In the paper "Recent Progress and Future Development in Satellite Communication" written by Ju Han, it is given that only 20% of the land area is covered by signals.

I have started to search more information about this number. Even if oceans, which cover about 70 percent of the planet's area, I think some part of oceans are covered, right? We have satellite communication for this area.

Most of the websites give information about a number of world population which have access to broadband network, but I am looking for a number of Earth coverage, like rural area, oceans, mountains... [not only 4G/5G/6G]

Does anyone know a reference (paper or website) where I can find the current value/number in & of Earth coverage or dead zones (%)?


1 Answer 1


There are a number of moving targets in this question, since coverage is continuously changing and while the paper quoted in the question is from 2022 it used a source from 2019.

Satellite coverage is complicated, for geostationary satellites it is not possible to give reliable coverage at the poles, so Inmarsat has very complete coverage, but misses Antarctica and some ocean.

Systems using multiple lower satellites will oscillate around the equator, limiting coverage to certain latitudes. Irridium seems to have handled that problem with polar orbits and accepting the 'inefficiency' with multiple birds duplicating coverage of high latitudes.

Systems using Tundra orbits give small region coverage with few satellites but no coverage outside those zones.

So it would appear in 2023 there is 100% coverage of earths surface for satellite communications. The quality/cost of the service actually available may be variable though!

A further complicating factor is actual availability of service. Systems that need line of sight to ground stations can only provide voice service (rather than text delivered 'sometime') where they have ground stations, which brings financial and legal complications. So the as of 2023 the Starlink coverage map shows near global satellites but only small areas of active service, and an rather less coverage for Canada/Norway/Russia.

We may also see future governments jamming or just arresting users in their territory, does this impact the 'coverage' map?

  • $\begingroup$ Apparently some providers turn service off when satellites are in low use areas (Antarctic, oceans, Africa) to conserve battery power. This is an issue with the Spot system which claims global coverage through Iridium. But Iridium "turns off" 200 mi offshore. Users expecting EPIRB-like service can find themselves in a dead zone in more ways than one. $\endgroup$
    – Woody
    Jan 6 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ @woody, I was going to use SPOT as an example of global but not real time coverage but instead used the coverage map as an example of ground station driven findmespot.com/en-au/products-services/… having actually looked at it. If they also have satellites turning off selectively that would explain some oddities in the patterns like off Alaska $\endgroup$ Jan 6 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Woody Spot isn't Iridium, it's Globalstar. Globalstar, is strictly bent-pipe, like most GEO sats. A Globalstar satellite has to be in the range of a ground station to transfer data, hence coverage holes. Iridium has satellite cross-links, it has global coverage (ignoring political/regulatory restrictions). The other mode of operation is the store-and-forward Orbcomm, messages are buffered on the satellite until in range of a ground station. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Jan 7 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ @user71659 ... thanks for the correction. $\endgroup$
    – Woody
    Jan 7 at 16:33

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