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Satellite communicator: this is how it works

Curious about what a satellite communicator is, what you can do with it and especially whether you need one? Here you will find all the answers about satellite communications.

Go on a safe outdoor adventure with an SOS emergency beacon and satellite communication

Curious about what a satellite communicator is, what you can do with it and especially whether you need one? Here you will find all the answers about satellite communications. We will discuss the situations for which a satellite communicator is recommended, because this is not only for those who climb remote mountain peaks or go on solo expeditions to the most remote parts of the world. Even in the Netherlands, a satellite communicator can get you out of emergency situations, for example while kitesurfing. But there are many more applications, which we will of course highlight for you.

The major advantage of satellite communication is that the messages or communication do not run via the mobile phone masts, but via satellites around the earth. This connection offers much more security, meaning you almost always have signal to report an emergency. In short, a satellite communicator helps you in an emergency, for example after an accident to call for emergency help so that you can be saved. It doesn’t matter where you are or what activity you are doing, an emergency beacon can save your life.

A Satellite communicator gets you out of emergency situations

No one wants to find themselves in an emergency situation. But if you do end up in an emergency situation, you also want to be rescued as quickly as possible. Whether it concerns a medical emergency, equipment breakdown (which creates a dangerous situation), problems due to extreme weather or inattention and even piracy or a robbery. Basically just anything that can lead to a life-threatening situation. There are many unexpected emergencies that prevent you from returning on time or under your own power and require rescue services to assist. The greatest chance of achieving a successful rescue operation is through satellite communication.

Where a smartphone depends on a signal and sufficient battery to make contact, the sole purpose of a satellite communicator is to make contact with worldwide emergency services. Reliability is essential, which is why our solutions have a long battery life.

And although the range of smartphones is improving, this is still not comparable to satellite communication. Also because the smartphone is used for other things such as navigation and taking photos. A satellite communicator is therefore the most reliable means of reporting an emergency and asking for help. No mobile phone can compete with this.

After activating the emergency beacon – at the press of a button – a signal is sent to the nearest emergency services. The satellite communicator transmits your exact location and, depending on the model chosen, you can explain the situation and keep in touch via live messaging. And with worldwide coverage. So it doesn’t matter whether you go kiting in the Netherlands today, go on a hike in Norway next week and go motorcycling in South America next month. You are always just one button away from the local emergency services. That’s why we are Safe Outdoor Shop, whatever you do, do it safely! We offer satellite communication devices that can be used for both land and water activities.

Two satellite communicator options: PLB or Satellite Messenger

To keep the choice for a Safe-Outdoor adventure simple, we only offer two satellite communicators. The Personal locator beacon (PLB1) and the Satellite Messenger (Bivy Stick). In our opinion, the two best options for sending distress signals. The difference between both options in brief; choose the PLB1 if you want low subscription costs (€40 per year) and/or only want to be able to send an SOS in the event of an emergency. Thanks to the strong lithium battery, you can always send an SOS emergency signal (battery life of up to 7 years). Go for the ACR Bivy Stick if you also want to send text messages to your friends and family via satellite (with subscriptions from €15), even when there is no emergency. If an emergency does occur, you can send an SOS signal at the touch of a button.

In addition, the EDF1 is a great addition to your Safe Outdoor kit. Because as soon as you are in need, you can use this LED emergency signal lamp to show everyone who is looking out for you where you are. The red LED light is so strong that you can see it at over >10km distance. For up to 6 hours.

Satellite Messenger (Bivy Stick)


The ACR Bivy Stick offers more functionalities than just sending a distress signal. The main features are:

  • Works in remote areas worldwide (Unobstructed view of the sky is required for a good signal)
  • Requires a subscription
    (view the subscriptions here)
  • 2-way communication possible
  • Iridium satellite network
  • Rechargeable batteries (up to 120 hours)
  • Connection with smartphone (Bivy App)
  • Also for non-urgent messages to family/friends (SMS/e-mail)
  • One-touch Check-in
  • Can also be used as a tracker
  • Waterproof, IPX7 rating

Personal locator beacons (PLB1)


This satellite-controlled device sends an SOS signal to rescue services, along with your location. The main features are:

  • Works in remote areas worldwide (works best in clear view of the sky)
  • Dutch PLB permit costs approximately €40 per year
  • Homing signal (which allows a rescue helicopter to pinpoint your exact location)
  • No need to charge, the battery lasts seven years (or until use, it must be sent in for replacement)
  • No ability to send messages home or cancel an SOS call
  • Once activated, the device will continue to work for at least 24 hours, even at -20 ºC, even after it has been unused in the cupboard for (max.) 7 years (the PLB1 can be switched off yourself)
  • Stronger signal than a Satellite Messenger
  • Waterproof up to 15 meters

What is a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)?

