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Old 01-06-2013, 17:36   #16
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

galacticair,
Thanks for adding a contrasting point of view...and giving us real-world sat use costs!!!

And, thanks for correcting my pricing error.....(last time I looked the 9555, data kit, and ext. marine ant and cabling was a few bucks over $2000.)

Further, please do not misunderstand my comments below....I'm just clarifying some of my experiences/opinions, NOT trying to argue that I'm right!!




I do wonder if I'm the only one that doesn't see a "SSB vs. Satphione" discussion, but rather a "PACTOR modem vs. Satphone" discussion???
As the SSB and Satphone compliment each other well, i.e. they do DIFFERENT things and do not "compete" with each other....(hence the many who have and recommend both)
But a PACTOR modem and a satphone data connection do very similar things and DO "compete" with each other...
Am I the only one that sees things this way????
Please tell me I'm not alone out here in the middle of the Sargasso Sea???




BTW, I have used Iridium phones for years (actually had one their very first month of service...my brother was a senior design engineer for Motorola at the time..), and I LOVE 'em!!!

Although, as we've both wrote, everyone's application/desires are different....
For me, I find the few times I need offshore (as opposed to cellular phone, in port) telephone connections, that Shipcom's WLO and KLB provide (within 4000 miles of the US east and west coasts) decent telephone connections for 99 cents / minute....
Yes, it can be "staticy" at times....and certainly not something to use to impress high-tech savvy clients, but to call home, make airline reservations, and arrange dockage at a marina (all 3 I've personally done thru WLO), it works....
But, heck I don't see any use in e-mail when at sea / offshore, either.....so I do understand that I'm an odd-man-out




Galacticair makes a good point about using HF radio for non-EPIRB-type emergency "voice" comms....getting accurate information passed (both ways) for emergent medical matters, etc. is best done by a non-static satphone (or by text/e-mail)




And, yes....being able to take a satphone with you into a liferaft, etc. is a plus....but there are many here that are on a budget and some of them don't even have a liferaft...
Here again, I seem to be defending a "budget" approach...
Sorry about that...
But that is what K. (the original poster) mentioned and asked about...






The only point I really disagree with (respectfully!) is that somehow it takes more time to make an HF radio set-up work well (install and learning how-to properly use it), versus the install, set-up, and learning for a satphone system....
Yes, I know I'm biased....but it's NOT that difficult or time consuming!!
Just saying that some of the "problems" that are posted about are caused by well meaning internet advice.....




Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie


{On a side note, and to be accurate, INMARSAT-C (Omni-directional antenna, low-speed, robust data only) which uses geostationary sats is VERY robust in heavy weather....
And, while you are correct that basic Iridium is much better in heavy weather than INMARSAT ISatPhone, geostationary sat comms can be very reliable and robust (just depends what they're designed for..) }
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Old 01-06-2013, 18:25   #17
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

Personally, I think the words "budget" and "satphone" dont belong in the same sentence.

On an A Vs B topic I dont think there is as much debate as you think, I suspect the largest percentage of passagemaking cruisers would view an SSB as essential and a satphone as a luxury/nice-to-have item.
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Old 02-06-2013, 10:51   #18
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

I wish to thank all of you for your opinions and information on this thread.

To add clarity, for those who asked...
By budget, I mean fixed income, minimal reserves. I inserted having a limited budget to constrain the reply. I full well know that the sky can be no limit in answering this query.

The points made about emergencies at sea, requiring a response less than triggering an EPIRB or PLB, such as an electrical system failure, where expert advice, and not a full evacuation is needed, was understood and the responses informative for my decision, and I expect others who will read this thread.

It may not be obvious to those who have and will add to this thread, but the really helpful information is not always in the answer to the question(s) posed, but in the details. All to often, and for the good, a technology developes, such as SSB and SatPhones. In the course of development, layers and layers of improvments are made to the equipment, services, etc. It does not always follow a straight line either. For those who have had to longest experience, as all of you have, in compartison to myself, some more that others, the field is orderly. For someone new, the field appears technologically disorderly and non-linear. Your posts here have helped bring greater order out of the chaos that remained. You have also added knowledge of other resources and services, confirmed equipment choices, and much, much more.

