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Old 12-06-2020, 08:29   #1
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Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

Seems to me that it would be great to have an Iridium GO as a safeguard for communications especially on ocean crossings?

How much does it cost to operate and what are the associated benefits?

From online search it sounds like $ 1000 for the kit and then $250 a month for an unlimited data plan.

Is there a better solution for comms and internet?
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Old 12-06-2020, 08:37   #2
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

If you think it’s something you want and would feel better about having it, you should probably get it. Is it a “necessity?” Probably not. You hear stories all the time about people crossing the ocean in 27 foot sailboats with almost nothing. I wouldn’t do it, but they did. So, I would get the Go.
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Old 12-06-2020, 08:58   #3
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

When are you planning to start using it, and where? It seems there are many "better solutions" on the horizon. Starlink has now completed 8 launches and has >400 satellites in orbit. If they keep to schedule they may actually launch service in North America (and surrounding oceans) later this year.

Service should be much better/faster, and proposed pricing much less than GO. But right now they and their competitors are just vaporware. If the need isn't "right now" I'd wait until it was. Regardless of how you may feel about the sheer number/volume of satellites they are there, and are very likely to be a game changer. If it doesn't develop, well, you can go to Plan B and get a GO, or an SSB, or.... at that point.
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Old 12-06-2020, 08:59   #4
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

The unlimited data plan is $139/mo U.S.. In my opinion it's an incredible bargain.



Whether it is a necessity or luxury only you can answer.


It's a fantastic thing for weather information and low bandwidth communication. We took one with us to the Arctic two years ago and it was just fantastic. We had all the weather information we could have possibly dreamed about, updated 4 times daily. In fact I had so much weather information I think it even distracted me from sailing.



But you can do almost everything a Go will do, with an SSB radio and a PACTOR modem. Just Go is much simpler to use.


It is not a necessity to download GRIBs -- you can receive wefax and navtex easily and cheaply by various means.



How much communication you need with the World while you're at sea is something only you can decide. For some people it's essential, others couldn't care less. YMMV.
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Old 12-06-2020, 09:03   #5
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

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Originally Posted by Dsanduril View Post
When are you planning to start using it, and where? It seems there are many "better solutions" on the horizon. Starlink has now completed 8 launches and has >400 satellites in orbit. If they keep to schedule they may actually launch service in North America (and surrounding oceans) later this year. . .

Is Starlink going to offer mobile services as well as fixed terrestrial? I haven't seen anything about that -- I thought it required quite a hefty dish.
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Old 12-06-2020, 09:05   #6
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

Planning well ahead

UK to Carribean (APR 2021)
Carribean (JUN 2021 - MAR 2021)
Panama (APR 2021 - Pacific Islands OCT 2021)
Fiji - Solomon Is - PNG - Philippines (MAR 2022 - AUG 2022)
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Old 12-06-2020, 09:23   #7
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

Currently Starlink says the ground side will be a phased array antenna "about the size of a pizza box". No moving parts, no aiming. How well it might work on a moving vessel is yet to be determined because the information is pretty sparse. Certainly Elon thinks/says they will work on airplanes and cruise ships, but those are generally more stable platforms than our size boats.

For the OP, we think getting weather information enroute is invaluable. The cheapest solution is an SSB receiver that should set you back less than £100 to receive voice and fax weather broadcasts. Once you get into two-way communications the price goes up phenomenally. We currently use an SSB marine/ham transceiver and Pactor modem. Service is free/cheap, but installation costs are quite high (£3k to £4k at a guess with a Pactor modem). If I didn't already own the equipment and was starting fresh I would probably elect the GO even with its monthly costs - you can turn it on and off as desired.
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Old 12-06-2020, 09:29   #8
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

Luxury.


But so are: a good read, a bottle of Champagne, and silk bow ties (I carry 6).


Do not let the luxury / non luxury thinking drive your choices.


Get what is essential FIRST, then get all the luxury you care to carry.


It is sailing boat, not an hermitage.



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Old 12-06-2020, 09:29   #9
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

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. . . If I didn't already own the equipment and was starting fresh I would probably elect the GO even with its monthly costs - you can turn it on and off as desired.

Starting from 0 you will never recover the costs of a new SSB/PACTOR installation. If all you want is weather and some comms to land, then Go is a much better solution than SSB.


SSB, however, and especially if you have a ham license, as I do, is much more versatile and does a whole lot more different things.



By the way, SailMail is not THAT much cheaper than a Go subscription, especially if you are not using Go year round. You can communicate for free with WinLink, but you can't discuss business on amateur radio. So if you need that, then you are forced to go to SailMail and the marine bands.
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Old 12-06-2020, 09:29   #10
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

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Originally Posted by cooper1991 View Post
Seems to me that it would be great to have an Iridium GO as a safeguard for communications especially on ocean crossings?

