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Old 21-05-2013, 12:22   #31
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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post

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 addresses) . 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 and Pactor 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 this year.
[QUOTE="Dockhead;1240614"]

Dockhead,
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.
Both Iridium and Globalstar 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.
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Old 21-05-2013, 16:01   #32
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I don't use prepaid. I run a monthly account ( $30 ) and pay about $1.10 a minute per call. I can deactivate the account and reactivate it later , all that happens is I get a new free SIM and a new number

This is for iridium

Dave
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Old 21-05-2013, 16:18   #33
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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
I don't use prepaid. I run a monthly account ( $30 ) and pay about $1.10 a minute per call. I can deactivate the account and reactivate it later , all that happens is I get a new free SIM and a new number

This is for iridium

Dave
Back to the OP, this is where it can get difficult for cruiser's, a monthly line rental can put a dent in a budget and there is a lot of the world where an overnight delivery of a new sim can take a day or several weeks. Being able to deactivate a sim and reactivate without needing a new card would be a good thing.
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Old 22-05-2013, 07:31   #34
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Re: Satellite Communications

[QUOTE=sbuckingham;1240915]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post

Dockhead,
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.
Both Iridium and Globalstar offer both satellite phones and messaging devises, see a review, Emergency Electronics Device Reviews - OutdoorGearLab. 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.
I don't think you understood my point.

I think we can all live, more or less, with the per minute charges.

The providers could sell a lot more minutes at the same per minute rates if they would only expand their subscriber base by allowing people to keep their minutes and not saddling people with high monthly costs when they're not using them.

What skin is it off the backs of the providers if they have subscribers, who have paid full price for their equipment (so no sunk cost of the providers in subsidies), and who are switched off half the year not paying any monthly fees? What skin is it off their back if their bought and paid for minutes languish for a couple of years? They might have three times or ten times as many subscribers, and they will end up selling lots more minutes and having much higher revenues.

One of my best friends created what is today one of the world's top 10 mobile telephone brands; I remember how he went through this analysis in the early '90's and realized how foolish it had been to saddle subscribers with $60 monthly contracts with no included minutes. He went from 50,000 subscribers to 100 million subscribers in just a few years after figuring that out. Of course he also slashed the per minute price, and the mobile phone system is of course not directly comparable to sat comms, but you get the general idea.

The currently offered price plans do not maximize revenue for the sat comms providers -- their mentality is stuck in the 1980's.

As I said, I'm not personally under any pressure to acquire sat voice capability as I have SSB, Pactor and HF ham comms, and generally get by fine with data. If I'm desperate for voice comms for some reason, I will be able to get a patch over ham radio. I'll activate my Globalstar fixed installation or buy a different sat phone if the price plans are ever fixed, so that I can use it as much or little as I like without losing all my minutes, or paying a hefty monthly fee when I'm not using the phone.
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Old 22-05-2013, 08:59   #35
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Re: Satellite Communications

[QUOTE=Dockhead;1241495]
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Originally Posted by sbuckingham View Post

As I said, I'm not personally under any pressure to acquire sat voice capability as I have SSB, Pactor and HF ham comms, and generally get by fine with data. If I'm desperate for voice comms for some reason, I will be able to get a patch over ham radio. I'll activate my Globalstar fixed installation or buy a different sat phone if the price plans are ever fixed, so that I can use it as much or little as I like without losing all my minutes, or paying a hefty monthly fee when I'm not using the phone.

Spot-on (So to speak..)

Dave L38 #38
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