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Old 01-11-2013, 17:21   #1
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sat phone

Please give input as to the best sat phone for use Georgetown to Granada
and not necessarily the most expensive - although I suspect it will be......
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Old 01-11-2013, 20:35   #2
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Re: sat phone

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Originally Posted by Arthurs2 View Post
Please give input as to the best sat phone for use Georgetown to Granada
and not necessarily the most expensive - although I suspect it will be......
Do a search here for "satphone" and several threads on the options will pop up.

I personally use the Iridium satphone and have been happy with it. The Inmarsat "ISatphone" may be a slightly cheaper option.

Will this be just for voice, or for email as well?
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Old 01-11-2013, 20:38   #3
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Re: sat phone

I was thinking just for voice - would like a used one 'cause they sure are expensive - I was thinking the Iridium...
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Old 02-11-2013, 00:49   #4
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Re: sat phone

Sounds like you should consider renting as you won't need it for long.

If you do plan to buy, browse here: https://www.satellitephonestore.com
(there are many other satphone retailer websites, but this one is pretty easy to navigate - I'm a customer & their service is good). Consider eBay as well if you can find a reliable seller.

For handheld voice (+data), you have a few choices of service providers & models:

- Iridium (models Extreme, 9555 or 9505A by increasing age): all are suitable and similar in terms of voice capability. Extreme has an integrated GPS (useful safety feature). Extreme and 9555 are also easy to connect to PC (via USB). 9505A is a bit less practical to connect for data (still works though), but basically the same as others for voice. Iridiums has global coverage thanks to a constellation of satellites, and also comes with useful accessories: "hockey puck" small antenna (intended for car roof use but may help somewhat on a boat), plus a mounting bracket to which you can add an external antenna (approx $180-250 for the antenna) which greatly improves the connection reliability and is useful for dialing form inside if the wind is howling outside. Main downside: Iridiums are more expensive to buy (~$1100 new for 9555 and ~$1350 new for the Extreme). I have the 9555 with a $180 external antenna and it is our primary satphone for voice + data, works very well & meets all our needs.

- Inmarsat Isatphone Pro (one model only): similar voice capabilities as Iridium, may even be better as the geostationary satellite won't be far (need to point antenna in satellite's direction, which is a pain). It doesn't have polar region coverage but that won't be a problem for you. It has an integrated GPS and is significantly cheaper than Iridiums (~$625 new). The main problem is the lack of accessories (puck antenna or mounting bracket) -- so if you ever do intend to upgrade to a "semi-fixed" installation with external antenna, you will end up spending $600-1000 more for those, easily negating the price advantage vs. the Iridiums (which are better IMO)... We also have it but only use it as back-up (grab-bag). But as a handheld-only unit, this is a very affordable unit.

- Globalstar: weaker coverage of the Caribbean according to their network map, but seems to cover your route (don't go too far south though!). Cheapest handset option ($500 for the new Spot Globalphone). I have no experience with them.

You won't be able to use Thuraya (Europe/Asia only).

If you can live only with text messages (not voice or data), then consider the DeLorme InReach: InReach
or the Spot Messanger: SPOT SATELLITE MESSENGER :: HOME PAGE

Note the above prices don't include any service plan/subscription/prepaid minutes. Factor in your planned usage to estimate your total cost.

Renting may start looking very good for such a short trip (unless you're taking your time, but if you're stopping on the way do you really need a satphone?).
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Old 02-11-2013, 09:39   #5
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Re: sat phone

thanks thats great information!
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Old 04-11-2013, 14:06   #6
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Re: sat phone

Arthur,
In addition to the info from Galaticair, I can recommend a company I've done business with for many years...
That is theSatPhoneStore.....(different from the satellitephonestore)
SatPhoneStore: #1 Satellite Phone Retailer

They're are also Atlantic Radiotelephone, and I've been doing business with them on/off for decades....
Sometimes they are busy guys, but honest and informed about their products and can give you direct professional advice...


