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Old 14-09-2015, 16:24   #1
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Cobham Sailor SC4000 Iridium

Hi Fellow Sailors:

Do any of you have an opinion that can help us decide which satellite phone to purchase for our sailing catamaran. We need internet access for business purposes, I own a financial planning business and need access to client accounts, and market quote system along with voice. We sail the east coast of USA and Caribbean and Bahamas.

One product that seems appropriate for us is the Cobham Sailor SC4000 with Iridium service plan. Any experiences or thoughts.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Ralph Hendry
sailing catamaran Simplicity
2003 48' St Francis
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Old 15-09-2015, 13:29   #2
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Re: Cobham Sailor SC4000 Iridium

Ralph,
I think you are confusing things here...

The Sailor SC4000 is a fixed-mount Iridium sat phone, and will allow worldwide voice calls (rain or shine), and VERY LOW SPEED DATA (at 2.4kb) for basic e-mails, etc., but this cannot provide you with "internet access"...


You write of wanting a satellite phone, and in the next sentence say you need internet access for business purpose, so I'm assuming you do need both?? ('cause the are not the same thing)


In any case, here are the answers you seek....(although they are limited by the limited info I have about your application....please advise us of your budget, exact cruising areas and times of year, and any more info you can...and I might be able to further help you out..)

--- For business use, and particularly for financial business, market quotes/trades, most will find one of the best approaches is a dedicated VSAT system / terminal....(speeds can be as much as 3Mb, depending on your plan/needs)
Understand that they are PRICEY!!! Think $12,000/$15,000 to $25,000/$30,000, for equipment, plus installation...but, with decent data expenses...
They're pretty reliable and allow for VERY FAST connections!!
(except of course, they do suffer from "rain outages", like Directv / DISH network systems...)


--- If you will need absolute reliability, including not having any rain outages, but can accept some slower speeds (128kb - 250kb, up to 500kb), then your choices are Iridium Pilot system/terminal (not a "sat phone", but does have a "phone"), or INMARSAT FleetBroadband system/terminal (FB150 or FB250, or FB500)....
Here, figure on $4000/$4500 to $10,000 for equipment (plus installation), but with high data costs than with VSAT terminals...
But, these are 100% reliable, no rain outages, etc...
[this is probably your best solution...]


--- If your internet needs are such that you can live without it while underway, then you could use an INMARSAT BGAN system/terminal, saving you some money on equipment and data costs....but at the expense of needing to "aim the antenna" and very limited use underway...


--- The good news is that for US East Coast (and while at anchor / in port, in many areas of the Bahamas and Caribbean), you can have cellular/3G/4G/LTE coverage...
You'll need an external cellular antenna, some big/low-loss cable, and a "cellular booster" (such as a Wilson or Digital), and a professional installation....
Figure about $500 - $750 for equipment and about that much for installation...plus whatever data plan you select...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhendry View Post
Do any of you have an opinion that can help us decide which satellite phone to purchase for our sailing catamaran. We need internet access for business purposes, I own a financial planning business and need access to client accounts, and market quote system along with voice. We sail the east coast of USA and Caribbean and Bahamas.

One product that seems appropriate for us is the Cobham Sailor SC4000 with Iridium service plan. Any experiences or thoughts.
Ralph, this subject comes up a lot....and unfortunately many who market these systems are not all that open with their capabilities...and that makes it hard for laypersons to get the facts....

A few recent discussions here might help you out some...
Read all of these links!

Bahamas in summer...& internet access options.

Bahamas in summer...& internet access options.

Immarsat 2 or Iridium




I hope this helps...(please advise us of your budget, exact cruising areas and times of year, and any more info you can...and I might be able to further help you out...)

Fair winds...

