satellite phones

Submitted: Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009 at 18:02
ThreadID: 125587 Views:4189 Replies:7 FollowUps:5
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We are about to tackle the Kimberley and don't fancy being out of contact with the family for long periods of time.

I know this topic has been done ad nauseum, but we would like to get a satellite phone and don't know much about them.
Firstly is it better to hire or buy one, and where do we get one and what is the best type to get. How much do the calls cost etc.
I know someone will tell me to search past posts but perhaps there is something new in the air and would appreciate any advice you could give.

Thanks in anticipation,
Maureen and David.
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Reply By: Motley - Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009 at 18:52

Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009 at 18:52
My two bobs worth after much research.

Firstly, the only true Australia wide coverage is Iridium which is the network used by Telstra. So the phone is a Motorola 9505A.

You can hire or buy. If you hire and only choose to have the phone a few weeks a year this may be the best way to go. I know that you can hire from - Lara Electronics.

If you are buying, you can go to Telstra and they'll sell you the phone and a plan. However, you can buy on Ebay as well. Despite all talk to the contrary, you can use your TELSTRA SIM card in the sat phone. It's bloody expensive to use that card but if you restrict to emergency only and put the SIM back in your normal phone when you have coverage, it can save the cost of the plan. You need to do your own numbers on this.

Hope this is a starting point for you
Motley

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Follow Up By: Motherhen & Rooster - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 02:28

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 02:28
If you go the SIM card, you must have international roaming. You are unlikely to achieve this with a pre-paid, hence i have not tried it out, but a few people on ExplorOz have had success. It works like a divert, so you pay for incoming as well as outgoing calls. If you do choose this option, amke sure you have it working before you leave as some people have trouble; again gleaned from others on ExplorOz.

Motherhen
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Reply By: Grumblebum & Dragon - Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009 at 19:49

Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009 at 19:49
The other alternative is to consider is HF radio. The current models provide phone contact via Radte etc and a messaging service. Clubs like VKS737 or HFOZ are very proffessional and the HF community on these services is first class. Joining one of these licenses you to use HF.

Listening to the sked calls coming in from all over the country is like 'bush TV' and can be entertaining.

One of the advantages of HF is that is a 'one to all' system whereas a sat phone is 'one to one' (and you need to know the number) - help may be just down the road and advice is available from all over. They would always be my first call in an emergency situation.

HF sets can also be hired.

Cheers John
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Reply By: Motherhen & Rooster - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 02:36

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 02:36
Hi Maureen and David

We didn't get the sat phone for the Kimberley where there is plenty of traffic, but had a potential medical problem so got one before tackling the Tanami and Great Central Road. It cost $2,000 and we were not eligible for the Govt subsidy which needs to be sorted out well before purchase if you are. We got it on a $30 per month plan - the cheapest, which meant calls are at dearest rate, but it was for emergency only. As an insurance it worked - we never used it. Knowing it was there helped, as when we had a breakage on the Great Central, knowing we could call for help prevented panic and we were able to get fixed and on the road again.

Family back home were told when we left Derby that we had no idea of how many weeks it would be before we reached Kununurra, so not to worry.

One reason we chose sat phone of HF, as the phone can be taken on walks in case of accidents. It also meant our family could get through to us if they had an emergency. Reassurance all round.

Motherhen
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Reply By: Trish n Phil - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 05:44

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 05:44
Maureen and David,
Be cautious of buying a sat phone from ebay. We purchased one through ebay early march, the phone did not turn up after we made the money transfer. Ebay is a faceless organisation as you can only deal with them by email and they basically dont want to know that a fraud has been committed.
Regards
Phil
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Follow Up By: Kilcoy Yowies - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 08:09

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 08:09
Thanks for all the good advice and I will make some enquiries with Telstra and also Lara Electronics. What is the Govt subsidy you mentioned Motherhen?
The reason we want a sat phone is to be able to be contacted by the family should there be any problems at home...peace of mind really.
Sounds like you had bad luck with EBay Phil. I will take your advice

An HF radio would be great to have too, and as you say, very useful in an emergency.

Cheers,
Maureen and David
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Follow Up By: Motherhen & Rooster - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 09:34

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 09:34
Hi Maureen and David

Site Link

Although there are slight changes every time i look at it (over a number of years), you have to live or work in an area with no mobile coverage, for a significant proportion of the year.

Getting ours was peace of mind as well as beating that "Murphy".

