Originally Posted by Dockhead
It's nice to have a chance to give feedback directly to someone in the industry.
I inherited a fixed-mount Globalstar phone
from the PO of my boat, an obviously expensive installation
. I have never activated it because, frankly, who needs a sat phone
which works just once in a while?
Besides that, the pricing plans for sat phones are, it seems to me, not beneficial to most cruisers. It is impossible to forecast
how many minutes you will use, and your expensive minutes are ruthlessly expired. It's kind of stupid, from my point of view, which is why I have not seriously considered buying
a different sat phone.
The very first pricing plan which actually makes sense for most cruisers is the one used for the Yellow Brick device, a text-only device which runs on the Irridium system. Now this is really good -- you do pay a monthly fee, but it is modest (only about $12 a month!), and you can switch it on and off at will and with no penalty, activation, or deactivation fee
. You pay an entirely reasonable charge to send position reports, or send or receive SMS messages directly to mobile phones (or email
. If you buy a big enough bundle, the "units" cost only $0.12 each
. And best of all, they NEVER expire as long as you activate your phone at least once a year!!
Now that's the way all satellite communications
should be! Your industry would triple its subscriber base if you would go to a system like that. Is it such a hard concept
to design your pricing to maximize the subscriber base and total number of minutes used, rather than trying to milk to death a small number of subscribers? The mobile telephone industry figured that out decades ago!
I'll buy a sat phone when there are plans like that. Meanwhile, I will be using SSB
when I'm offshore
; mobile telephone networks when I'm coastwise. Text comms are probably equally useful to me as voice; so I might very well buy one of those Yellow Brick thingies before my summer cruise
I'm with you that we need a more affordable satellite phone
, but it's not fair to compare cellular and satellite
phones: your talking Billions of dollars to set up and support a satellite network, a little different than putting up cell towers; your talking less then 100k subscriber base for satellite phones compared to millions of cellular phones subscribers.
In the 1990's the Inmarsat mini-M was quite popular, $5-6k for the hardware
, but there as no monthly fee and $1.25/minute when you used it for voice or email
, thousands of small commercial
and leisure vessels had them in case of an emergency
, but rarely used them. Recently Inmarsat has increased the monthly fees
so many vessel have mini-M's on board that are no longer activated.
offer both satellite phones and messaging devises, see a review, http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Emerge...ronics-Reviews
. The phones have postpaid plans that include some minutes in the monthly fee and additional charge for additional minutes; Iridium
offers prepaid minutes good for 30, 180, or 365 days depending on the quantity purchase
at around $1.50/minute. The messaging devises have a lower monthly fee and a charge per message. The messaging devises are less expensive to purchase
and use because the messaging doesn't require as much satellite bandwidth and the satellite provider hopes to sell 100's of thousands of the messaging devices compared to 10's of thousands phones. Due to the higher volume of users they plan to make the money
on the monthly fees
for the messaging devices.
The Globalstar coverage has improved since the review, but is still not 100%; Iridium is approaching the end of their satellite life span and plan to begin launching replacement satellites in 2015. Iridium is truly global coverage, where GlobalStar is normally good for a few hundred miles offshore
If you can get by with messaging than that is the way to go, but if you need reliable voice while on the way you need to go with a satellite phone
and I'd recommend going with a docking
station and external antenna
so you don't have to be outside to send or receive a message or call. Inmarsat has a new satellite phone, ISat Pro that is less expensive for the hardware
as well as airtime than the Iridium. Both Inmarsat and Iridium are considered Global service
compared to the GlobalStar which is limited to a few hundred miles offshore. Iridium is truly Global and works on the Poles, where Inmarsat only works to around 75 degrees North and South. Inmarsat uses three Geostationary satellites located on the equator about 25,000 miles up so you must have a clear view towards the equator for it to work. Iridium uses 66 LEO, Low Earth Orbit, satellites several hundred miles up so you do not have blockage issues; the Iridium phone is quite popular in the NW USA because of this.
If you require reliable internet
access for more than standard email you need to go with Inmarsat FBB or a VSAT.
These are all my opinions and could differ from others.