Do we need to take a Sat Phone?

In July, Aug and Sept this year, we're heading on a driving holiday and wonder if we need to take a sat phone. 2 adults, 2 children in 1 landcruiser (+ camper trailer) with 2 x fridge/freezer and plenty of water and diesel; the wife is a doctor. We will have a UHF and, for what it's worth, mobile phones (Telstra).

Our general route is:Brisbane-Charleville-Karumba-Darwin-Kakadu-Kunumulla-Broome(Gibb River Rd)-Uluru(Tanami)-Winton-Airlie Beach-Brisbane.

What do you think; reckon we need a sat phone?

Thanks all
Andrew
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Reply By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 09:43

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 09:43
No Andrew your UHF and Telstra phone should do fine , it sounds like you won't be going where no other cars will be for days - just carry common sense things like plenty of water etc.
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Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 09:43

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 09:43
Personally I wouldn't bother.

No doubt some thought has been put into a first aid kit and that should do you. The only two places where it may be helpful, the GRR and Tanami, will have plenty of traffic on them.

If you really feel like it then hire one.

Phil
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Reply By: Athol W1 - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 09:48

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 09:48
The Stathams
The short answer is yes, you do need some form of long range communication (sat phone or HF radio).
Even though your wife is a doctor how would you be if it was your wife that was in dire need of medical assistance, or there was some other form of emergency where you needed emergency assistance.
We have carried a sat phone for the past 3 years, and for 10 years prior to that carried a HF radio, and never had the need to call for assistance, but it is still an essential part of our travel kit. We carry an Iridium phone with a normal Telstra SIM card that is International Roaming enabled on the minimum monthly post paid plan, and this allows the use of all normal Australian phone numbers. The only down side of this arrangement is that Telstra charge double the normal Sat phone call costs (sat phone =$2.00 per minute/Telstra sim=$4.00 per minute)

Should you have any contact with the Police for any reason in some of the areas that you intend travelling, and you do not have some form of long distance communications then you can expect a very stern talking to from them (Police) (been there, done that)

Enjoy your travels, with your sat phone

Athol




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Reply By: AlbyNSW - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 09:56

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 09:56
I pondered the same question a few years back and the only reason I could justify not carrying one is the $$$$ to buy one, If they only cost $100 to buy no one would ask this question LOL

If you carry one you may never need it but it is peace of mind knowing you are better prepared for whatever situations arise
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Reply By: Lyn W3 - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 10:10

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 10:10
No I don't think you need a Sat Phone, you are not going anywhere remote. I do suggest that you should definitely carry and EPIRB just in case something goes pear shaped.
And make sure everyone knows how to set it off in case of emergency.
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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 10:41

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 10:41
I don't follow your line of thinking here Lyn. You don't need a satphone but definately need an Epirb ?
Having a satphone can prevent an emergency whereas do you sit around until it is an emergency to activate an Epirb?

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:38

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:38
When your in a "Real Emergency" Alby an EPIRB is the best, and most reliable and last line of defense.

Espically with childern who can operate one.

Despite all the things that can happen out there, and there are of course cases where a satphone is a real godsend, vehicle rollover is still the No1 cause of death and injury and many are single vehicle events.

While sat phones slowly get better, many are still ify , don't always connect , and can't as easily be used to call for help.

Some of the kids rolled another 4wd recently, no way would a sat phone have got a signal and got them out of trouble but UHF
still works with car on its side (with reduced range).

Never rely on sat phones - they are best for "I am incoveninced type emergences".
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Follow Up By: Aussi Traveller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 14:25

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 14:25
"Never rely on sat phones - they are best for "I am incoveninced type emergences"."

I'm sorry Robin, that is a very naive statement, I have use my sat phone on 6 occasions in an emergency, 1 was a search and rescue were a communication was paramount.

Lets look at a few scenarios here.

you are half way up the Tanami track you are setting up camp for the night and it is late afternoon ( so not a lot of traffic about) or will be for at least 12 hours maybe.

One of your kids gets bitten by a venomous snake, how is a UHF radio with a communication radius of line of site going to help you??

Lets for argument say you have no formal first aid training, (not all doctors can deal with first aid treatment) now at this point first aid is paramount, so what are you going to do?? well you have an epib, good you set it off, now after assessing the situation and setting off the epib you have taken close to 10 minutes, snake bites can start to affect you with in 45 minutes if not treated properly so you now have 35 minutes left before you realy need help, remember you have no first aid training so you haven't done any on the kid and still don't know what to do, what now ?? all you can do is wait.

