellite airtime can be very competitive with GSM solutions, be sure to have a look at what is possible over satellite with the latest hardware available.

About the Author
Jeffery Palmer

Jeffery Palmer is an American entrepreneur, inventor, computer programmer, and engineer. In 2004, Palmer co-founded Global Satellite Engineering (GSE); a design and engineering firm for the satcom industry. During his tenure as Director at GSE, he has promoted and inspired the growth of technology for satellite communications. Palmer has given many lectures and works closely with industry leaders to offer custom solutions to clients of the satcom industry.

Contact Jeffery Palmer at

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