Originally Posted by Atraxia
If I understand correctly, I need to find only an Iridium provider and just take the right plan for us? The rest is pretty much straight forward.
Correct for getting an Iridium SIM card that enables the voice/data calling capability (like a SIM on your phone).
[EDIT: following description applies if you're using a bandwidth-limited handheld satphone system like Iridium 9555, Iridium Extreme or Inmarsat Isatphone -- don't think you absolutely need dedicated email software
for higher-bandwidth Iridium Pilot or Inmarsat Fleet solutions, although it may still help]
However, it's not so straightforward for email. You could theoretically use Iridium's free proprietary data software (Iridium Direct Internet 3.0) to connect to the internet and then launch gmail in your regular browser. However, given the VERY slow speed of the Iridium handheld data connection (true of all handheld satphones as far as I know), this approach is unworkable in practice (even if you try to turn off all the usual bandwidth hogs: browser images
off, all automatic software updates off: Windows, antivirus, browser, Apple/itunes, etc). I've tried and never got it to work
to any reasonable level of satisfaction.
Which is why most people do use some kind of specialized satellite-email software to establish a connection with a dedicated email server onshore (+often using a compression algorithm to maximize the connection speed). This dedicated email connection is firewalled such that the computer doesn't detect this as a traditional "internet" connection, so it doesn't try to run the usual automatic updates & other internet bandwidth hogs that will overwhelm the satphone's bandwidth.
There are a number of threads here that discuss the various email software programs. Some of the names that come up most are:
- XGate by GlobalMarineNet (GMN)
- Teleport-IT/Express Mail by MailaSail
- UUplus by UUplus OR Spsmail
- Skyfile Mail by Vizada
- AmosConnect by Stratos
Each of these is broadly similar and highly effective, but offers different payment plans (monthly/annual, etc), occasionally different features (XGate in particular being more feature rich), and different levels of installation
support (installing satphone email isn't trivial if you have limited computer skills). I've also heard that some vendors of Iridium SIM cards/minutes will bundle free/cheap access to one of these software solutions, but don't exactly know which ones do this (worth asking your SIM card vendor).
My personal favorite is Vizada's Skyfile Mail because it's free, simple and works well, but it certainly isn't the most common in the yachting community.
It's worth researching the software so you get comfortable that it will suit your needs. Once you installed and gotten used to it, it's pretty "fire & forget" and should give you no trouble.