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Old 11-05-2011, 10:34   #16
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

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Why use gribs? With an inexpensive SSB receiver and free software along with a very inexpensive hunk of wire as an antenna you can get weather fax -- better information for free.

For those who choose sat-phones, many if not most ultimately get the cradle and external antenna. Some spend the extra money because of poor connectivity of the handheld unit. Some unfortunates do it after drowning the handset and or laptop trying to operate in the cockpit where the signal is better than below.

Thats our plan actually. Im looking at a Kaito radio and the jvcomm software for primary weather downloads with the satphone as a back up and for email. This has been a very helpful thread. Now I need to settle on an equipment choice. Looking like the Iridium 9550 with the cradle and external antenna is the way to go. I think I saw it for $1,400 from satphone store. Thinking that and 500 minutes on the prepaid card should do it. Now to research x-gate for email and weather providers.

Ok so it looks like X-gate will cost $59 to activate, then $240 for a year. Weathergate is $373 to get started then $75 every 6 months. I guessing I could just renew the 6 months when planning a passage although at $12.50 per month maybe its worth it to just keep it active.
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:03   #17
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

These guys have a good email compression product, and a six-month subscription that costs less than Xgate, I think:
Express Mail Email Compression | MailASail

And saildocs.com will send you any weather info you need -- for free. It takes a little experimentation to set up just the right request, but it's all pretty easy.
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:15   #18
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

Correcting myself here: Xgate is actually cheaper than MailaSail at certain subscription lengths.

Xgate:
3 months @ $26.67/mo. ($80.00)
6 months @ $21.67/mo. ($130.00)
12 months @ $20.00/mo. ($240.00)
24 months @ $19.17/mo. ($460.00)

MailaSail:
24 Month Subscription (240) about $395
12 Month Subscription (140) about $230
6 Month Subscription (90) about $148


But Xgate has an account activation fee of $59, so actually they are more expensive across the board. . . .
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:34   #19
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

Thanks Cormorant. Do you know if these services can be turned off and then back on? Im thinking that we will only need this stuff (x-gate and weathergate) when on passage as the rest of the time we hope to find wifi with our antenna setup.
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Old 11-05-2011, 11:53   #20
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

Not sure about that. I suspect the subscription would only run straight through -- i.e., you couldn't stretch a 6-month subscription out over three years. But, it never hurts to ask.
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Old 12-05-2011, 08:13   #21
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

I wouldnt look to stretch a subscription Im just wondering if I sign up, use it, then let it expire, what happens when I want to use it again? Do I need to pay all the activation fees again or can I just renew my subscriptions?

Im also wondering about more affordable hardware. The Iridium kit with docking station is nice but $1,400 is a lot of dough. Wondering if I could not get by with an older set up still with the docking station and external antenna but maybe get the price down to $950-$1k?
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Old 12-05-2011, 09:09   #22
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

I don't know about Xgate but we used MailaSail, and from what I can tell, even though we haven't paid for a subscription in a year, we still have an account there that can be revitalized. And MailaSail doesn't have the activation fee, so that point is moot.

As for equipment, I can tell you that we used an old Iridium 9500 (cost $500) with an external puck antenna ($200). No docking station, so we had to set it up each time we wanted to check email, but not a big hassle. I would flick on the laptop's power switch, and during the time it was booting up, I would connect the antenna to the phone and the phone to the computer. The phone worked great -- we usually made two data calls per day, and it never dropped a connection. We only made a couple of voice calls, and for those, the phone's stick antenna alone was fine.

Funny thing about buying old Iridium phones is when your cruise is over, if you wish, you can turn around and sell them for the price you bought them for.
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Old 12-05-2011, 09:30   #23
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

The docking station is pretty expensive. What I did instead was to make a small satphone holder:

(at the left-hand side of the photo)
The wires to the phone are 12V power, RS232 connection to the computer (via serial/USB adaptor), and a coax connection for the external antenna. These are all going to the black panel below the chartplotter. The wires are long enough to let me take the phone out of the holder and use it for a voice call. This is an older phone, and the new one has improved the connection arrangement, so no doubt you could do a cleaner job of it (for example, the new phone has a USB connection for data, and I think power).

The external antenna is a really good idea. I use a rail-mount one at the stern, but I have also had decent results with the "puck" antenna taped under a hatch.
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Old 12-05-2011, 10:35   #24
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

Thanks Paul that seems like a set up that would serve us just fine. Yeah docking station would be nice but this thing is only for use on passage and I would just soon be able to stow it away in a water tight box out of sight when not in use. Cormorant I think I will follow your lead and check my friendly internet auction site for a used 9500.
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Old 12-05-2011, 10:51   #25
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

Shop around for one that comes with the data adapter. It's just a clunky little fitting that connects the phone to a serial data cable. But to buy one new, because they are now rare, is expensive.

Then . . . to connect your serial cable to a USB port on your computer, don't just buy a cheap generic serial-USB adapter on Ebay. (Ask me how I know. Twice!) You would think any old connector could do the job, but no, Iridium phones are quite finicky about who they'll talk with. Get the Keyspan USA-19HS. Also called Tripp Lite USA-19HS. You can find them on EBay for about $28 delivered.

It's a crazy Rube Goldberg set-up, but it gets the job done.
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Old 12-05-2011, 11:03   #26
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

For what it's worth, here's what our setup looked like all laid out:
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Old 12-05-2011, 11:05   #27
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

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For what it's worth, here's what our setup looked like all laid out:

Thanks this is very helpful.
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Old 12-05-2011, 11:15   #28
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

It looks like some of these used 9500/ 9505A phones ask for a pin number when powered up. Is this something to look out for when buying used or is it not a problem once you have a new sim card?
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Old 12-05-2011, 11:27   #29
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

I think in your setup, when adding your SIM card, you can specify whether or not to use a PIN. We didn't use one, but memory fails me as to when and how we opted out.

I do recall there's an Iridium blacklist somewhere, of serial numbers of stolen units. Those units won't work at all even if given a new SIM. But you can call Iridium (I think) to check on a S/N prior to purchase. Google that a bit and see what comes up. . . .
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Old 12-05-2011, 11:48   #30
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

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I wouldnt look to stretch a subscription Im just wondering if I sign up, use it, then let it expire, what happens when I want to use it again? Do I need to pay all the activation fees again or can I just renew my subscriptions?
I've used iridium offshore both with mailasail and without. Never logged the numbers to see when it would actually save money, but it is a good system. Only about 2UKP per week. If you are on a budget then the line rental is more of a drain. Cruising you could well spend a year without an ocean passage and having that expense every month is not a nice thing to know is doing nothing, but then if you just have pay as you go sims for , say , 3 months then the next long passage you might be doing the customs walk every day for a month or more trying to get a new sim card sent to some little country off the dhl radar. Really not a nice feeling.
No answers, i'm afraid. Weatherfax for weather, no need to download gribs if you don't want to spend the money. But line rental, maybe better just to bite the bullet and keep it up.
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