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Old 05-09-2016, 00:24   #1
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Which satellite phone

Hello
I'm planning on cruising to the South Pacific next year.
I'm thinking of buying a sat phone instead of installing a HF radio.
Hopefully I will be able to use it for weather reports and daily scheds
Can anyone recommend a brand and service provider

Thanks
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Old 05-09-2016, 06:30   #2
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Re: Which satellite phone

Iridium

We have a Inmarsat ISatPhone and used it on our Atlantic crossings for email, texts and weather. At the time of purchase, the phone and prepaid minutes were a third the cost of Iridium. Data is slower with the Isatphone, and we have had issues getting a reliable signal (we do not have an external antenna). Now, the price is about equal.... and price was Inmarsats only real advantage over Iridium.

I'd also recommend you get a cheap ssb receiver for weatherfax downloads. It's a great tool.... and it's free.

Matt
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Old 05-09-2016, 07:39   #3
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Re: Which satellite phone

Inmarsat or Iridium phone.

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Old 05-09-2016, 22:04   #4
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Re: Which satellite phone

Quote:
Originally Posted by funjohnson View Post
Iridium

We have a Inmarsat ISatPhone and used it on our Atlantic crossings for email, texts and weather. At the time of purchase, the phone and prepaid minutes were a third the cost of Iridium. Data is slower with the Isatphone, and we have had issues getting a reliable signal (we do not have an external antenna). Now, the price is about equal.... and price was Inmarsats only real advantage over Iridium.

I'd also recommend you get a cheap ssb receiver for weatherfax downloads. It's a great tool.... and it's free.

Matt

Pretty much all is said here. Inmarsat attracted users with their iSatPhone and then steeply hiked the prices upwards once we were hostage. So after changing from Iridium to Inmarsat we returned to Iridium since it works better (getting proper reception is tougher on the iSatPhone, especially if there is a cliff or mountain in the way of the satellite: it's geostationary so you won't get a better signal until you leave the anchorage, whereas with Iridium, just wait a few minutes)


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Old 05-09-2016, 22:53   #5
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Re: Which satellite phone

Thanks very much for the info
Sounds like iridium is the way to go.
Grib files for the weather are very small files and the phone should be good for that.

Thanks
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Old 07-09-2016, 15:14   #6
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Re: Which satellite phone

Based on our experience over the past 3 years in the Caribbean and South Pacific here's our thoughts.

We chose the Iridium Extreme 9575 coupled with a RedPort Optimizer and XGate's (GMN) software/email. We use it almost exclusively for email and weather underway (GRIB's and the occasional weathermap fetch from NOAA for the bigger picture). We rarely use it for voice.

Overall it's served us well, but theres a couple items I'd note:
- Next time I'd simply buy the 9555 instead of the 9575. We chose the Extreme due to the improved weatherproofing and the SOS feature thinking it would be better for the ditch bag in the unlikely event that was necessary. The Extreme though requires an adaptor on the bottom to use either USB or a USB/External Antenna. We've found the adaptor a bit fragile and our USB/External Antenna adaptor has become quite flaky now. Luckily we find the phone works well by itself sitting beside the companionway, so it's not an issue, but the 9555 seems to have much more robust connectors and is cheaper. For the weatherproof issue, I'd simply buy a cheap large cell phone dry bag next time.
- A few friends have recently discovered that Iridium does not have drivers for direct connection to a computer past Windows 7. That means you have to buy an Optimizer (Iridium no longer has their own I believe) to be able to connect with a newer Windows computer. I've never been able to get our Mac to talk directly with the Iridium phone, but since we've got the Optimizer I haven't tried hard to make it work.
- If I was solely in the Eastern Caribbean again, given the extensive cell coverage available and short crossings (2-3 days max), I'm not sure I'd bother with a sat phone there. The Bahamas and Western Caribbean are a bit different matter talking with friends who've cruised them, I'd probably have a sat phone for weather there.
- Travelling with a few friends over the past couple years however, I think I'd now go with the Iridium GO now for the South Pacific or other remote locations. When I add up our sat phone minutes, plus the XGate subscription, the cost would be a bit over 2/3 of the cost of the monthly subscription with the Iridium GO (we've spent a lot of time out of cell coverage in the past 2 years though). The added benefit would have been the unlimited email (for more frequent contact with friends and family, plus more frequent kid's home schooling submissions) and weather (I like comparing multiple models and understanding the larger patterns at play)
- Friends who've bought their Iridium GO and Optimizers through PredictWind have spoken highly of them and the service, but we haven't got personal experience with them.
- Finally, before buying and installing a remote antenna, I'd buy the system and try it without first. A lot of our friends are finding (like us) that the system works fine without an external antenna either right at the chart table on a lot of catamarans or under the protection of the dodger.