I have decided on installing an M-802 and AT-140, because it will better fit my needs and style, even though I do anticipate a more complicated installation process and steeper learning curve. I will seek out the posts of Gordon West, Bill Trayfors, and others for guidance on the install. I will add a Pactor 4 as and if the need arises. This decision, to go SSB, is primarily driven by ship to ship and ship to land voice comm in both MayDay and Pan-Pan emergencies out at sea, as well as the ability to receive weather information over long distances. In time, I may decide to add a SatPhone with external antenna.

Thank you.
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Old 02-06-2013, 11:55   #19
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

I do not see it as an either/or situation.

The SSB does provide inexpensive communication for both voice and data. The sat phone can provide additional communication. When we had a medical emergency and could not get any contact with VHF or SBB we used the sat phone to contact CG Honolulu. We did not have to use the EPIRB, Th flowchart is a handy tool.



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Old 02-06-2013, 18:58   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mystic38 View Post
Personally, I think the words "budget" and "satphone" dont belong in the same sentence.
With the old iridium and Inmarsat I would agree with you but not with Globalstar. Right now they are offering a plan with 80 minutes a month for just $39 bucks with the price of a phone only $400.

In the past they have had issues with service but since they launched 12 new satellites their service is 100% and I don't just say that from making a few quick calls.

I got on their loyalty plan back when they had trouble and it offered unlimited calling for $35 a month so I've been using it like a cell phone here on the boat. As long as I have a good open sky it now gets signal quick and haven't lost a call.

So for now Globalstar is a good budget sat phone and I predict the other companies will start to lower their prices to compete. And if you look at how Globalstar's system works it can handle a much higher call volume than Iridium or Inmarsat so their pricing will stay lower.
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Old 23-06-2013, 12:13   #21
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

Some of the figures in here for the hardware and operating cost for a sat phone systems are quite out of date. I recently purchased and installed an Iridium Pilot on my 42' cat. The Pilot is a broadband "high speed" Satellite based system for both data and voice. The total bill for the hardware including the fixed external antenna, cable, brain, voice handsets, and WIFI router/firewall for internet was under $5000. Installation was incredibly easy and setup wasn't much more difficult.

The speed of permanently mounted systems like the Pilot is FAR better than SSB or hand held sat phones. Grib files take a few seconds to download are very cheap as the data is charged by the byte with no minimum. Relative to a hand held sat phone, the Pilot is about 20x faster and about 12x less expensive at the same time to operate in real world use. The voice calls are very clear and have little lag. In fact, most people I call think I am on a cell phone.

Operating costs are about $40 per month base + $10 per MB for data and about $0.65c per minute for voice. I also have an xgate email subscription (like sailmail) which costs about $250 per year.

I had an SSB on my last boat which worked quite well but decided to go the satellite route on the new boat. I may miss participating in the nets, but the reliability of the Pilot is far better than SSB and the ability to easily and reliably have voice and data was a real plus. Power use is also very well with none of the interference that SSB's can cause while transmitting.

The Pilot is actually so fast that you can browse the internet in a limited way. The software itself strips and compresses graphics on web pages. I don't plan to browse the internet on a regular basis, but the ability to get to a critical web page for spare parts, emergency use, etc could be very handy.

I also received a WIFI router specifically for satellite based email that means I can connect to the system from my computers, ipad, or iphone without the need for more cables.

I do still plan to add a low cost SSB receiver if I can find one that works well.