John
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Old 16-09-2015, 12:17   #3
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Question Re: Cobham Sailor SC4000 Iridium

John,
Thank you very much for the great information.
We spent the winter in the Bahamas last year and did fine using a Batelco phone as a hotspot as long as we were anchored close to a tower. Your idea of an external cellular antenna is a good one.
We have not been to the Caribbean yet and don't know what the cell signals will be like there.
We plan to stay in BVI's and USVI's for a couple months and then work our way north. We'll leave early November and be at sea for up to 12 days.
I am a financial advisor and need good reliability so the thought is to have a Sat. system as a back up. Actually internet access is more important than the phone. Not knowing what to expect, we thought we may be spending around $3,000 for equipment and probably need the minimum plan since it is a back up.
One of the links you sent refers to an Inmarsat BGAN system that can be used at anchor or calm waters. Others have said that Iridum is the best.
Thanks again!!
Ralph and Kathy
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Old 16-09-2015, 13:03   #4
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Re: Cobham Sailor SC4000 Iridium

Ralph and Kathy,
1) Here is a fact / First rule of sat comm:
There is no "best"....only what works best for YOU and YOUR application and YOUR budget!
Once you accept that as a fact, everything becomes clear!

Second fact:
Anything you see marketed as a "sat phone" will have VERY LOW SPEED data at best!! And hence, will NOT allow any "internet access", no matter what the marketing says!!!

Third fact:
With some possible exceptions, any of the hi-speed or "broadband" sat comm terminals, will also have phone service....




{I've made my living in the sat comm / commercial sat comm industry now for > 30 years....but the advice I give below is free!! }

2) Here are some specifics, detailed to YOUR application....
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhendry View Post
We plan to stay in BVI's and USVI's for a couple months and then work our way north. We'll leave early November and be at sea for up to 12 days.
I am a financial advisor and need good reliability so the thought is to have a Sat. system as a back up. Actually
internet access is more important than the phone.
If you require internet access while at sea (still not sure if you do, but am assuming this, since you mention it), you WILL need a sat comm terminal designed for this...
And, while there are 3 primary choices here (Iridium Pilot, INMARSAT FleetBroadband, and various VSAT systems), the only "affordable" choice for most will be:
a) Iridium Pilot (~ $4000 - $4500)
b) INMARSAT FB150 (~ $4500 - $5000)


Not knowing what to expect, we thought we may be spending around $3,000 for equipment and probably need the minimum plan since it is a back up.
The above mentioned systems ("Pilot" and "FB"), are the minimum that will get you internet access (at 128kb to 150kb) while underway....
And, yes....they both include "phone service"...

Any mention of using a "sat phone" meaning a portable device, and/or fixed-mount "sat phone", with their VERY LOW SPEED data, for internet access, is a non-starter....they just will NOT work...
Sorry!



One of the links you sent refers to an Inmarsat BGAN system that can be used at anchor or calm waters. Others have said that Iridum is the best.
When you write "others", I have no idea who they are...nor what type of Iridium system they were discussing with you...
So, I cannot comment effectively on this specific situation...

BUT...

--- But, I can tell you that Iridium offers a few different systems/services....(one is "sat phone-based", and one is their "Pilot")
The Iridium Pilot is a small dome antenna system and belowdecks unit, which multiplexes various carriers together to allow a maximum of 128kb of connectivity....and while it does work, they way the system is designed and the way Iridium markets it, means that unless you wish to commit to lots of data, etc. you will not get the maximum 128kb speed (but rather half that, at 64kb)....think ISDN...

--- INMARSAT offers many different systems/services....(only one of which is "sat phone-based", the iSatPhone, which is not applicable for your use...)
- INMARSAT BGAN uses the same satellites and same modem technology of the FleetBboadband, without the gyro-stabilized/steerable antenna, and associated terminal software/firmware....hence it is a less expensive system and can be cheaper to use....but, will NOT be reliable when underway, if you can get it to work at all! (some have been able to use it, motoring along in calm waters, but it is NOT designed for this, and I would NOT recommend this for your application....sorry!)
- The INMARSAT FB150 (Fleetbroadband 150) is a similar size unit to the Iridium Pilot, but differs in how it works, etc...
The FB150 offers 150kb of speed, without the odd "plan" complications associated with the Iridium Pilot..

Thanks again!!
Ralph and Kathy

As I wrote before, if you tell us more....we can help you more....
But, I still don't know your budget, nor whether or not you require internet access at sea...



Assuming I understand your application correctly:
--- Use Wi-Fi and cellular/3G/4G/LTE services...where available...
--- Use INMARSAT FB150 (or FB250, or FB500, depending on your need for speed)...when away from Wi-Fi and cellular networks...



I hope this helped some?

Fair winds..

John
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