Just our 2 bits…..YMMV. Good luck.

Mark
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Old 07-09-2016, 16:11   #7
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Re: Which satellite phone

Thanks a lot for all that info.
Does the iridium phone use the predict wind app and other weather apps??

thanks

John
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Old 07-09-2016, 23:56   #8
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Re: Which satellite phone

We use Weather4D for weather analysis and routing on the iPad, so can't speak with much knowledge about PredictWind.

The way we typically manage weather files on the iPad with the sat phone is via email only using XGate's app for connecting to the sat phone with the RedPort Optimizer. For GRIBs, I send an email to SailDocs with the parameters for the GRIB either generated from Weather4D or by myself using the script info from SailDoc's instructions. About 1/2 the time I'll get the email with the GRIB back from SailDocs in the same session if I'm sending other emails at the same time. Otherwise it will come the next time I fetch our email.

Once I've received the GRIB email, I can then open it in Weather4D, iNavX or Garmin's software.

Even if the software would automatically open the phone and fetch the data, I suspect I would still go the email route since I can better manage the connection time and optimize it with other emails I'm sending or receiving. With the sat phone, you pay for connection time from the moment it hooks onto the system until it logs off, so you pay 'minutes' for all the 'handshakes' and 'goodbyes' with the server. They can take a surprising amount of time (I'd estimate it's 15-20% of the time charged for sending just a single email) so I try and minimize them by lumping activity together. With sate phones, think old style dial up modems (if you're old enough to remember that) instead of broadband type access behaviours.

If you had an IridiumGO it might be a bit different as you're not paying by the minute typically if you have a data subscription.
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Old 08-10-2016, 09:02   #9
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Re: Which satellite phone

I used to use Iridium and now use Inmarsat IsatPhone. Iridium was I feel Far far better, but the IsatPhone was a lot cheaper to run. Sadly, and I am SO ANGRY about this, Inmarsat hiked the pay as you go price by effectively 100% for low users like me very recently. What would be valid for 6 months is now only valid for 3 months, hence an annual doubling in charges. I currently have over 400 units of credit but in reality am about to dump my service over this and in a few weeks my units will vanish. I feel so strongly that this is unreasonable behaviour by a virtual-monopoly company. Lets face it, for the occasional use I make of the system, it costs them NOTHING to keep me as a customer, but instead they have lost me. Buyer beware. Sadly, Inmarsat also have something of a track record for unreasonable and unjustifiable increases.
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Old 10-10-2016, 15:20   #10
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Re: Which satellite phone

Jack,
1) As you can easily see in the other responses, your answer is an easy one-word answer:
Iridium...

