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Thread: sat phone options

  1. #1
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    Default sat phone options

    Awhile back somewhere on this forum there was a discussion of buying a used Sat phone. Technology marches on: does anyone have advice regarding a purchase in today's market?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Philpott View Post
    Awhile back somewhere on this forum there was a discussion of buying a used Sat phone. Technology marches on: does anyone have advice regarding a purchase in today's market?
    Hi Jackie - a lot depends on what you want the phone to do.

    I've been looking at the satphone market lately, and my goal is a mobile handset with worldwide coverage, offering voice, email, and grib file transfer, handheld device that can be used off the boat (a handset, not a fixed installation), as well as use on the boat from belowdecks via an on-deck (external) antenna - the Iridium 9555 in a marine bundle is the most cost-effective package at the moment.

    If you only require near-coastal coverage, then look at GlobalStar's products and satellite constellation footprint.

    If you want to do any web-browser/internet surfing then skip the satphone and you're looking at much bigger, typically active, antennas offering higher bandwidth at greater cost and power consumption.

    Most cost-effective Iridium airtime seems to be prepaid 500 minute cards good for 1-2 years (minutes expire after that).

    Inmarsat's IsatPhone using their GEO hi-orbit satellites has issues as regards keeping the handset antenna pointed at the satellite.

    Iridium's new Extreme phone is available at a higher price-point than the older 9555, offers very good handset waterproofness, and minimal functional improvements. It appears that Iridium is not planning to discontinue the 9555, but rather is offering the 9575 to attact a different market segment. If the 9555 were being discontinued, I would buy the 9575.

    And anything using Globalstar or similar satellite constellations is limited to near-coastal areas. Great for the Bahamas, not so great for Hawaii.

    With Iridium, if you want to send/receive email or digital files, you'll want to spend the money on XGate or Ocens service to manage file compression and dropped calls during transmission. Factor their cost into cost of the service if you want

    So what do you want the phone to do?

    - rob/beetle

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    Hi, Rob, Thanks for all that excellent and timely advice. First of all, I want to be able to call in my coordinates twice daily from here to longitude 124 degrees 40'W and back. How about an older sat phone for less money with which I can simply use for that purpose?
    Last edited by Philpott; 04-11-2013 at 03:39 PM.

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    GlobalStar's products ought to work out to 200 miles off US west coast for that purpose.

    I have rented satphones from the SatPhoneStore.com (in Florida) and had good luck with them. Here's their GlobalStar page:
    http://www.satphonestore.com/tech-br...lstar-nav.html

    If you specifically want the phone for LongPac, then I'd seriously consider renting the phone for LongPac, and afterwards see if you want to buy one for use down the road.

    - rob

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    Jackie, If you're planning on the SSS TransPack,I think Rob's information is spot on. Renting a phone and learning to use it is a good idea. But, it you're just interested in the LongPac, remember you'll have a transponder attached to your boat as part of the package. Folks can keep track of your progress that way.

    Anther, less expensive alternative, is a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger or SPOT Connect. The SPOT will work for the LongPac - and you can use it for other ocean races - but not to Hawaii.

    Pat

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    pogen is offline Sailing canoe "Kūʻaupaʻa"
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    I rented a satphone from OCENS for PacCup, support from them was good, installation and getting software to work etc was gratifyingly easy.

    http://www.ocens.com/

    Since I only need the phone for a few weeks every year or two, and phone technology advances so rapidly, it seemed to make more sense to rent than buy.

    I think we only burned about 70 minutes the whole trip, by the way.

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    Pat, there won't be YELLOW BRICK by the Race Committee this year. Costs were prohibitive for the short duration according to experienced racers.

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    Default GPS Transponders

    Quote Originally Posted by knickspant View Post
    Pat, there won't be YELLOW BRICK by the Race Committee this year. Costs were prohibitive for the short duration according to experienced racers.
    As an "experienced race" I disagree. I think transponders play a vital role in both safety and information. They're a sure-fire way for the RC to keep track of boats and they provide a secure source of information for loved ones back home. I'm toying with the idea of sailing the LongPac this year again, and if they are not being used, I'll buy a SPOT (or similar) so Nancy can know where I am on a regular basis.

