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Old 15-03-2016, 02:30   #1
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Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

What are the differences between a Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!?
As far as I am aware you can make calls from both and access internet from both. (Not for browsing of course).

What are peoples views on each system? pros / cons etc?
I'm trying to decide which way to go.

Thanks.
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Old 15-03-2016, 03:44   #2
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

Biggest difference is that you must have a smartphone to use the GO. So using the device in isolation is not possible unless you want to send an SOS.

From the positive side in combination with a iPhone or iPad you get some nice features not or hardly possible with the "classic" Satphone. Connection of a Satphone to a computer is quite often a nightmare because of the stone-old dial-up logic you need to use and Serial-USB converters. Then once you get connected you need to be very carefull as you computer immediately tries to download all kinds of crap once it thinks it's online. That'll burn your pre-paid card at quite a rate.

Price is comparable, however there is a "unlimited" subscription possible for the GO. Unlimited relates to the data-usage. As the speed is only 2400 bits per second that does not mean web-surfing is an option though. But getting GRIBS (Iridium GO! - PredictWind.com) and/or mails is quit workable and "unlimited".
Another nice thing is you can use it on 5 i-devices at the same time, so keep your phone for sms, phone and the iPad for weather-stuff.

All in all it's an nice improvement, but the whole package remains a costly thing. Here in Netherlands it is quite expensive. About 1000 Euro for the device and 150 Eur/month for the subscription is by no means cheap.
The worst about it is that there is no nice way to suspend your subscription if you decide to stay a while in a location that offers land-based communication.
Compared to 3G/4G there is still a big gap in costs.
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Old 21-03-2016, 11:11   #3
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

The iridium GO is essentially a modem, giving you a connection to phone or internet services. Or not in our case. We bought one in the UK in December for use as we cross the Pacific. In 3 months we have managed to make one clear phone call, but the connection to the satellite drops out before we can pick up an Internet connection.
Basically it's been useless. The sellers questioned the status of the SIM card, till we pointed out that they provided the SIM. They have blamed user error, but since all that is required is to raise the antenna and wait for the connection, I can't see how that can be subject to error.
They have suggested we return it to them, but have stated that it will take up to 2 months to assess and return. Since we plan to leave Panama within 2 weeks that's not acceptable.
So, buyer beware!!
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Old 21-03-2016, 11:24   #4
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

I just purchased a boat that has an Iridium Go already onboard. I've yet to play with it, but the previous owner used that as well as SSB for comms crossing on the ARC.

One thing that I have seen is a fixed mast antennae for the Go that can be mounted on the arch and cabled into the Go at the chart station. I'm curious if the larger, fixed antennae would improve connection issues?

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Old 21-03-2016, 11:51   #5
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

We were advised by the supplier that the external antenna would not improve connection, as we were trying to use it above decks with a clear view of the sky. It is designed for use if the GO is below decks.
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Old 21-03-2016, 12:04   #6
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jelkins View Post
The iridium GO is essentially a modem, giving you a connection to phone or internet services. Or not in our case. We bought one in the UK in December for use as we cross the Pacific. In 3 months we have managed to make one clear phone call, but the connection to the satellite drops out before we can pick up an Internet connection.
Basically it's been useless. The sellers questioned the status of the SIM card, till we pointed out that they provided the SIM. They have blamed user error, but since all that is required is to raise the antenna and wait for the connection, I can't see how that can be subject to error.
They have suggested we return it to them, but have stated that it will take up to 2 months to assess and return. Since we plan to leave Panama within 2 weeks that's not acceptable.
So, buyer beware!!
Where on the vessel are you placing the unit when attempting to use it? Is there any radar on board?

The Iridium constellation is low earth orbiting which means the satellites are constantly moving. If the GO has obstructions on any horizon it can and will cause intermittent service interruptions.

Radar and other antennas can also interfere with the RF signal, you could be experiencing failure during the sweep.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jelkins View Post
We were advised by the supplier that the external antenna would not improve connection, as we were trying to use it above decks with a clear view of the sky. It is designed for use if the GO is below decks.
A fixed mast antenna with no obstructions at all is definitely the optimal way to go.
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Old 21-03-2016, 12:16   #7
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

I installed an Iridium GO! with the optional antenna a few weeks ago on a Bene 54 in Martinique and used it for 5 weeks on the way down to Grenada (boat is bound for New Zealand).

First problem was a defective coax shipped from the dealer from the Go! to the antenna (center pin of the connector on one side of the cable had no contact. Took some to find this out as the GO!’s antenna is not disconnected when the external antenna is connected … Was questioning the bad reception ….

There is software, where you can see the Iridium satellite constellation in real time. You will see that the area in the Caribbean is very bad covered 'to the time being'. Basically most of the time there is only one satellite visible.
In the late afternoons, evenings especially data transfer is VERY slow, better in the mornings.
From the satellite constellation it looks better for the Pacific plus there should be less users sharing one satellite.

We had no ‚real‘ problems with phone calls though most would drop out after abt. 2min (even if the satellite was ‚still there‘) and with a redial it worked another 2min or so ;-) …

I think the US$ 129,- or so incl. 150 min Voice and flat SMS/email is VERY competitive if you compare it against the normal prepaid Iridium plans ….

If you really want/need voice and email I would go for it. If you are fine with ‚only‘ voice I would opt for a prepaid plan on an Iridium phone.

We also used the PredictWind Standard plan to get GRIB files …. It was not unusual to download 4x 10kB files in 45min or so ;-) ….

