December 2, 2021

The best portable satellite terminals in 2022

What do we mean by portable? Portable and mobile are often used interchangeably in the satellite internet broadband context, and the water gets muddied even further when you bring satellite phones into the equation. For Ground Control, we define these three groups of products as follows:

  • Portable: can be carried and deployed by a single person; delivers satellite broadband. Most terminals are capable of voice calls, too.
  • Mobile: the device does not need to be pointed and can be used while in-motion – fixed to a car, truck or train, for example, or for rapid fixed deployment (while maritime and aviation applications can also be described as mobile, they have their own categories).
  • Handheld: satellite phones. These are chiefly designed for voice rather than data, although some will deliver a small amount of data for tracking or short text messages.

Now that’s cleared up, let’s look at the best devices for your portable satellite internet needs. The key comparison points you should be looking at are:

Broadband speeds

While these portable devices cannot boast the sorts of speeds you can expect from a fiber broadband connection, they are typically used when there are no other terrestrial connections available. There’s a wide range of upload and download speeds available. If you’re not sure what speeds you’ll need, here’s a quick guide:

Devices

Broadband Speed

Good For

MCD-4800
Explorer 510
Hughes 9202M
Up to 464 Kbps download
448 Kbps upload shared
Phone services | Email | Instant messaging | Internet browsing | Live video broadcasting | Large file transfers | Video conferencing
Explorer 710
Hughes 9211
650 Kbps download streaming
650 Kbps upload streaming
Faster file transfers | Video streaming connectivity | Class 1 terminals
MCD-MissionLINK Up to 700 Kbps download
352 Kbps upload
Faster file transfers | Multiple Iridium voice channels available
Toughsat Flyaway 20 Mbps download
7 Mbps upload
Live event broadcasting | Video streaming (Netflix and Youtube work well at this speed) | Multiple users | Speeds depend on size of individual networks and transmitter power

 

Battery life

Self-explanatory, really; for how long will your device keep providing you with a WiFi hotspot before it needs recharging? All of the times listed below assume that the device is in active use; they have substantially longer standby times.

Devices

Battery Life

Explorer 510
Explorer 710
3.5 hours
Hughes 9211 4 hours
MCD-4800 5 hours
Hughes 9202M 5.5 hours
MCD-MissionLINK 6 hours
Toughsat Flyaway Mains powered

 

Ingress Protection (IP) rating

If you’re going to be using your device outside, it’ll need some degree of ingress protection, and all of these devices are pretty robust. The Toughsat Flyaway is designed to be used outside in extreme environments, but the satellite router is designed for use indoors or in a protective IP rated enclosure.

Devices

IP Rating

Definition

Hughes 9202M
Hughes 9211
IP55 Not completely protected from dust ingress but will still function; will function if a water jet is pointed at it
Explorer 510
Explorer 710
MCD-MissionLINK
IP66 Completely protected from dust ingress; will function if a powerful water jet is pointed at it
MCD-4800 IP67 Completely protected from dust ingress; can be immersed in water up to 1m for up to 30 minutes

 

Satellite connectivity

If you’re not familiar with how satellite orbits affect communication, it’s worth reading our guide on the topic. The short version is that if you choose a geostationary orbit (GEO), you need to remember that the device usually needs to be pointed at the satellite (after which you’ll have a very robust connection), and that the device won’t work in the polar regions. A device connecting with satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) will work anywhere in the world, and doesn’t require pointing.

Devices

Satellite Airtime Provider

GEO or LEO

MCD-4800*
Explorer 510
Explorer 710
Hughes 9202M
Hughes 9211
Inmarsat Geostationary
MCD-MissionLINK Iridium Low Earth Orbit
Toughsat Flyaway* Ku Band VSAT Networks Geostationary

*These devices auto-point to the satellite

 

Price range

Remember that you’ll need to pay both for the device and for the airtime, so these estimates are a guide only.

Devices

Price Range

Explorer 510 <$2,500
Hughes 9202M $2,500 – $4,000
Hughes 9211
Explorer 710
$4,000 – $6,000
MCD-MissionLINK
MCD-4800
$12,000 – $14,000
Toughsat Flyaway $16,000 – $20,000

 

So, it’s not a very satisfying answer, but with such a wide range of options and functionality, the best portable satellite device is the one that best meets your needs. If you need any help, that’s what we’re here for, so please get in touch.

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