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Old 12-05-2011, 12:21   #31
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

Liberty here. SOmeone asked what our sat phone equip is - I think its a 9500, but there's no model # on the phone.

We have the same setup as Cormorant, although their phone looks a little more streamlined than ours. We don't use a cradle/docking station, we keep it in the Pelican case (so its easy to grab on a ditch, I guess). When we are anchored without internet, Nancy pulls out the sat phone when she needs it, either to report to Yotreps whenever we move or to check emails if we need to be checking them.

As for WeatherFax, we used it thru our SSB on our first 6 month cruise to the NW Caribbean a few years ago, and I didn't like that it took something like 2 hours for the charts to download, and sometimes the images were not good, etc. So when we bought our Iridium for the second/current cruise part of our decision process was trading $$ for time spent waiting for weatherfaxes to come in, and then relying only on NOAA weather charts vs. broader options on WeatherNet.

Good luck.
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Old 12-05-2011, 12:43   #32
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

I buy Iridium airtime in 500-minute blocks. They are good for a year, and roll over if you buy another big block before they expire. With the per-minute blocks you don't have to pay a monthly Iridium charge.

You do (for reasonable performance) have to have an account with someone like GMN (XGate), and you've seen what that costs. If you prefer to sign up with SailMail (mainly an SSB / Pactor email service), you can also use them as a satphone gateway. This works *almost* as well as XGate, at least according to some folks who have done a little testing. The Sailmail annual cost is similar to XGate. XGate seems to be slightly faster in practice, and may have other advantages (the testing wasn't complete in some areas).
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Old 12-05-2011, 14:28   #33
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

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With the per-minute blocks you don't have to pay a monthly Iridium charge.
Pretty sure it's hidden in there, last time I bought some from UK it was anyway. Not obvious but there's no way out of the monthly line rental.
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Old 12-05-2011, 15:04   #34
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

You may be right, but a 500-minute pre-paid block costs (US$) $645. There is no other cost for basic phone service.

The cheapest "pay as you go" plan I see is $29.92 per month plus $1.69 per minute. Even if you don't make any calls, that adds up to $359 / year. By the time you've talked for 169 minutes you have spent the $645 cost of the 500-minute pre-paid block.

Regardless of how they hide / don't hide the charges, I think the pre-paid plan is usually the way to go.
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Old 12-05-2011, 15:40   #35
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

Have you considered the Globalstar system? From reading past posts and researching systems, that would be what I would do, if I didn't already have a system. $500 for the phone and $20/month. I downloaded the satellite locator program and though I could easily live with the time restrictions in order to lock in at $20/month.

http://www.globalstar.com/en/index.php?cid=1250
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Old 13-05-2011, 07:59   #36
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

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Have you considered the Globalstar system? From reading past posts and researching systems, that would be what I would do, if I didn't already have a system. $500 for the phone and $20/month. I downloaded the satellite locator program and though I could easily live with the time restrictions in order to lock in at $20/month.

Voice Pricing

Looks like you would need to pay extra for connectecting to PC for downloading data I think.
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Old 13-05-2011, 09:59   #37
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

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You may be right, but a 500-minute pre-paid block costs (US$) $645. There is no other cost for basic phone service.

The cheapest "pay as you go" plan I see is $29.92 per month plus $1.69 per minute. Even if you don't make any calls, that adds up to $359 / year. By the time you've talked for 169 minutes you have spent the $645 cost of the 500-minute pre-paid block.

Regardless of how they hide / don't hide the charges, I think the pre-paid plan is usually the way to go.
Just checked mailasail and I stand corrected. Their 500min plan works out only $0.05 more per minute for the airtime. But you are locked into 500mins which for me is a huge amount of time to use up. Less than 200mins a year it's cheaper to pay the line rental. Either way for a cruiser on a budget it's a large amount of money to justify for something you don't really need. Though for many on here it's really not much money at all.....
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Old 13-05-2011, 10:29   #38
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

No question about it, the satphone is going to cost more than some are willing to pay. Probably the cheapest solution for at-sea email is ham radio, a pactor modem, and Winlink. Once you buy the equipment there are no other costs.

If you decide the satphone is for you, you do need to look at the various rate plans. For me the 500-min block is about right, but I use the phone a lot.
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Old 13-05-2011, 12:24   #39
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

mailasail is UK based and it looks like the plan is 10 pounds sterling per month for a 2 year plan. Which is roughly $16 per month or $192 per year.

Subscribe to MailASail Email Service/ Subscribe | MailASail

Does sound cheaper than X gate. But there are probably cheaper places to buy the prepaid minutes.
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Old 07-12-2011, 18:55   #40
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

Here is an update on what I have done.

I purchased an Iridium 9555 for $1000 and 3000 minutes at $1 / minute for a total of $4k. It was a big committment given that I had a KVH FB500 already installed. But looking at the connection plans from KVH, I just couldn't justify activating it as I don't have a need for broadband.

The set up for the phone to get data took a little time as I have Windows 7 and Iridium doesn't support it directly. I called GMPCS, the service provider, and they took care of getting me up and running quickly.

I just set it up in my home to get grib files. There is a puck antenna that went out a window. I downloaded ugrib from grib.us and used that program to get the data. There are various ways to decrease the size of the downloaded file. I chose 12 hour increments for 3 days for a huge swath of the Atlantic. It was a 43kb file and took 5 minutes to download. Of the 5 minutes, 2 where used up connecting to grib.us and to register my e-mail address. This seems very reasonable to me. $5 per download from the middle of the ocean.

I can also call home and update my family. When I looked a the cost per minute to call the USA from a European country, this seemed the best deal with little hastle.
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Old 08-12-2011, 10:17   #41
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Palarran View Post
Here is an update on what I have done.

I purchased an Iridium 9555 for $1000 and 3000 minutes at $1 / minute for a total of $4k. It was a big committment given that I had a KVH FB500 already installed. But looking at the connection plans from KVH, I just couldn't justify activating it as I don't have a need for broadband.

The set up for the phone to get data took a little time as I have Windows 7 and Iridium doesn't support it directly. I called GMPCS, the service provider, and they took care of getting me up and running quickly.

I just set it up in my home to get grib files. There is a puck antenna that went out a window. I downloaded ugrib from grib.us and used that program to get the data. There are various ways to decrease the size of the downloaded file. I chose 12 hour increments for 3 days for a huge swath of the Atlantic. It was a 43kb file and took 5 minutes to download. Of the 5 minutes, 2 where used up connecting to grib.us and to register my e-mail address. This seems very reasonable to me. $5 per download from the middle of the ocean.

I can also call home and update my family. When I looked a the cost per minute to call the USA from a European country, this seemed the best deal with little hastle.

How long do you have to use the 3,000 minutes? Im assuming they are prepaid and have an expiration date?
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Old 08-12-2011, 10:51   #42
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Re: Sat Phone Data / Airtime Questions

They last two years and can be extended by purchasing any size block of prepaid minutes.

My thinking is that I'll use around 300 of them getting grib files during my Atlantic crossing. There will be three of us and if we call home every other day, another big block is going to be used.

With the number of families that are coming to vacation with us, I'm not worried about having unused minutes.
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