Regards,

Carsten
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Old 21-03-2016, 12:21   #8
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

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Originally Posted by CarstenWL View Post
I installed an Iridium GO! with the optional antenna a few weeks ago on a Bene 54 in Martinique and used it for 5 weeks on the way down to Grenada (boat is bound for New Zealand).

First problem was a defective coax shipped from the dealer from the Go! to the antenna (center pin of the connector on one side of the cable had no contact. Took some to find this out as the GO!’s antenna is not disconnected when the external antenna is connected … Was questioning the bad reception ….

There is software, where you can see the Iridium satellite constellation in real time. You will see that the area in the Caribbean is very bad covered 'to the time being'. Basically most of the time there is only one satellite visible.
In the late afternoons, evenings especially data transfer is VERY slow, better in the mornings.
From the satellite constellation it looks better for the Pacific plus there should be less users sharing one satellite.

We had no ‚real‘ problems with phone calls though most would drop out after abt. 2min (even if the satellite was ‚still there‘) and with a redial it worked another 2min or so ;-) …

I think the US$ 129,- or so incl. 150 min Voice and flat SMS/email is VERY competitive if you compare it against the normal prepaid Iridium plans ….

If you really want/need voice and email I would go for it. If you are fine with ‚only‘ voice I would opt for a prepaid plan on an Iridium phone.

We also used the PredictWind Standard plan to get GRIB files …. It was not unusual to download 4x 10kB files in 45min or so ;-) ….

Regards,

Carsten
Here is another good source to check out where the birds are at the moment: IRIDIUMS - Satellites and Flares - ONLINE 3D REAL TIME TRACKING

The iridium devices themselves only communicate with a single bird so having only one in your area shouldn't be an issue as far as connection goes, but it could certainly slow up a touch if there is a concentrated amount of use in your area.

I should also just note that Iridium does not manufacture any cable runs for GO/handsets so the faulty coax lies directly on the reseller and their vendor.
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Old 21-03-2016, 12:25   #9
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

Hello Jelkins, sorry to hear of your difficulties with the Go. I've been looking at the unit and researching issues as well, and have received contrary information to what your vendor told you. According to a well known Florida retailer (Atlantic Radio) the motion of a boat requires an external (and hence better) antenna while underway-and this has nothing to do with reception problems below decks. See the link below to Predict Wind, which seems to say the same thing.

Iridium GO! - PredictWind.com
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Old 21-03-2016, 12:57   #10
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

Here is a write up on the Go from our buddies on Totem that might help you with the question.

http://www.sailingtotem.com/2016/02/...-and-more.html

Regards

Chuck



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Old 21-03-2016, 13:39   #11
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

We had a Iridium Go on the cat I delivered from Cape Town to Brazil last fall. It worked well. I was able to text home quite well and when my wife texted that we had a coil blow out in the heating system I was able to call from the mid-South Atlantic.

The year previously we used one on a delivery from BVI to Panama mainly for weather forecasts and to keep the owner in touch with his business. No problems.
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Old 21-03-2016, 14:37   #12
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

Rule of thumb is that a bigger antenna is always better. However, even with cell phones, you may find that the extra gain from the bigger antenna can actually wind up being a net loss, if the cable run from the antenna is too long, and absorbs the extra signal. So in practice--you need to compare the antenna PLUS the cable run you will have. If your vendor of choice can't give you specific numbers to compare, you need to find another vendor, and not "just a store clerk".
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Old 21-03-2016, 14:53   #13
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

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Rule of thumb is that a bigger antenna is always better. However, even with cell phones, you may find that the extra gain from the bigger antenna can actually wind up being a net loss, if the cable run from the antenna is too long, and absorbs the extra signal. So in practice--you need to compare the antenna PLUS the cable run you will have. If your vendor of choice can't give you specific numbers to compare, you need to find another vendor, and not "just a store clerk".
Passive antennas for Iridium, specifically the fixed mast, are all relatively the same size. I'd recommend the Aero Antenna variety as the more expensive Beam variety is just an Aero with the Beam logo printed on it.

As far as cable runs are concerned, you are correct. As the length goes up the type of cable needed changes to maintain the correct level of dB loss, multiple connectors also play a role in this.

For example, LMR-400 should be fine up to just under 60ft, beyond that you would need to move to LMR-600 which is good to around 90ft.

For shorter runs you can use smaller cables like LMR-240 and for longer runs I'd recommend looking into an active antenna setup because the cables become really hard to work with beyond LMR-600.
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Old 21-03-2016, 14:53   #14
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

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We were advised by the supplier that the external antenna would not improve connection, as we were trying to use it above decks with a clear view of the sky. It is designed for use if the GO is below decks.
They're wrong, put bluntly. The external antenna is a large improvement as long as you have a good place to mount it that's up in the clear a bit.
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Old 21-03-2016, 15:06   #15
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Re: Sat Phone Vs Iridium Go!

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They're wrong, put bluntly. The external antenna is a large improvement as long as you have a good place to mount it that's up in the clear a bit.
They weren't wrong, but in this scenario I don't think they were correct either.

If the GO were able to be placed somewhere truly free of obstructions on all sides the antenna would not garner any improvement.

With that said, I find it hard to believe this is the scenario on a vessel and agree with your sentiment. Having an antenna above sails, wheel houses, other electronics, etc etc etc would definitely be beneficial to maintaining a consistent signal to the satellite.
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