And, if you desire voice comms, that means an Iridium phone (not the Iridium GO),, and please take note that while data comms can continue under less than ideal conditions (weak signals, partial obstructed phone/antenna), sat phone voice comms require more robust connection...
So, while using an Iridium GO or Iridium sat phone for data, may be acceptable sitting it in the companionway, etc., if you wish to make (and especially receive) voice calls, plan on using an external antenna (but, it can be a simply, passive ext ant)
{BTW, in full disclosure, although I'm not associated in any way with Iridium, I was one of their first beta-testers back in the late 90's, and I've made my living in communications, especially sat comms, for > 30 years...INMARSAT is a nice company, but for most cruisers they're way too pricey and too complicated....}

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack999000 View Post
Hello
I'm planning on cruising to the South Pacific next year.
I'm thinking of buying a sat phone instead of installing a HF radio.
Hopefully I will be able to use it for weather reports and daily scheds
Can anyone recommend a brand and service provider

Thanks
2) Jack, I hope you don't mind a few quick, ancillary, comments/info regarding something you wrote in your query???

You wrote:
"I'm thinking of buying a sat phone instead of installing a HF radio.
Hopefully I will be able to use it for weather reports and daily scheds"

And, I'd like to remind you of three important points, before you make any decisions....

a) You can get the gold standard of offshore / hi-seas marine weather info/forecasts (WeFax charts and images) for free, via HF radio (even with just a $100 HF receiver and some free software)....
These WeFax charts, from US NWS/NOAA, the Aus Bureau of Meteorology, NZ Bureau of Meteorology, etc., are drawn by humans...experienced, seasoned marine meteorologists....(and the guys from the US NWS/NOAA sign their name to each one they put out there, putting their personbal reputation on the line every day!)
(yes, you can get these wefax charts from saildocs as well, and pay for your sat phone airtime, etc....but they are available for free worldwide, via HF radio)

These WeFax Charts differ from what most users of sat phone e-mail delivered weather info get....as they are typically getting GRIB files, which are the raw computer model data....(and the really disturbing part is that most will only use one computer model)

The seasoned, experienced marine meteorologists use multiple computer model data, and their own years of experience, as well as ship / aircraft reports, etc., etc., to come up with their weather forecasts / charts...

This may sound like "no big deal", and when looking at well-traveled locales, and short-term 24-hour forecasts, they differences are small...
But, when looking out 3, 4, or 5 days, the differences are large...

And, I just wanted you to be fully aware of these differences...


b) Secondly, I'm not aware of anyone that has any sked with fellow cruisers on their sat phone???
Perhaps some have done so, and not publicized it, but I'm not aware of any...and even if there are some that do call each other at some scheduled time, remember that is a point-to-point, one-to-one, conversation...

If you're looking to have a sked with someone, or more typically multiple someones/sailors, then HF radio is THE way to go...
The "broadcast" nature of radio, and the wide distances covered by HF radio, make its use in this instance to be well suited....
And, makes using a sat phone to be...well, pretty difficult...


c) Third...
If you wish to signal other vessels, for any reason, when beyond VHF-DSC range....and/or shore stations world wide for any reason (routine, safety, distress, etc.)....then you will need MF/HF-DSC-SSB radio....
Remember, that this has been the case now for the past couple decades....
Since the implementation of the GMDSS in the 1990's, and since its worldwide requirement for all signatory nations and all SOLAS vessels, in Jan 1999....

Remember, there are > 80 HF-DSC shore stations worldwide, > 450 MF-DSC shore stations worldwide (and 1000's of VHF-DSC shore stations worldwide), and 1000's of SOLAS vessels plying the oceans daily...
Without MF/HF-DSC radio, you will not be able to contact them....
(yes, the USCG, the Aus AMSA, and the NZMA, still monitor some of the GMDSS HF-SSB Voice frequencies, that is it....and nobody is listening on 2182 anymore, and haven't for a while!!!)



Jack, I'm not trying to talk you out of buying an Iridium phone.....just letting you know that the choice really should be "sat phone" or "HF radio", but "sat phone" vs. "PACTOR modem"...and an HF radio (MF/HF-DSC-SSB Radiotelephone) is usually still considered standard equipment...

I hope this helps...

Fair winds...

John
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