How ever if you had a sat phone and dialled 000 you have not only alerted the authorities you can now get professional life saving advice over the the phone, you can still set off the epirb for an accurate position locator, but the most important point here is you are getting the best possible advice available.

In this situation you are a bit more than inconvenienced, by the way on our last trip we trained our then 9 year old when to and how to use the epirb and sat phone with little effort.

Phill
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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 15:06

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 15:06
Robin and in that rolled over vehicle, what if there is an occupant in need of immediate medical attention?, the Epirb will not assist the other ocupants to carry out first aid like a 000 call would.

We had a situation last year in central Australia where a travelling companion son with a medical condition fell ill, after discusion with his specialist doctor in Sydney over several hrs of monitoring the situation we were advised that he should be hospitalised. We were able to liase with the RFDS and take him to a location where they were able to airlift him to Broken Hill hospital for treatment. You can't do that with an Epirb.
A sat phone has also saved us days by being able to forward order car parts to keep us going and dropped off at an agreed pick up point.

Personally I carry both as I already have an Epirb for my boat anyway. ( imagine what the rescue party are thinking looking for a white Quintrex in the middle of the Simpson hahaha )
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 17:54

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 17:54
Hi Phil Alby.

You can't analyse things like that - every one of us can come up with some senario that supports one view or the other.

Thats why so much of the deluge of information we get on net and elsewhere is devalued - thats why I began my reply based on whats most likely.

In both of your posts you fall for the same trap but I will just look at yours Alby (I don't think you will make it -but if you do I will buyyour coffee at coffee club to-morrow and go thru the maths.)

An EPIRB isn't going to help someone in need of immediate attention but neither will a sat phone that doesn't make a connection.

The EPIRB has highest chance of making a connection, even in steep high country valleys.

And we all hope help arrives in time , but its true it might not.





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Follow Up By: Aussi Traveller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 18:45

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 18:45
You are right Robin we could make a 1000 senarios that are right or wrong, but I have an epirb and a sat phone so I won't die wondering. :)
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 19:32

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 19:32
Hi

Only 999 scenarios at most :) - you can disregard the "high country" scenario suggested by RW..the OP is heading across Qld to the Kimberley and down the centre and back to Qld. Sat phone is more universal in its functions than an EPIRB so if for some reason you can only get one device for use on the trip described then close to a no brainer. Obviously the more options you have the better - getting both is not that expensive.

Relying on passing traffic for help is not something that should be listed as an option in even mildly remote country - you need to be self sufficient.

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Follow Up By: garrycol - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:07

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:07
We are talking different requirements - everyone should have a PLB irrespective where they are going - as said it is a last line of defence in an emergency. I take mine even when I go 4wding just around the corner.

A PLB does not mean you have nothing else - sat phone, HF, Spot, UHF, smoke signals all have their place and this type of communication is important and depends where you are going but should always be in addition to a PLB.

Garry
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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:14

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:14
Hi Robin, I don't quite follow what the trap is that I have fallen into but thanks for the Coffee Club invitation and would love to attend but a little bit far for me.
A number of scenarios and options have been floated in this thread for people to decide for themselves so no need for me to keep banging on about it,
I carry both devices so nothing to debate for me.

Cheers
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:25

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:25
No Worries Ably , keep it on your agenda if your ever in town though.
Last coffee club it was 41c but as I look out the window at the venue now its under heavy rain 11c and lighting all around - gee may need 4wd in the morning.

This threads already getting a bit convoluted - so I won't continue that discussion - I'm actually a HF convert and take it before anything else - but I don't argue that in this posts context because I'm a special case (geez that could be an opening for some).
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:53

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:53
"..I'm a special case.."

