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Private Island Communication

Sending a message in a bottle is great for defunct 80s rock band, The Police, but communication from your private island should be more advanced.


If you’re close to the mainland, installing an old fashioned telephone line is probably feasible. With a land line, you’re only steps away from internet access and hassle free communication. If you’re close to a cellular tower, you can probably pick up a cell phone and a signal on your private island. Without any of the reliable standards, satellite is the way to go. In recent times, satellites were exotic and top-secret devices, primarily used by the military for spying and navigating. Satellites are now part of our daily lives. They bring us weather reports, television and everyday telephone calls.

Satellite Phones

In a perfect world, cell phone coverage would cross the globe with a signal available everywhere. However, it’s not cost effective for cell providers to put up towers in remote areas with low usage. About 85% of the world does not have coverage, including the middle of the ocean. Satellite phones aren’t preferable to cell phones, but when you don’t have cell service, they become a very good alternative. Satellite phones can provide the ultimate in global coverage, but there are trade-offs. Satellite phones have less bandwidth than regular cell phones, you may notice poorer quality sound and limited internet capabilities. Satellite phones are more expensive to purchase, and airtime rates are also higher. Using the internet with your satellite phone requires a simple software installation on your laptop. If you need a convenient and portable way of keeping in contact, satellite phones are the best option available.

Satellite phones do not use cell towers; they communicate directly with orbiting communications satellites. When you turn on your satellite phone the signal goes up to any number of satellites in a compatible constellation where it is then registered with the constellation. When making a call, the satellite signal goes up to the satellite and is then directed down to a ground station or gateway where it is directed by the gateway the to the call destination. This allows you to use your phone even when you are in the middle of nowhere. Most satellite services permit data as well as voice to be sent and received. However, all such services have very slow data bandwidths. Add the slow data transfer rate to the reasonably high cost per minute of airtime, and you won’t want to use your satellite phone to access the internet for casual web surfing.

VHF, Then and Now

vhf-radioMarine VHF radio is installed on all large ships and most motorized small craft. It is used for a wide variety of purposes, including summoning rescue services and communicating with harbours and marinas. A marine VHF set is a combined transmitter and receiver and only operates on standard, international frequencies known as channels. Channel 16 is the international calling and distress channel. Transmission range is usually up to about 60 nautical miles (111 km) between aerials mounted on tall ships and hills, and 5 nautical miles (9 km) between aerials mounted on small boats at sea-level. A fixed VHF radio usually has a higher transmit power, whereas a portable VHF, like a waterproof, VHF walkie-talkie, can be carried to a lifeboat in an emergency, has its own power source. In US waters, Marine VHF radios can also receive weather radio broadcasts, where they are available. If you have no other form of communication from your private island, you can use the VHF radio in an emergency. VHF radio can also be connected to your laptop via a radio modem that lets you send emails via a VHF-type radio system.