How much does it cost to operate and what are the associated benefits?

From online search it sounds like $ 1000 for the kit and then $250 a month for an unlimited data plan.

Is there a better solution for comms and internet?
For ocean crossings I find it very valuable and worth the cost. Also, it relieves anxiety for our families and friends allowing them to track us, communicate with us (text and email and occasionally voice), and read daily log/journal entries on my PredictWind tracking page of the day's events and the ramblings of an old man.

The kit cost with external antenna are about $1k. I have a PredictWind account and pay $139.95 per month for unlimited data and 150 talking minutes.

Benefits I found helpful...
- Ability to connect multiple devices
- Unlimited text and emails (based on plan)
- Unlimited downloading prognostic weather charts (I download charts every 12 hours)
- Weather routing (with PredictWind account)
- 150 minutes of voice, that I rarely use (based on payment plan)
- Tracking page (via PredictWind) that is automatically updated hourly
- Portable - I don't need to pay for a local SIM card. I can take my Go unit anywhere (that allows satellite comm devices)

Weather downloads - the weather charts are prognostic charts, not synoptic charts. I also downloaded synoptic charts via my SSB/ham radio, but not daily due to poor radio conditions (BTW...you don't need a Pactor to download weather charts via a SSB/ham radio.)

Weather routing - I found it to be highly accurate. If you setup your preferred conditions and provide your boat's polars correctly it is more accurate compared to default settings. It's not perfect, but really good.

I didn't find voice comms to be ideal. Other people on this forum seem to have had better conditions.

The folks at PredictWind customer service is excellent. I have always received a reply to queries in a very timely manner.

There are better solutions, but they begin around $5000 with $500 per month fees.

WRT to internet...don't count on it. Satellite data speeds are pretty slow. You may be able to download 'reading' pages. Someone on the forum mentioned they downloaded NYT page regularly, but that was not my experience.

Mail size is limited. Default size is 10K. Larger files will get shunted into the "Big File" folder. Large emails with attachments take a loooooooooong time to download.
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Old 12-06-2020, 09:35   #11
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

For us, and this is very user specific, the real value is weather downloads. Those can be done free on Winlink. I don't have much use for other communication other than ham contacts just for fun. We did run some business so maintained a Sailmail subscription for a while, cost is currently $275/year, so only about two months of GO fees.

But I do agree, if I didn't already have the sunk costs (my Pactor modem is > 15 years old) I'd likely go with some form of satellite. It's not a panacea, but not having to worry about propagation windows to get weather would be very nice.
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Old 12-06-2020, 09:59   #12
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

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. . . (BTW...you don't need a Pactor to download weather via a SSB/ham radio.) .. .
Certainly, but most people want GRIBs, and for that a PACTOR modem is a great help. Possible to do it with a sound card, but PACTOR really improves the process.

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. . . WRT to internet...don't count on it. Satellite data speeds are pretty slow. You may be able to download 'reading' pages. Someone on the forum mentioned they downloaded NYT page regularly, but that was not my experience.. . .
You can forget about "Internet" in the sense we use the word today. But the Iridium utilities have a nifty ultra low bandwidth browser which will strip all the graphics out of a web page, and so reading NYT is actually really possible. I did it almost every day.

You can also use the "fetch web page" function in SailDocs which works fantastic! Same principle -- it strips the page down, but you can read all the text, and the hyperlinks stay, so you can browse after a fashion.

None if it is like the real Internet, but it works really well for getting information off of web pages which you need for something.

I found the Go to be supremely useful. Of course now I was using 2400 baud modems in a previous life, so it's not my first experience with ultra low bandwidth. YMMV.
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Old 12-06-2020, 10:07   #13
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

If only the weather is considered, then Go is not required. Much smaller and simpler (and cheaper) InReach has the weather too.


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Old 12-06-2020, 10:10   #14
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

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...Of course now I was using 2400 baud modems in a previous life, so it's not my first experience with ultra low bandwidth. YMMV.
Completely off topic, but I work in facilities that are still using Bell 103 (300 baud) and Bell 202 (1200 baud) modems. Amazing what you can do with that little bandwidth. The problem on the internet is getting the other side to recognize that there are still people out there with bandwidth restrictions. As with everything computer, bloat is a problem.
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Old 12-06-2020, 10:22   #15
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Re: Iridium GO necessity or luxury ocean crossings?

Have both SSB and Iridium on board..have never used the Sat Phone. SSB and a Pactor works great. I think if I was going to start from scratch I'd still want my SSB but from a pure dollars and cents point of view I can see the attractiveness of GO.
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