CB radio versus Sat phone

Hi All
We are planning to travel up thru the centre next May places like Flinders Cooper Pedy
The Alice to Darwin mainly on the black top with a little dirt
What is the best a CB or may be hire Sat phone
Can any one give me there ideas and what they have used
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Reply By: Kris and Kev - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 14:28

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 14:28
You will never be remote, so just a UHF would be fine. Not sure what your current mobile phone is, but if it is with Telstra and able to have an external antenna, that is also the way to go. But even then coverage is generally poor in country Australia, away from major centres. But like I said, you are not travelling remote, there will be lots of other travellers about and I mean lots! Kevin
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Follow Up By: BUSH CAMPER - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 14:49

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 14:49
We have both, but UHF can be used all the time and the sat phone for emergency only.
We bought our sat phone as we travel remote each year. It's a pre paid and cost about 90 cents a minute to dial out, but would never have anybody dials in as they may have to sell their house to pay for the call.
People can send messages to the sat phone for free if they want to, however we hardly ever turned it on.
Regards Hugh
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Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 15:08

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 15:08
You only need a sat phone if you are going so remote you will only meet fellow travellers every couple of days or so. If you think you may inadvertently stray into such places I would suggest you carry a personal locator beacon. You will get assistance just as quickly with one of those and they are much cheaper.
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Follow Up By: Brian 01 - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 19:18

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 19:18
The PLB may be cheaper, but it can only send a distress signal, whereas with the satphone you can actually talk to someone and discuss your problem.
A PLB should only be used in life threatening situations, and once activated, the emergency services assume that is what it is.
However, what if you are simply broken down and need a tow out?
The rescue helicopter that the emergency services sent out is not going to be of much help, and they won't be happy if you are not actually in impending peril.
The sat phone provides a means of clear and concise communication of the problem at hand and also of knowing that the required help is on its way.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 00:14

Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 00:14
Brian, If you are broken down and there is no passing traffic then that IS a life threatening situation.
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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 06:12

Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 06:12
Peter can I ask if you were in that situation where you had broken down. At what point ( timeframe ) would you activate the safety beacon,
Assuming you had plenty of food and water would you wait a couple of days to see if there is any passing traffic or do you set it off immediately ?
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 07:55

Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 07:55
So phone the mechanic 300 kilometers away or send out a search and rescue crew with aircraft and ground crew........

Didn't know the state automotive clubs like the RAA, RACQ, NRMA offered PLB member access.

I think it's a little irresponsible........

QUOTE" and they are much cheaper."...... price should not come into a situation where you need help, what are you going to find the cheapest person to come and get your 4x4 going again!
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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 08:15

Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 08:15
Yes Olcoolone, that is where I am coming from. A sat phone is less than $500 more than an Epirb, not enough to create the situation you just proposed in my opinion
I have used our sat phone to get out of trouble on three occasions, two of them were requiring mechanical assistance in remote desert areas the other requiring RFDS assistance to airlift a sick child which required us to travel 100 ish klms to a suitable pickup point for them. Valuable time that would have been lost using a Epirb
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 13:34

Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 13:34
I don't know what all you precious people are carrying on about. A PLB was designed for the various classes of people including 4WD travellers. See this link, Look under "What types of distress beacons are there?" and "Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)"

Out back safety needs to be considered carefully. No means of distress calling equipment should be used frivolously. However all means of sending a distress call can be used even if you blokes reckon that someone should be using something else.

If someone is broken down on a track where no other traveller is expected to venture along then that is a life threatening situation. If you think there may be some chance of a traveller arriving then it would be stupid to wait for all your food and water to run out before activating the alarm. If you are carrying a PLB then you should also be carrying a CB radio so you can communicate with a search aircraft. If you call early and indicate to the aircraft you just need recovery procedures you may need a few days food to allow a recovery. If you wait too long then it could become an emergency where you need a helicopter for food drops or patient recovery because health due to lack of food.

I'm not sure of the current situation but it is not so long back that there were a few threads where the reliability of sat-phones were mentioned. There were many complaints regarding service dropping out for a while hand holes in the service area. With distress beacons there are no holes in the service area.

I am not promoting these as a means of communication along the Gibb River Road and such places. I am promoting the service for those who go to out of the way places or feel they could stray from the popular outback tracks.
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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 13:59

Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 13:59
Peter your opening post was along the lines that they both do the job but this one is cheaper to buy.
In your last post you seem to think it is acceptable that a simple issue like damaging your last good tyre warrants deploying an emergency beacon response when you may well be less than 100 klms from a roadhouse that could easily assist with a repair / replacement tyre if you were able to contact them.

I think that that is unfairly taking advantage of an essential emergency service and the public purse on the basis of saving a few $$ on your part.

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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Friday, Nov 08, 2013 at 08:48

Friday, Nov 08, 2013 at 08:48
I and many others would be a bit bleep if someone in my group became sick and needed medical help only to find out all available emergency crews are out helping a stranded traveller change a flat tyre...... and sorry we will have to wait our turn.

Peter and one other thing trip preparation and planning make for a perfect trip....... so if you're going to be travelling on a piece of road that no others travel across you don't have to be einstein to realise something may happen and a satellite phone may be a good investment.

A PLB should not even be compared with a satellite phone as they have two totally different functions.

