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Thread: Sat Comms with XGate - General

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default Sat Comms with XGate - General

    Has anyone used XGate with their Iridium 9555 or 9575 satellite phone? If so what was your experience? Does it live up to the hype? Worth the price? What about the xweb? Specifically, I am looking at how fast can I receive and send email (text) how fast can I send 1mb (photo) or 5mb(video clips), how does it work with GRIB files and what software did you use to get the grib files and from where and or experience with integration with Expedition?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Fort Collins, Colorado


    I have used the Iridium 9555 satellite phone for the 2010 Transpac and more recently for 6 months cruising from Patagonia to Panama. I use OCENS as my email handler, but it is just a different front end to X-gate, it's all the same. Overall the performance is not that great, but eventually, it does get through. I use the hockey-puck mag base antenna below a window in the main cabin, which gives noticeably better performance than the stick antenna, and an external antenna may be better yet. Each attempt to make a data connection has about a 30% chance of success, and it is rare for it to remain connected for more than two minutes. The good news is that the system resumes download at the point of interruption when reconnected. My typical usage, check-email and download a 20kb GRIB file, will usually take 10 to 30 minutes of connection attempts and reattempts, and cost 5 to 10 minutes of air time, most of it burned in connection startup overhead. I do upload small photos to my blog, 15 to 20 kb MAX. It is simply impossible to expect this phone to do hi-resolution photos, that kind of performance requires Iridium Openport or Inmarsat Fleet Broadband, which have external satellite domes. I also have a Sailor 150 on Inmarsat, which is really nice and more economical on air time, but the unit failed after two months and I used the Iridium faithfully.

    Overall, the Iridium 9555 is a reliable, sometimes frustrating, low entry-cost system for text only email and compact grib files, but no more. I get the GRIBs from Saildocs, save to the computer, and open in Expedition, works great. Keep your GRIB files trimmed to the area you need, use 2 degree resolution if it is a large area, and don't bother getting more than 5 days out. See to get instructions on how to request a GRIB by email.

    Jeff Lebesch
    SHTP 2008, 2010 s/v Hecla
    currently catamaran Hekla, 4000 miles from the start line, can't manage the delivery for this year's race...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007


    I seem to have slightly better results than Jeff, but it's definitely not a high-speed connection. I've used the 9505a during my last three Hawaii trips (there and back), and in the south pacific. I wait until the phone is showing good signal strength, and then the connection is usually good for five minutes or so. Perhaps 25% of the time the connection drops in mid-transfer, but I just wait for a solid signal and pick up where we left off. I now have the 9575 and it seems to work as well as the 9505a did.

    The big external antenna does seem to work best, but during one passage my main antenna crapped out and I used the hockey-puck instead. It wasn't too bad.

    OCENS is just XGate re-branded, and they do work well. You can also use SailMail with the satphone, and this reportedly works as well (or nearly as well) as XGate. Do not even consider using regular internet / modem / email software with the satphone. The performance will be ludicrously bad / essentially unusable. XGate really speeds up the establishment of a connection, and handles dropped connections well.

    I get my GRIBS and WFAX graphics from Saildocs, and use the XGate email server. I probably download 100KBytes / day, and it takes about ten minutes of connect-time. You need to get familiar with the spam filtering options, or you risk having some useful email trapped with no easy way to un-trap it.

    Video clips? Probably not. I occasionally send highly-compressed and cropped jpegs, generally < 30KBytes, but even these take a long time.
    Last edited by Paul Elliott; 05-16-2012 at 06:17 PM.

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