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Old 04-06-2009, 21:28   #16
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Note that the initial setup costs (purchasing the equipment and installing it) for the SSB/Sailmail system will probably be more expensive than the Iridium satphone system. The annual subscription costs will be similar (unless you can use the free Ham radio Winlink instead of Sailmail). The airtime cost will be free for Sailmail or Winlink, and about $1.25 (US) per minute with Iridium. The basic Iridium data rate is 2.4 kBits/sec. The SSB Sailmail the rate can be as fast as 2.7 kBits/sec, but can be as slow as 77 Bits/sec. In my experience the actual throughput of the Iridium system is perhaps double that of SSB.

So, which one is ultimately less expensive will depend on how you use it. Both SSB and Iridium have their advantages and disadvantages, but you may find that the total cost is fairly similar.
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Old 04-06-2009, 22:08   #17
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Paul,

I can't understand that. If you actually use these systems, the cost of satellite is outrageous. We opted to use UUplus to compress everything (for $350.- per year) and still paid $100.- or more monthly for connection fee's. Winlink is completely free and sailmail is what, $250.- per year ?? The cost of our Pactor modem ($1000) was recovered by savings in connection fee's within 1.5 years.

Also, many boats already have the SSB so it's just the modem that needs to be invested in. And Irridium... I would not want to use a handset version for everyday use with the computer and the fixed mount versions are much more expensive.

It's not that I don't like satphones... I love my mini-M phone but I also love the fact that it doesn't cost me anything anymore since we switched to Pactor.

On transfer rates: If your avg. Pactor rate is 1.2 kBps like you write, you can improve that by selecting a different shore station or a different time of day because our avg rate is > 2 kBps. (or may be sailmail is slower? we use winlink)

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 05-06-2009, 02:28   #18
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I was assuming that you would be starting from scratch, and so had to buy the SSB and Pactor modem (neither of these is cheap). How long it takes to make up the (usually) higher initial cost of the SSB gear will depend entirely on the way you use it. For casual or part-time users, the optimum solution may not be so obvious.

Obviously there are ways to save money on the SSB installation (ham gear and Winlink, mainly), but the Pactor-3 modem is fairly non-negotiable.

I've used both SSB and Iridium for email during my three trips from San Francisco to Hawaii and back (SSB-only during the first trip), and I stand by my observation that the Iridium gives me roughly 2x the data speed, or better. In 2008, I downloaded about 100 to 200 kBytes a day of grib and compressed WFAX charts, plus a small amount of regular text email. I am reasonably experienced in time/frequency selection for propagation, and I doubt that anyone who has used both systems would disagree that Iridium is significantly faster and more reliable. I do welcome other opinions (anyone?) Note that with my large data transfers, Iridium was definitely the higher-cost option. I'm pretty sure that Sailmail would not have allowed me to receive this much daily data. I could have done it with Winlink, but I wouldn't have made many friends in the process.

I got my data speed numbers from the Pactor and Iridium specs -- these are raw, uncompressed speeds. Built-in compression is available with either service and will provide roughly the same increase in throughput.

Don't get me wrong, I like SSB and wouldn't want to sail without it. If you do a lot of communicating, then SSB will probably be the long-run cheaper solution. I do suggest that anyone making this decision should really look at their usage plans and crunch the numbers. Also, sometimes factors other than the cost-per-kilobyte will be the deciding ones.
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Old 05-06-2009, 05:01   #19
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Shell, I did a fair amount of research on this recently and found for me iridium was the best way. Phone with data kit off ebay cost 500 pounds UK. SSB radio with modem et all where i was at the time was going to be over 4000. WOuld love ssb but can´t afford. Inmarsat install and running costs were too much. Worst bit about iridium is the 34 pounds a month fee before turning the thing on, airtime costs me about 2 pounds a minute but think there are cheaper options from usa which i might go for soon. You don´t say what you want to do? Internet access, forget it, too slow. Emails and grib files fine and there´s another feature seldom mention in these ssb\sat discussions, you can phone people from midocean . If it´s just weather then weatherfax may be a much cheaper bet, just need a ssb reciever (200 pounds would get you one) and a laptop. Lots weather info here Franks-Weather / Frank Singleton's Weather and Sailing Pages | The Weather Window
More technically with the satphone I found that to FTP download grib files from here Index of / was faster than using a service such as Global Weather Downloads (GRIB / Synoptic / Text) | MailASail via email though if you want to check your emails (I don´t bother offshore) then maybe not.
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Old 05-06-2009, 05:49   #20
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Hi Conachair,
Wow thanks heaps for this info. I am sure that we can manage to do emails from closer to shore...we were tinkgin though that satellite phone would be great way to keep intouch when out at sea away from coastal cell phone range, and somehow wanted to use the satellite phone with a data packet linked to laptop to access the Raymarine weather charts etc that interface with our electronic charts and radar stuff. (this is all boy stuff to me...I can read charts and use a computer and mobile phone, but anything more thcnical that n that is beyond me. Still have to do a radio course yet before we venture away from Australia).

