Originally Posted by lsoltero
So you purchase the optimizer once and then you subscribe to xgate or one of its branded versions. XGate is $240 per year.
The point about the Pilot is a very good one. A new iridium installation which includes handset, docking station, external antenna, coax, and optimizer runs about ~$3000. An iridium pilot costs about ~$5k.
XGate, Optimizer and Iridium handheld/Iridium Pilot are all valid technical choices for a full-on satphone installation.
However, these are not the only choice for a satphone installation, and certainly not the cheapest.
Satcomms can be implemented for a range of budgets. At the low-end, it's possible to have a working basic data/voice satphone solution for <$1500, a lot less than the $3000 figure quoted here for a GMN docked-type installation.
For <$1500 you won't get the same bells & whistles (Optimizer wifi
+ internet firewall; fixed external antenna...), and it might be less seamless to install, but will get most people what they need: basic emails/GRIBs, plus voice.
So for those on a budget
, the following can work:
(1) Isatphone-only: See ebaugh's post above. Costs about $600 + cost of prepaid airtime
Caveat 1: I have personally not had success with the Isatphone for email/data. The data config seems tricky, unless you use the right email software
. Even the Isatphone reseller we contacted couldn't get it to connect on data mode (he even tried with two units!), and finally recommended purchasing
XGate to manage the satphone data connection (I'm confident XGate would work).
So with the Isatphone option, consider that you may need to pay $240/year for Xgate or a similar Isatphone-friendly mail software (e.g. Mailasail, I believe) -- though apparently the email software may be free if you get the minutes from the right vendor.
Caveat 2: Isatphone doesn't have an external antenna (unless you invest >$800-1000 in a dock
and antenna, which isn't worth it vs. Iridium), so keep in mind you'd have to use it from the cockpit
, pointing in the right direction towards the Inmarsat geostationary satellite. This is far from the most practical solution, but remains possible if you're cost-conscious. A usb cable extension can also be run from the phone to the laptop
so that the computer stays inside when the phone is in the cockpit
(2) Iridium 9555 or Extreme: I have posted about this before, this is my personal preference, as well as that used by many others. Can be installed for <$1500 + cost of prepaid airtime.
(a) Basic install: Iridium handset only ($1100). This comes with a basic dock
+ hockey-puck external antenna. Can be used much like the Isatphone above.
(b) Semi-fixed installation: Add a basic semi-fixed external antenna for ~$300 (better than hockey puck). I personally used an aviation-type plexiglass-mounted antenna, which was fantastic (though you need a window with horizon view)
=> Total Iridium "semi-fixed" installation cost: <$1500 + airtime.
This won't be as pretty as a $3000 installation with a permanent external antenna and nice dock, but it would nonetheless work well on most boats, and avoid the limitations of the Isatphone.
My Iridium handset worked with the free satphone email program Vizada Skyfile Mail, which bypasses the need for paying email software like Xgate, Mailasail or Uuplus. That's a big cost saving over time and another reason I'm a fan of Iridium for data/email...