Mh

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Reply By: Muddy - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 17:54

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 17:54
Hi Maureen & David,
If your interested in going the way of a HF Radio
I will be listing a Barrett 950 with 910 high gain aerial on the for sale forum in the next few days.
cheers
Brian
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Reply By: The BrakeAways - Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 06:17

Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 06:17
I've had a Codan 9323 HF with autotune since 1997 and a Telstra Iridium 9505A since 2006.
The HF is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends who are also on the road and getting weather info from radio bases (e.g. VKS737) and general chit chat. It's also great if you are in a convoy and you are too far spread out for UHF, e.g. if you have 5 vehicles and they're each 4 km apart due to dust, that may put you out of range on UHF especially in hilly terrain.
HF is also free to talk on, so you can move to a frequency and talk more or less forever for nothing.
However, HF has some downsides:
It can be finicky in terms of picking the right frequency and the right time of day. The signal can also “fade” even while you are using it, requiring you to cut the conversation short or (both of you) move to another frequency.
You can only “talk” to someone on HF who happens to be listening to HF on the same frequency at the same time. This can take quite some coordination.
There may be lots of traffic on the frequency making it difficult to "get in" and if you are “in”, you may have to keep your conversation quite short as a courtesy to others.
There is no privacy on HF.
If you do have a breakdown etc, and you go through (say) VKS base, then there is a "middle man" between you and the repair people or others. This can be a real nuisance in terms of trying to assess your options and making decisions. However, it is certainly true that getting a part may be much easier through HF contacts.
Making phone calls through HF is possible but again is tricky and has no real privacy. It’s not so bad if you initiate the call, but quite difficult for someone else to initiate a HF radiotelephone call to you. Phone calls on HF are also usually limited to (say) 6 minutes.
If your vehicle burns to the ground, your HF goes with it. However, you can grab your sat phone as you depart and call for help!
Satellite phone (Iridium) works just like a normal phone and therefore has all the advantages of a normal phone. I also use it extensively for “data” (i.e. checking emails, internet access etc). I find almost no delay on voice calls if calling a fixed line but a small delay calling a mobile number, so there is the tendency to “talk over” the top of one another esp when calling a mobile phone.
You can go onto a “higher plan” for any short period (even a few days) and that takes call (or data) time to about $0.40 per 30 seconds. The Telstra sat people are very friendly and very helpful. Calls to the Sat phone people are free, even on the sat phone itself.
Satellite phone can only be used outdoors (unless you have an external aerial), which can be annoying in cold or wet weather. However, because the signal from the satellite itself is much stronger than from the phone, I find that I can leave the sat phone on in the van (or even a single storey house) and it will “chirp” when an incoming call comes in, allowing me time to move outside the take the call.
I got the van wired up from the start for both an external NextG aerial and an external Sat phone aerial so can be used reliably inside. Also have a car kit for inside the car.
As MH pointed out, the sat phone is portable (weighs only about 400 g) so can be taken anywhere, unlike HF. With HF, most people have it fitted into their car, so if the “chat time” is during meal time, you have to sit in your vehicle and not the van. With the sat phone, you just take it with you.
I use mine a lot overseas and it also works on boats and planes (not legal to use it on commercial flights, but OK for others if pilot gives the OK).
I also use the SMS facility on the sat phone; works just like normal phone.
In summary, if funds are high, then get both HF and sat phone. HF is free, lots of fun, and great for extended talks to others on the road with HF. However, for keeping in touch with family and friends, and for genuine emergencies and true portability and flexibility, you can’t beat the sat phone. In addition, if you want to check your emails away from mobile phone range, sat phone is basically the only practical option.
Rick
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Follow Up By: Kilcoy Yowies - Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 17:29

Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 17:29
An excellent overview on both HF radio and satellite phones Rick and Julie.
We feel well informed on how things work now and we can now go and get what we want with a lot more confidence.
This site is an excellent way of sourcing information and thanks everyone for taking the trouble to reply so thoroughly.
Regards,
David and Maureen
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Reply By: Jorgo - Monday, May 04, 2009 at 21:32

Monday, May 04, 2009 at 21:32
Hi Maureen & David

We bought our Motorola satellite phone from Satpac Pty Ltd at Helensvale on the Gold Coast. www.satpac.biz We get them to turn our phone on and off as needed. Then if we are touring where there is good moblie coverage, we are not paying for satellite calls. The only inconvenience is getting them to post us a new sim card on each occassion, with a new phone number of course.
We are not locked into a contract and are very happy with doing it this way.

Darryl & Robina.
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Follow Up By: Kilcoy Yowies - Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 22:55

Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 22:55
Re search for a sat phone.
We were lucky to buy a second hand sat phone in the end. Its a one owner Iridium Motorolla 9500. It is not the latest model by any means but came with all the bits including a good car aerial and we got it at a very good price. Thanks to Darryl and Robbies posting we contacted Satpac at Helensvale and have a contract for $30 per month.
If we had gone with Telstra we would have paid $30 per month but would have needed 12 month contract and as we only need the phone in use for about 6 weeks it was not worth it.. With Satpac we just cancel it when we are finished with it, just pay month to month.
We have tried it out and it works really well, and now when we go out of range in the next week we will have the peace of mind we wanted. The calls cost approx $2 a minute so will only use it in an emergency or a quick catch up with the family.
Thanks everyone who put forward their two bob's worth.
Ten Four!
Maureen and David
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