Cheers,
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Old 05-06-2009, 05:50   #21
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Gosh, sorry for the massive typos
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Old 05-06-2009, 11:40   #22
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Shell
Due to the following I find it interesting that you are still been able to receive Raymarine grib files.
“Dear Raymarine GRIB Weather Subscriber, Regretfully, Raymarine has made the decision to suspend our email-based GRIB weather subscription services as well as our on-demand GRIB weather services used with our RayTech RNS software. This change is effective immediately. There are many alternative sources for free and subscription-based GRIB weather available online. A quick search on any search engine using the terms “GRIB weather files” will reveal many possible sources to you. Subscribers to our satellite fishing maps email service for Sea Surface Temperature (SST) and Plankton data will continue to receive this data as-normal. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Raymarine Product Support through the “Ask Raymarine” portal at Raymarine Marine Electronics - Support Home. Best Regards,The Raymarine Team.”

I am using now Ugrib, which work with Raymarine and other navigation software.
For weather fax see thread Are weather faxes worth the effort?
As I see it, the advantages of sat phone are: small footprint, low power consumption, and simple direct communication.
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Old 05-06-2009, 11:58   #23
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Paul, Conachair,

Your findings are very different from mine. I can buy a new Pactor 3 plus marine SSB (like Icom 700pro) for under $2000.- in the USA. A fixed install Iridium is more and next you have to put a couple of grand down for the card with the minutes.

I can believe that avg Sailmail throughput is less but I never used it. Winlink has much more stations. While underway we get at least the same amount of data that you do and sometimes much more. The wx fax is our favorite and uses most of that. This is not a problem on Winlink but I think there are daily limits on Sailmail.

I think the difference is that we are full time liveaboards for 6 or 7 years now. When we started off we used satellite too; it takes some time cruising before you realize it's silly.

Shelley: Raymarine weather info??!! Surely you don't want to put your safety in the hands of that company!!?? I think you are too ficated on what they tell you to do but believe me that your safety is of no concern to them, just your wallet. I suggest you read up on weatherfax, GRIB files, SSB & HAM weather-net's, government-organizations that broadcast weather reports on SSB (I can hear Australia weather here in the Caribbean!!) etc. These are the main sources of weather for cruisers and independant of manufacturers of equipment.
You have a long way to go but believe me it's a wonderful ride. Go and talk to the cruisers on not-so-shiny boats around you, you recognize them with their wind generators, solar panels, elaborate antenna installations, rum&cokes in plastic buckets etc.

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 05-06-2009, 12:26   #24
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“Shelley: Raymarine weather info??!! Surely you don't want to put your safety in the hands of that company!!?? I think you are too ficated on what they tell you to do but believe me that your safety is of no concern to them, just your wallet.”
Nick no ranting, I have used Raymarine grib for years, was as good that anyone else and completely free, I consider Raymarine as good people.
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Old 05-06-2009, 13:18   #25
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Nick,

No doubt you have found the solution that makes the most sense for you. I've not had as good luck with Airmail, but I have to admit that I've not used it much lately, except to occasionally make sure that I can still make it work should I need to.

I'm not a cruiser, so my annual data needs are limited to a couple months of summer sailing. I am just suggesting that anyone considering the costs of the different options look at the numbers. I'm not suggesting that there is one correct answer, by the way. Example:

SSB/Pactor
SSB Radio: $1200 (this is for the Icom 700 Pro. you can spend more)
Antenna Tuner: $500 (really nice to have, but you can do without)
Pactor modem: $1400 (slightly less if you don't get the radio-control capability)

This adds up to $3100, and we still need an antenna. This can be almost free, or can require a new backstay plus insulators. And don't forget your ground system. Bottom line: you can spend a little less or a lot more.

Iridium
Handset and "data kit": $1850
External antenna and cable: $400
Total equipment: $2250

If you pay someone to install the equipment, the SSB install will probably be more labor-intensive.

Now you have your subscriptions and airtime costs:

Winlink (amateur radio): Free, and free.
Sailmail: $250/year, free (but airtime usage should be kept below 90 minutes per week.)
Satphone: $240/year (XGate), $700 for 500 minutes, $4888 for 5000 minutes.

With these numbers (which are approximate) you can make your decision. For small amounts of annual use, the satphone isn't a bad choice. If you use a lot of airtime, SSB starts looking really good.

Of course there are many non-financial factors you will want to consider, but that's a topic for separate discussion. Cost is only one of the factors you should be considering. How much you weight it is up to you.

By the way, you can get gribs and compressed wxfax graphics via Saildocs, and you don't even have to be a Sailmail member.
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Old 05-06-2009, 13:59   #26
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Nick,

If you don't mind my asking, how much does the mini-M cost? If I'm not mistaken it can be used for email and internet too.