How are you going to call for medical advice if one becomes sick that may not be life threatening.
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Reply By: Member - Chris_K - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 15:15

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 15:15
My experience is that once you leave most regional towns (say 5-10km) you lose most mobile phone coverage. A UHF radio is a must - especially when travelling in convoy, and also allows you to talk to passing trucks etc. We also bought a sat phone a while ago (Iridium) for $1100, and signed up for a $40 per month casual plan with Telstra....dear as poison to call - but then if you need it - cost is irrelevant. We cancel the plan when not travelling. There are also quite a few threads on this forum about sat phones...

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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 17:38

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 17:38
Greg and Leonie,

Two different beasts for two different purposes. The CB (often referred to as UHF to distinguish it from 27Mhz CB) is good for local chatter within a convoy or to talk to other vehicles within 5-10 km. It costs nothing to use. The downside is that in more populous places especially, the airways get cluttered with obnoxious language that you wouldn't want to share with your kids.

For general phone calls, Telstra Next G is about as good as it gets, but don't expect much service once you leave towns - from high points you may have Next G service for 50km, but that's about it. (Some phone companies eg Aldi,Vodaphone, say they use part of the Telstra 3G network - it's not the part you need in the bush!)

A sat phone is good for emergency communications (though very expensive to own and to use) if you go seriously bush and are likely to be on your own for days. Probably better is a PLB (personal locator beacon) for emergency help.

Your itinerary isn't really off the beaten track and you will have passing traffic to assist you if you have trouble, so I wouldn't bother with a sat phone.

Maybe you were referring to HF radio? Good stuff and I wouldn't go remote without it, but for your itinerary, I wouldn't bother with it either.


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Reply By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 18:32

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 18:32
IMO UHF radio is a must have and a satellite phone is a good investment if you travelling a lot.

As other have said about UHF...... and never rely on a UHF for anything more then general chit chat.

A satellite phone is ideal if you do a lot of country/remote travelling, many will say you don't need it or some other bright sparks way of thinking that someone else will come along and help....... don't rely on others for help....... don't rely on others for help........ don't rely on others for help........ don't rely on others for help........ don't rely on others for help.

There are so many scenarios where you may need a satellite phone and you can not wait for someone else to come along and help...... medical emergency, breakdowns and phoning ahead for fuel, accommodation or spare parts. It's great to think someone will stop and you can send a message with them BUT how do you know they will get the message through and if they do when will help arrive due to distance or they are already providing help to someone else 300 kilometers away.

The other advantage is you family and friends can get in contact with you straight away in an urgent emergency.

Some will say no phone call is important enough to warrant a satellite phone..... my response to that is " do you have a phone at home or a mobile.... and if you have; why do you need one if you can use someone elses phone like a neighbor, the one down the road or a passer by......."

The more comms you have the better.
AnswerID: 520968

Reply By: AlbyNSW - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 18:35

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 18:35
As others have said there is no real necessity for either with your itinerary but a UHF is very handy and if you are considering doing more trips in the future I would get one.
If you do not want to permanently mount one in your vehicle you can buy ones that plug into your cigarette lighter and have a magnetic antenna for your roof and will cost you about $250 for a good one
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Follow Up By: Greg M15 - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 21:06

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 21:06
Hi thanks for your info is there a better brand than another when best would I get one and what should I ask for ?
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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 21:30

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 21:30
The particular one I was thinking of is a GME Electrophone TX3100 Plug N Play 80 Channel UHF CB 12V Kit but some of the other brands probably offer a similar unit, you old also get a handheld unit but I suspect these would offer better coverage.
There are a number of companies online and on eBay that sell these for a reasonable price
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Reply By: Member - Boobook - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 18:45

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 18:45
CB's and Sat phones are 2 different classes of comms equipment with different capabilities.

I advise you to get a UHF CB, even if it's a hand held unit, and get one that works with repeaters, SA has a great network of repeaters and you can contact vehicles and bases at 25 km or more. 40Channels is ok and 80 slightly better.

Otherwise they are good to talk to road trains for overtaking, other groups or if you are very lucky to get you out of trouble by with passing traffic. Check out SA tourism and get a repeater map and know how to use repeaters. However you can not rely on CB's for emergencies.

Sat phones are a reliable long distance phone service that can be used for important calls or emergencies such as the flying doctor. It comes at a cost in network fees and call charges though.

I would get a 5w UHF with repeater capabilities and a Telstra NextG blue tick phone. I don't think you need a Sat phone for where you are going, as others have said, too much other traffic. A pair of waving arms will do the job.
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Reply By: Member - Terry W4 - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 19:05

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 19:05
I (in the past) have had an interest in aviation safety in remote areas. I have a UHF radio and an EPIRB - with a built in GPS. This is in my opinion all you need. Problem with satphones is you need to 1. know the number you are going to call and 2. hope that the person is there to answer it. If you are really in the poo - hit the EPIRB - the world weill come a rescue you.

AnswerID: 520976

Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 19:38

Wednesday, Nov 06, 2013 at 19:38
True but you can't use an Epirb to call for mechanical assistance, seek urgent medical advice over the phone or the many other initially not life threatening situations and if you call 000 someone will answer

I carry UHF ,sat phone and the Epirb from my boat
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Follow Up By: Stevesub1 - Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 07:55

Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 07:55
That is exactly what we carry for now. The EPIRB we regard as our 000 call and it may not be for us, we may come across someone who needs 000 and it may be hours or days to a phone. This is where a Sat phone would be handy but for the amount of time we spend away from civilization these days, we cannot justify one.
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