Good luck and fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 05-11-2013, 18:35   #7
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Re: sat phone

Just as a side note based on my experience with Iridium relative to my expectations, the hockey puck antenna will not help improve reception or reliability at all on a fiberglass boat. I have been told that the hockey puck antenna can be beneficial for use on a metal car or steel boat but otherwise the dedicated external antenna is the only way to get signal quality good enough for a data connection (note bars on phone show signal strength not quality) and that the external antenna helps to reduce how frequently calls are dropped. If coming from cellphone experience, I would highly recommend borrowing or renting an Iridium for a short period of time (from a company other than allroadsat..) to determine if the frequency of dropped calls, entirely uncertain SMS delivery, and slow data connection which might likewise cut out is worth the expense and frustration. And regardless of Iridium reseller you shouldn't count on SMS being reliable and will be far better off with something along the lines of Xgate email because the uncertainty of delivery or receipt of SMS on the Iridium platform limits its usefulness. Just the two cents of a former Iridium customer..
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Old 06-11-2013, 02:19   #8
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Re: sat phone

Thank you sunny sky I did go head and buy an iridium 9575 from Satmodo and really appreciate the feedback - We are such greenhorns - so what exactly is xgate email and what does SMS stand for? We have a program that is approx. $70 month for 40 minutes and when not in use can be reduced to $30/month for the year's contract. (When we are back on land and not using it) We just felt if we owned it we would have warranties etc. and could always sell if it was not what we want. We are usually frugal except with safety and communications.
Renting always puts the pressure of returning on time etc.

thanks again for your feedback

Arthur:
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Old 06-11-2013, 14:46   #9
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Re: sat phone

Xgate email is a service offered by Global Marine Networks (Satellite Phone Email| Iridium 9555, Inmarsat, Globalstar via XGate | GMN) which compresses the data you are downloading "up to 95%." I'm not sure to what the degree of compression effectiveness is dependent on the original data format but generally speaking an otherwise uncompressed form of data (like text, which is what you will primarily be using it for in all likelihood) will see major savings (probably around the advertised 95% and with the effectiveness of their compression program this translates to major cost savings but also effectively increases the effectiveness of your very slow download speed to be manageable in terms of time spent downloading emails and/or gribs..). Side note: Gribs are an efficient file format which is downloaded by many sailors for weather information and forecasts, the further out the grib forecast the less accurate it is like everything else weather but great way to have a general map of what weather systems are in general up to... Something like a JPEG which already has a reasonable degree of compression inherent to that file format probably won't benefit nearly as much from compression services but I don't know to what degree, not that it matters much because at this time due to speed and cost an internet connection by satphone should from a practical matter be limited to text communications and grib downloads..

SMS (commonly referred to simply as text messaging like used on cellphones) stands for Short Messaging Service, and many of the Iridium plans have free incoming and reasonably affordable outgoing SMS messaging. Originally I though it would be a great way to remain reachable for urgent family or business matters, "if anything important comes up just message me". So in preparation for extended offshore sailing I gave my iridium pager and 9555 number to a handful of people in case something time sensitive came up because I was under the impression that people could message me for free simply emailing iridiumnumber@msg.iridium.com. Depending on the situation I could then message or call them and potentially even adjust my plans depending on the situation (like family member in hospital..).



Thankfully, like all ship systems I tried things out before not having other communication systems besides VHF because both the pager and 9555 were not receiving any text messages (including ones sent from the iridium website which specifically CONFIRMED THE MESSAGE HAD BE SUCCESSFULLY SENT..). I believe it is far better to let everyone know I am unreachable for the next month or two than to have people think they have gotten ahold of me when they have not...


Part of the problems ended up being that allroadsat had simply not set up my pager zones the way I had specified but the 9555 problems where much more complicated than that and took multiple long phone calls over multiple days (on my cellphone...) talking to allroadsat and the company they resell under to finally be able to receive messages from the website or emails to my number. In addition, unlike a cellphone that could be off for days and then you get your SMS messages when you turn it back on, that is not the case on Iridium so you may simply not receive some SMS messages ever.. Needless to say I was not happy, but since the 9555 was prepaid allroadsat said they couldn't do anything for me and I should be happy everything eventually more or less worked. Since the pager was month to month I canceled that, although they refused to acknowledge my request to cancel it multiple times (and therefore charged me for multiple months I did not use it but was relatively unreachable because I found no value in a pager that you can't count on to actually receive messages..). Obviously a large part of my problems were the a result of allroadsat a a bad apple among Iridium resellers, almost all of whom that likely have much better business practices, but the whole experience still turned me off from Iridium branded services especially since the SMS service really cannot be counted on the way cellphone SMS services can be. To be sure no one has tried to contact you with a time sensitive message the only reliable option is to have an efficient email service that you actively check on a regular basis (whether that be Iridium, another satellite option, or SSB).