Overall, I am very impressed with the Iridium Pilot so far and suggest that you may want to consider it. Once you get all the hardware that you need it doesn't cost that much more up front, and the relatively low operating cost + added reliability is a nice combo.
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Old 23-06-2013, 13:35   #22
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

+1 for Globalstar. Bought a cheap used phone on Ebay. When I first started cruising, I installed an SSB, got the Ham licenses, the whole shlamiel. One of the best things I ever did was take it all out, sell it on Ebay, and switch to the Globalstar phone.
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Old 23-06-2013, 14:43   #23
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

windwisher,
1) Thanks for confirming my info....and adding some input from a current user of Iridium Pilot!
Quote:
Originally Posted by windwisher View Post
The Pilot is a broadband "high speed" Satellite based system for both data and voice. The total bill for the hardware including the fixed external antenna, cable, brain, voice handsets, and WIFI router/firewall for internet was under $5000. Installation was incredibly easy and setup wasn't much more difficult.
As I wrote a few weeks ago in this thread:
Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
Iridium Pilot (~ $4000 - $4500, plus install), and IMARSAT FleetBroadband (FB is ~$5000 - $15,000 depending on size and speeds needed, plus installation)..





2) And, I am happy to see that there are users who aren't breaking the bank with their monthly usage fees...
Quote:
Originally Posted by windwisher View Post
Operating costs are about $40 per month base + $10 per MB for data and about $0.65c per minute for voice. I also have an xgate email subscription (like sailmail) which costs about $250 per year.
You've got $60/month, plus $10/Mb....and that puts you in the low-end of the group of "broadband at sea" users....unfortunately some (many??) Pilot users have monthly bills in the $200+ /month range...(and I've heard of some FB250 users with bills 3 - 4 times that, but I have no first-hand knowledge of that...)







3) Unfortunately, a $5000 satcom system (Iridium Pilot) and $100 (or more) monthly bill, is way over my budget, and I assume over the budget of many of us, including the original poster here, KStepman.....






4) windwisher, here are a few tips when equipping with an HF receiver...
Quote:
Originally Posted by windwisher View Post
I do still plan to add a low cost SSB receiver if I can find one that works well.
a) Understand that removing/eliminating as much RFI from your boat's environment as possible will go a LONG way to improve the effectiveness of ANY HF receiver (whether a simple, inexpensive portable one, an older, used ham radio transceiver, or a full-fledged marine HF transceiver..)....
And, this includes any RFI from any computer (or computer power supply / inverters) that you may be using....

b) While just about "any" outside antenna will do, and many just clip a wire from a shroud/backstay to a portable radio's external antenna jack, and they have good results.....you may find some experimentation to be helpful...
(just be sure to rig an external antenna, as far away from any on-board sources of interference / RFI as practical, and you'll be good...)
{I can give you more details on this, if you like???}

c) A used, hi-quality HF ham transceiver (such as the venerable IC-735) which will cost you about $300 or so, would be an excellent choice for an HF "receiver"....but better than "SSB receivers" costing twice that!!!

d) Either a Sony 7600, Sangean 505, etc. or other such portable receiver (costing about $100), all will work fine....IF, you connect to an outside antenna, out in the clear....




Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 23-06-2013, 15:46   #24
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mystic38 View Post
Personally, I think the words "budget" and "satphone" dont belong in the same sentence.

On an A Vs B topic I dont think there is as much debate as you think, I suspect the largest percentage of passagemaking cruisers would view an SSB as essential and a satphone as a luxury/nice-to-have item.
I got a brand new Inmarsat Isatphone pro for $750. Call costs (depending on the plan) Are about $1.25 per minute. To download a grib file from Onsatmail takes a bit less than 1.30. However I could get TWO gribs in under 2 minutes.

Zero installation costs, quite simple to operate, and for me it was 100% reliable, although sometimes I did have to hang up and call again. Onsatmail resumes the download from where it left off.

Compared to buying and installing a marine SSB, getting the license, and paying the annual fees for it, the Satphone seemed quite reasonably priced..
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Old 23-06-2013, 16:07   #25
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We had an Icom HF radio that worked fine as an extended range vhf and we had it opened up for the marine SSB frequencies but if you want such a rig for more than listening in to the cruiser nets you better get ready for a new hobby. It takes a lot of learning and trial & error fooling around to make it work well plus if your friends and family aren't hams you won't have reliable communications. Sure it can be done but it ain't exactly prime time. Yes we listened in on Chris Parker for the weather but we got his emails over Satphone.