Emergency Beacon plb1

The PLB, and specifically the PLB1, is the handy version of the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs), which has its origins in the maritime sector and has been a household name there for a long time. The principle is the same: When you activate a PLB – at the touch of a button – it sends out a powerful distress signal that is received by a global system of satellites (the officially recognized Global Search and Rescue Satellite Network; Cospas Sarsat). Once received, the satellite system transmits the emergency call to a network of aid organizations, ultimately directing the request for assistance to a local search and rescue organization. Thanks to the built-in Homing beacon transmitter (121.5MHz), helicopters and aircraft can gauge the exact position and fly towards it. Everything to make the rescue operation even smoother. After activation, the PLB1 continues to work for at least 24 hours, even at -20ºC and even if the BLP1 has been unused in the cupboard for (max) 7 years. The PLB operates the only officially recognized global search and rescue satellite network (Cospas Sarsat). This is financed by governments, which means that only low subscription costs (€40 per year) are involved.

Please note: local laws and regulations may differ and affect the registration or use of a PLB1. Here you will find an overview of current legislation and regulations per country. It is possible to change country codes and registrations, please contact us.

What is a Satellite Messenger (Bivy Stick)?


Satellite messengers are similar to PLBs in that they can also send emergency SOS signals from remote areas where cell phone coverage is lacking. The ACR Bivy Stick offers more useful extra functionalities for a large part of outdoor activities. This way you can use two-way communication over the Iridium satellite network. This way you stay in touch with family, friends, other adventurers or the emergency services. Easily send text messages or emails to keep them informed of your situation, even when you are not in need.

two-way communication via the iridium network

In addition to GPS satellites for location information and the officially recognized global search and rescue satellite network (Cospas Sarsat), the Bivy Stick is therefore also connected to commercial satellite networks for communications. So even with the Bivy Stick, the emergency services are alerted at the touch of a button, but you can stay in touch with them via text message during the rescue operation. This way you can be kept informed live. This two-way communication can also be used in non-emergency situations, to stay in touch with family or friends.

Because the Bivy Stick uses commercial satellite networks, a subscription is required to use this Satellite Messenger. You can find the possible subscriptions and associated costs here.

The Bivy Stick also offers other nice features that make it an indispensable part of your equipment;

  • Bivy App with 50,000 adventures in 20 categories
  • Send and receive messages via satellite
  • Weather forecasts via satellite
  • Location tracking and sharing via satellite
  • Map display and navigation
  • Offline maps
  • One-touch Check-in (available directly from the device and via the app)
  • Thousands of mapped climbing, hiking, cycling, paddling and skiing routes
  • Send/receive messages and exchange locations with other Bivy Stick users

Please note: a disadvantage of the Bivy stick that should be taken into account is the battery life of 120 hours. After a long day of hiking and tracking your route, it can be empty just when it’s needed for an emergency. It is therefore advisable to always take a power bank with you so that the Bivy stick can always be recharged. The life of the battery can be affected by use at low temperatures and, like any rechargeable battery, will retain its voltage for a shorter time in these situations.

The differences and most suitable applications

The biggest, and most important, difference between the PLB1 and the ACR Bivy Stick are the extra functionalities of the Bivy Stick. The PLB1 is purely for sending an emergency signal. And this has been made as easy as possible – at the touch of a button – so that this also works in the most difficult situations. The Bivy Stick offers extra functionalities to stay in touch with the home front, track your route or request the most recent weather report. However, this two-way communication (via the iridium network) requires an active subscription, where the PLB is a one-time purchase with a battery life of 7 years (or until activation of the signal). To make it even easier to choose between both satellite communicators, an overview of possible activities and whether the PLB1 or the Bivy Stick are suitable for this.

ActivityPLB1Bivy Stick
Hiking / BackpackingVV
Mountain climbingVV
Horse ridingVX
(wild) CampingVV

The PLB1 is actually suitable in any situation, purely because it is the basic emergency beacon that encompasses the essence of a Safe Adventure. But in some situations you would like to use additional functionalities, for example as an alternative to a satellite phone. However, this is not relevant for some of the activities described.

Of course only in case of emergency

Just like contacting an emergency number, an emergency signal should only be sent if there is immediate danger and if there are no means to get to safety. It is your last resort and must be used with care so as not to put too much pressure on the rescue services. With more and more people venturing out, it is important that they only have to use their resources to respond to real emergencies.

Have you been able to choose between the PLB1 and the Bivy Stick? Then simply purchase the emergency beacon via our webshop.