There aren't a lot of options beyond smoke signals (free! but don't work so well over long distances or when it's windy..), handheld sat phones (~$1k+), SSB with Pactor IV (~$3k+) and fixed satelite terminals (~10k+).. Subsequent to my experience with allroadsat I've continued to off and on research offshore communication options, but haven't taken another leap yet, although Global Marine Networks has almost swayed me back to Iridium since I already still have the phone and now have received an honest summary of what I can and cannot expect from the current Iridium technology.. GMN actually have a guide you can download for free which provides a good overview and shows how little has changed in the last few years and doesn't have much new on the horizon in terms of affordable offshore communications... And most importantly they were upfront about a proper external antenna being pretty much essential for effective data communications in the handheld satphones, and that in the case of Iridium that an external antenna (but not the hockey puck without an adequate grounding plane...) would also help reduce the frequency of dropped calls which when I was using up my 1000 prepaid minutes before they expired were merely frustrating as opposed urgent safety communications. Having just sailed offshore from Ketchikan AK down to San Fransisco, CA with a great barometer and always paying attention to wind shifts for onboard weather forecasting and only having a VHF for communications, I can honestly say it was actually really nice to be off-grid on the passage BUT will also admit the first thing I did when I arrived to land was get online ;-)

Have a great voyage,
Dave
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Old 07-11-2013, 08:27   #10
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Re: sat phone

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Just as a side note based on my experience with Iridium relative to my expectations, the hockey puck antenna will not help improve reception or reliability at all on a fiberglass boat. I have been told that the hockey puck antenna can be beneficial for use on a metal car or steel boat but otherwise the dedicated external antenna is the only way to get signal quality good enough for a data connection (note bars on phone show signal strength not quality) and that the external antenna helps to reduce how frequently calls are dropped. If coming from cellphone experience, I would highly recommend borrowing or renting an Iridium for a short period of time (from a company other than allroadsat..) to determine if the frequency of dropped calls, entirely uncertain SMS delivery, and slow data connection which might likewise cut out is worth the expense and frustration. And regardless of Iridium reseller you shouldn't count on SMS being reliable and will be far better off with something along the lines of Xgate email because the uncertainty of delivery or receipt of SMS on the Iridium platform limits its usefulness. Just the two cents of a former Iridium customer..

Sunny,

In a situation like this I would highly recommend using an Aero fixed mast antenna, they are very affordable and would definitely be the proper solution on your vessel.

Another popular setup is combining that fixed mast antenna with a docking station (like one from ASE) for your phone.
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Old 07-11-2013, 10:42   #11
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Re: sat phone

Thanks N3VR L8, couldn't agree more if going the Iridium handheld route the fixed antenna is essential, if had Iridium was clear about that from the beginning and allroadsat.com hadn't given me such a long list of above mentioned customer service related issues in addition to the limitations on their technology that option would appeal far greater to me. But at the end of the day, as a small business owner I will bend over backwards for my customers (even if I am shaking my head and just caulk it up to a marketing benefit..) and therefore avoid ever doing repeat business with companies like allroadsat but also hold Iridium responsible to a modest degree for the actions of their resellers (especially as related to allroadsat refusing to cancel my paging plan when I asked them to and not even so much as offering me a discount for future prepaid plans given the HOURS I had to spend on the phone with them..). SSB can have propagation issues and costs more initially but I am strongly leaning that direction instead of doing business with a company Iridium again and if I were to go the satellite provider route I would probably pinch my pennies and go either the fleetbroadband 150 or VSAT V3 route because the datacompression offered by GMN makes the data cost, especially for VSAT, manageable and both services if available where I am are FAST :-)
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Old 07-11-2013, 11:06   #12
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Re: sat phone

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Thanks N3VR L8, couldn't agree more if going the Iridium handheld route the fixed antenna is essential, if had Iridium was clear about that from the beginning and allroadsat.com hadn't given me such a long list of above mentioned customer service related issues in addition to the limitations on their technology that option would appeal far greater to me. But at the end of the day, as a small business owner I will bend over backwards for my customers (even if I am shaking my head and just caulk it up to a marketing benefit..) and therefore avoid ever doing repeat business with companies like allroadsat but also hold Iridium responsible to a modest degree for the actions of their resellers (especially as related to allroadsat refusing to cancel my paging plan when I asked them to and not even so much as offering me a discount for future prepaid plans given the HOURS I had to spend on the phone with them..). SSB can have propagation issues and costs more initially but I am strongly leaning that direction instead of doing business with a company Iridium again and if I were to go the satellite provider route I would probably pinch my pennies and go either the fleetbroadband 150 or VSAT V3 route because the datacompression offered by GMN makes the data cost, especially for VSAT, manageable and both services if available where I am are FAST :-)
I'm sorry to hear you had such poor experience with Iridium.

The fleetbroadband is an excellent solution, depending on usage. I know you are against Iridium but I would advise you to also look into the Pilot.

VSAT is also a viable solution.

Best of luck in whatever direction you proceed with!
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