We used Globalstar in the Bahamas for voice, weather and occasionally calling home. It worked very well for email, grib downloads and this was in 06, 07 & 08 when their satellites were very limited. It was way cheaper than SSB/Pactor too. Back then a decent HF system would easily rack up $5000 not including pro installation. The GS system including external antenna and pc integration was under $750. Back then I maintained a blog of our travels by email updates to the website and even with those sometimes long emails the sat phone never took more than about 30 seconds to send and retrieve our email. We used Ocens for email & weather. No pictures though just text or grib files including Chris Parker's email weather reports.

In addition we used wireless connectivity where available (like Georgetown) with a external antenna for internet access. Back then $10 got you a week's worth but you needed a really good antenna to reach from town to the anchorage. This we used for Skype (not often) and sending large files like pictures plus the usual internet browsing (no not porn).

If you're going to cross oceans then maybe you should spend the time and energy to learn about HF & SSB to stay in touch with cruising friends. For the Bahamas & Caribbean use Globalstar.
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Old 11-08-2013, 21:19   #26
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

This is an incredibly interesting thread, for which, thank you all.

I'm interested in the fact that Iridium is the only satellite phone system mentioned. As long-time users of Inmarsat, I'd like to point out some advantages:

1. Better coverage, world-wide, than Iridium (unless you go to the Poles).
2. No subscription charge if you don't use it.
3. Automatic positioning and emergency trasnmission for free.
4. Two-way data at orders of magnitude higher speeds than Iridium.
5. Lower latency in comms -- when you talk, it's like a conversation, not a series of statements by each party with long delays in-between.

My second comment is about SSB vs. satellite phone for emergency use. As an owner of both systems (ICOM 802 and Inmarsat), I have to say I have much more faith in the satellite phone than in SSB, because the latter depends on the premise that somebody is listening on the emergency channel, and that he's within the right propagation annulus for that frequency. By contrast, with my satellite phone I can not only send an emergency digital signal with position, etc., but more importantly I can call my daughter and tell her we're sinking, or whatever, and where we are. Commercial vessels may or may not hear my SOS, and the Coast Guard may or may not believe and/or respond to my signal; but my daughter will move heaven and earth to be sure somebody comes to my rescue.
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Old 13-08-2013, 23:13   #27
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

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Originally Posted by Akka View Post
This is an incredibly interesting thread, for which, thank you all.

I'm interested in the fact that Iridium is the only satellite phone system mentioned. As long-time users of Inmarsat, I'd like to point out some advantages:

1. Better coverage, world-wide, than Iridium (unless you go to the Poles).
2. No subscription charge if you don't use it.
3. Automatic positioning and emergency trasnmission for free.
4. Two-way data at orders of magnitude higher speeds than Iridium.
5. Lower latency in comms -- when you talk, it's like a conversation, not a series of statements by each party with long delays in-between.
Fully agree with the point on SSB vs. Satphone in an emergency - being able to directly call someone you know ashore is invaluable.

I don't however agree with the claim that Inmarsat is superior to Iridium. There are some systematic network differences, but also large differences depending on the type of phone unit being used, so there likely is no simple rule. i.e. comparing Iridium Extreme/9555 vs. Inmarsat Isatphone may lead to different conclusions from comparing Iridium Pilot vs. Inmarsat Fleet.