    I frankly don't understand. Respectfully, Pat

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    YB darn near bankrupted the last SHTP. Plus somebody (Matt last LongPac) had to run all over the Bay Area getting the transponders working. Not as simple as it looks, nor as inexpensive.

    For LongPac, SPOT looks pretty good but you have to buy the unit PLUS a one-year subscription. Sending position information is a further fee. The club can't absorb all that for the fleet but if individual racers want to buy it, that should (may) meet the reporting requirement.
    Last edited by BobJ; 04-16-2013 at 07:03 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default LongPac Reporting

    Quote Originally Posted by BobJ View Post
    YB darn near bankrupted the last SHTP. Plus somebody (Matt last LongPac) had to run all over the Bay Area getting the transponders working. Not as simple as it looks, nor as inexpensive.

    For LongPac, SPOT looks pretty good but you have to buy the unit PLUS a one-year subscription. Sending position information is a further fee. The club can't absorb all that for the fleet but if individual racers want to buy it, that should (may) meet the reporting requirement.
    Bob, Here's the NOR requirement. I didn't find it in the SIs.

    5.3 All entered yachts must be capable of communicating their location to the Race Committee on
    a to be specified periodic basis for the duration of the race through SMS (text) or email. The
    mechanism of communications is at the entrants choosing such as - but not limited to- an SSB or
    Ham call to a friend that sends the text or email, SSB Pactor modem direct email, SPOT SMS,
    SatPhone SMS, or any other means.

    I am a licensed HAM and have the required Marine SSB licenses (boat and skipper). I also own a SSB radio with HAM capabilities (note: the reverse IS NOT LEGAL!), which I used in the 2010 PacCup. I also rented a SatPhone for that race. Neither of these is inexpensive!

    A used Marine SSB with auto tuner runs from $500 (Kenwood TKM-707 for example) on up. The older units do not work with SailMail, but would communicate with someone back in the Bay Area if a listening schedule was set up. A Marine SSB capable of SailMail (Icom M802) runs around $2,000 plus tuner (AT-140 - just the cable to connect the two is about $80.) Unless you are prepared to install this equipment yourself, that can run up into the $100s. Then there's the antenna (backstay = rigger/insulators) and ground plane. And don't forget the Pactor modem so you can hook up with SailMail, which you have to subscribe to. And the battery(ies) - as you know a SSB draws lots of amps on transmit. And means of pumping that juice back into the battery. You're talking big bucks for the SailMsail option. Of course the plus is being able to receive GRIB files with the proper transceiver/modem. But for the LongPac? Yes, definitely for Hawaii!

    Oh, and don't forget the required SSB FCC licenses, which add up to more than some might think. (Don't make a mistake in filling the form out; there's no refund. and, tick off ALL the electronics, including those you don't plan to install at this time. You never know, and adding something in later on begins the costs all over again.)

    SSB radios, modems, and computers like to stay dry, too. Really dry!

    SatPhone rental is also expensive and if you plan to use it for GRIB files, there's the modem and computer again. Purchasing a SatPhone is very expensive and unless you're going to use it often, renting is probably more sensible. Be sure to include a compression program since GRIB files are large and if you lose the satphone connection, you want a program that will pick up where it dropped off rather than begin all over again.

    For someone just doing the LongPac the SPOT or SPOT Connect begin to look pretty reasonable. With the 1-year contract you can cover any of the SSS/OYRA/BAMA/Monterey races through next May as well. The SPOT satellite network won't get you to Hawaii, but it will work for all the other Pacific inshore races. It doesn't require an FCC license, will transmit limited messages, and you can take it with you when your boat sinks out from under you.

    I wonder how much the SSS would have to charge racers to rent GPS tranceivers when compared to any of the above? If you're planning on Hawaii (a couple of dozen each race), then investing in the proper communication equipment now makes perfect sense. You can screw up 200 miles out instead of going dark for a week. Working the kinks out in your berth compared to something going wrong halfway to Hawaii is not an equal equation.

    It looks like a patchwork system at best, with weak links (that friend who's listening for your SSB transmission) and for folks just beginning today a lot of work and practice to make sure things work properly from their end. If you're planning on a new SSB, then get busy soon with the licensing process. Sequester is not a word the FCC is ignoring - ask any HAM who's dealt with them recently.

    Pat

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