Kevin
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Old 05-06-2009, 14:01   #27
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Iridium works but only for email, and even then its expensive, I ought my handset a 9500 on ebay for 300 dollars and it works fine. The data service is appalling slow as 2400 baud, but the actual throughput is lower then that, compression doesnt really help a lot. I spent close to 1000 dollars crossing the atlantic in 07 downloading weather charts using iridium , I wont do that again!. If you want web browsing then its definitely fleetbroadband , but even the recently introduced FB150 is about 5K $ in equipment costs and airtime is expected to be around 10$ per megabyte , expensive

The iridium data link at least works quite well , though I did find on several occasions it required several call attempts. I say for email go down teh SSB route , but it is trickey to get right and requires a reasonable understanding of the technology

dave
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Old 05-06-2009, 15:42   #28
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Okay, let me throw a lot of views in one email:

different type of users: yes, it makes sense that live aboard cruisers have SSB & Pactor and other sailors who spend weeks/months each year aboard might be better off with a satphone. Like I wrote before, we started with a satphone and had the same view as Paul and others. For us however, Jedi came with two (2 !!) satphones so we had no investment cost. If I would have to buy, I would have choosen the sailor SC4000 Iridium phone instead of a portable one (which is more prone to failure and it's mobility of no use when sailing): Iridium

I feel strongly that for any serious cruising you need to have a SSB. And I think many people share my opinion on that so even if you select a satphone for your email and weather, you still have to invest in a SSB radio, like many cruisers do (every one of them where we are). Cruisers who leave home without, buy one within a year or so. When you take that step, you only need the Pactor modem.

Icom 700 Pro + AT130 tuner is $1,500.- M700 PRO Icom HF SSB

SCS PTCIIusb is $1,248 incl. radio control from the computer. That adds up to $2,748.-

A fixed install Iridium phone costs $2,749.- (one dollar more ;-) : Iridium Sailor SC4000 Fixed-Site / Marine Satellite Phone

The sailor Iridium phone will always work, while using Pactor means you might have to wait a couple of hours for better propagation. If you're in the rat race still (ie not full time live aboard cruiser) the satphone makes sense because you want it all and you want it now; full time cruisers have all the time in the world and adjust their schedule to pick optimal conditions for using the SSB.

Lodesman: I think they are now replaced with some fleet-xxx product but price and product is basically the same around $5,000.- I would not recommend it, use the Sailor Iridium instead. (I have a mini-M for sale though, come to Panama ;-)

Raymarine GRIB: good that they stopped that. Really, I have nothing against them (just a little) but they are not a provider of weather data and you should get your grib files elsewhere, like NOAA etc. Saildocs is a good source and used by both Sailmail and Winlink, plus they have the wx fax images too.

Operational cost: like goboatingnow wrote: $1,000.- satphone connection costs for a single Atlantic crossing. Better buy tickets and go the 747 way instead. This level of cost is unsustainable for full time cruisers or they must be billionairs. I also find it amazing that people are willing to put more than $4,000.- on the counter for a card with air minutes.

I want to end this post with a little story about Inmarsat; Jedi was anchored in Grenada during hurricane Ivan but we were on a 2 week holiday to Holland. Friends were looking after Jedi and her skeleton crew of our three cats. After the hurricane all phone/power etc. was out. From Holland, we managed to get in contact with our "caretakers" via Winlink. Their boat was missing but Jedi was fine. We told them to move aboard Jedi and that we had a Mini-M phone they could use to call us and their family etc. We explained how to use the phone. Our explanation must have been bad because they didn't manage but an Inmarsat operator noticed their attempts and called them. He explained exactly how to use the phone, learned they were in Grenada after Ivan and told them the service was free for a couple of weeks. The days after, a line of cruisers formed aboard Jedi and they all called home to report they were still alive, okay etc. The Inmarsat bill for that month was $0.- Hooray to Inmarsat and this also shows that a satphone makes sense too because a live voice is sometimes much better than an email.

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 05-06-2009, 16:06   #29
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Thanks for the info Nick. Inmarsat is used by the big commercial guys, so it will be around tomorrow - not so sure about Iridium, Globalstar etc. Don't suppose you have an idea on per use cost?

Kevin
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Old 05-06-2009, 16:33   #30
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Hello Everyone,

Well now I have a lot of info to research about what best suits us. From what you have all said, I am beginning to think that the Inmarsat/Iridium sat phone is one option, and that it should be supported by SSB. Don't think we would be going for the Pactor modem though as we would not consider ourselves serious liveaboard cruisers. We would be likely to do a couple of cruises every couple of years. The first we are about to embark on is up the east Coast of Queensland for about 4 to 5 months for the return journey, but this research is for when we cruise to New Caledonia and beyond. I know that being able to speak with family on the phone to reassure them of our safety and whereabouts is a consideration. Emails can be done from closer to shore using whatever local broadband service is available. I guess we will be asking these questions again in a couple of years to find out what options are still available and working the best. Many thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion. I am not sure that I am any the wiser about which satelllite phone system to go with - but that may be answered by which system is still standing by the time we want to purchase one.
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