On the handheld satphone side, I've used both Iridium 9555 and Inmarsat Isatphone on the same boat, and we gravitated towards the Iridium 9555 as primary phone and Inmarsat Isatphone as back-up. I haven't observed significant differences in data throughput or voice quality, but Iridium 9555 connects much more quickly and is easier to use (Isatphone requires pointing the antenna precisely towards the geostationary satellite and takes several minutes more to get a position fix prior to connecting). Also the Iridium 9555 seems to drop fewer calls (especially data calls). This all based on side by side tests, downloading a set of similar GRIB files/emails. The one advantage in favor of the Inmarsat Isatphone is its much lower price, although that difference reverses if you account for a semi-fixed installation (with dock + external antenna), as the Isatphone dock/antenna price are multiples of the Iridium's.

Specifically addressing your points (caveat: from personal experience & research - I'm certainly not a satphone expert):
1. Better coverage, world-wide, than Iridium (unless you go to the Poles).
=> Not true as far as I can tell. Iridium has 50+ satellites vs. 3 for Inmarsat. Even accounting for the higher power of Inmarsat's geostationary satellites, my own experience (non-polar uses) is it's easier to get a strong signal with Iridium.

2. No subscription charge if you don't use it.
=> I believe both companies primarily offer prepaid plans with limited duration (1-2 years max), so you end up losing the minutes if you don't use them. No significant advantage to either.

3. Automatic positioning and emergency trasnmission for free.
=> Interesting point - not aware of this.

4. Two-way data at orders of magnitude higher speeds than Iridium.
=> Certainly not true for handheld units. Both providers' speeds are similar in practice, with an edge to Iridium because of latency (see below).

5. Lower latency in comms -- when you talk, it's like a conversation, not a series of statements by each party with long delays in-between.
=> This is not consistent with my understanding/experience, certainly for data (and some limited voice experience). The low-orbit Iridium satellites allow much lower latency than Inmarsat's more distant geostationary satellites. This seems to explain why in my experience the Iridium 9555 connects faster and is more stable (seems to lose fewer data packets) than the Inmarsat Isatphone.
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Old 14-08-2013, 09:01   #28
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

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Fully agree with the point on SSB vs. Satphone in an emergency - being able to directly call someone you know ashore is invaluable.
From my own experience, having the phone number for the relevant CG stations is more important. When one of my crew had a medical issue 1000 miles north Hawaii he was able to talk to the flight surgeon who recommended a medical evacuation.

We were unable to raise any appropriate vessels or CG using either VHF or SSB. We were a part of a radio net of 5 vessels making the passage; none had a doctor aboard and we all had about the same ETA to Victoria. Altering course would not have had us in port any earlier. At that point the use of an EPIRB was considered plan C.
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Old 14-08-2013, 09:45   #29
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

Imagine your boat sinking in a violent storm (or even in fair weather) and you are messing around trying to tune in the SSB and reach someone. Reception is issue even when the weather is good. How good is your transmission with the batteries shorted by sea water? Or you are getting weak reception so you need to turn off all the SSB RFI generating equipment on board. Your task loading is through the roof and you will probably fail.

With the Iridium, 3 or 4 button pushes dials the preprogrammed emergency number like the USCG. A no brainer operation. Plus you bring it with you when you step up into the life raft. Oh yea, who was getting the life raft ready (and keeping it from blowing away) when you were trying to raise someone on the SSB?

As I have posted on CF before we had new ICOM and Iridium equipment onboard for two years and the SSB was rarely used. It was too much hassle to be on other peoples and atmospheric schedules. The Iridium was pure magic with no learning curve.

The SSB nets were totally overrated as we participated leaving the Canaries. After about 4 days we lost reception with the base. Also, no useful information was exchanged during these first four days.
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Old 14-08-2013, 10:11   #30
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Re: SatPhone vs SSB/SW

Quote:
Originally Posted by galacticair View Post
Fully agree with the point on SSB vs. Satphone in an emergency - being able to directly call someone you know ashore is invaluable.
.
In an emergency, any means of communications is great to have, and the more different means the better.

However, I would caution against thinking that "being able to directly call someone you know ashore" -- while it's great and certainly comforting -- is any kind of substitute for the main means of distress signalling as defined by the GMDSS system:

1. EPIRB
2. DSC calling over VHF
3. DSC calling over MF/HF

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