Old news :)

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Reply By: Member - KBAD - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 10:19

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 10:19
I agree with Athol use the telstra sim with international roaming and only use the phone for emergencies, instead of buying new do a search on the net there is a fair few places that sell second hand units mostly ex mining ones you can pick up one with all the kit and waterproof case minus the sim card of course for around the 900 bucks.There have been a few times when we have assisted others when we didn't have it, that would saved a lot of time (important bit) and effort. Even with a EPIRB it still takes time for the signal to be received and acted upon. 000 is pretty much instantaneous contact if not response.
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:10

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:10
Yes. On the route you have indicated, it makes good sense and demonstrates preparedness in my view. The Tanami can be very harsh on vehicles, the Plenty less so it seems and taken steadily, the Gibb is mainly good, but the potential for breakdown is significant on any of them (and not being able to communicate directly with vehicle recovery services can be a real hassle). Once 'out there', seemingly in the middle of nowhere at times, its easy to envisage situations where contact with authorities and support services takes on huge value. I know lots of people have great holidays out there keeping their fingers crossed, but its not for me.... not for a lot of others either. And hey.... I like your idea of having an 'expeditionary physician'..... the very early explorers did a lot of that :-o).
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Follow Up By: Pete Jackman (SA) - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 18:36

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 18:36
I carry HF radio for the same reasons Darian lists, plus the community of listening into the evening sked and expert help with local knowledge that is available when things go pear shaped. We also carry a spot to show the family where we are and as an alternative to an epirb in a serious emergency.
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Reply By: Member - Chris_K - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:10

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:10
Hi All

Agree with taking a Sat Phone - we did the Qld bit of that trip last year. Coverage outside of towns is woeful (we have Telstra) and it's woeful within a couple of km's outside of town. We bought a new sat phone, and used the casual Telstra plan, so it can be cancelled at any time. For our $1000 investment, we now have a phone that we take whenever we go away, have peace of mind, and is relatively cost effective for emergencies. We did use ours once last time when we came across a stranded vehicle with a caravan and no spare tyres. Alternatively, if you have an iPhone - I think there is now something called a "sat sleeve" that turns an iPhone into a satphone. Dunno if it works though!

Check with the accountant to see if your wife can get one as a tax deduction/work tool?

Cheers

Chris
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Follow Up By: Robert H2 - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:58

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:58
Chris,

My wife and I are heading off for 7 months in May and will mostly be traveling by ourselves in some pretty remote places e.g. Oodnadatta Track, Tanami Road, Gibb River Road, East Arnhem Land and then Savannah way over to Cooktown.

We consider a sat phone as essential.

I have just purchased Thuraya sat sleeve for my iphone. (see link for details)

www.pivotel.com.au/pivotel_thuraya_satellite_phones.php

It cost $500 with a $15/month access fee and 99c/min call time.

In my research on this device I didn't find any adverse comments about its operation, but will be able to provide a more authoritative opinion in Dec.

Rob
PS Our 200 is towing a "Matrix"
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Follow Up By: Member - Chris_K - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 22:55

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 22:55
Hi Rob

Would be interested to know how the Sat Sleeve thingy works, as it seems like a good idea.

Off the topic - but I almost traded in the Quantum on a Matrix late last year - but got cold feet in the end...I reckon that the Matrix is a great piece of kit though. If AOR ever get their dual axle caravan off the ground that would also be an interesting bit of gear!

Have fun on your travels, and if the AOR owners forum gets back up and running, would be interested to see some details, as we are doing a similar trip next year.

Cheers

Chris
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Follow Up By: Aussi Traveller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 23:28

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 23:28
I looking at getting one of those sleeves for my phone, you say it cost $500 was that with the subsidy, as the price on the web site says $849 the sales guy I talked to also said the 4s attachment was $110.

Phill
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Follow Up By: Robert H2 - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 00:38

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 00:38
Phill,

The sleeve was $999, but with the government subsidy of 50% it bought the price to $500.

Rob
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Follow Up By: Aussi Traveller - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 01:05

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 01:05
Thanks Robert.
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Reply By: Alloy c/t - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:29

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:29
Where you are going the answer is NO you don't have to have one, make sure that your Telstra phone has the 'rural' tick , as an aside just in the last 2 days a nurse got bogged between Jundah & Blackhall ,even with a sat phone it took 23hrs before she could be reached , she was however able to be in constant communication to the nearest property via UHF…...
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Reply By: Aussi Traveller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:31

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:31
I have a sat phone for work ( I spend a lot of time remote) I also take it on holidays, I have it on a $35 plan and use it quite often.

The phone sits in a box beside the first aid kit and the eprib, the only reason I have the epirb is I have a boat that requirers me to have one, so when the boat is at home and we are on holiday we take it with us.

The phone has been used 6 times for emergencies and probable over a hundred times just to keep in contact while away, apart from the $35 pm plan, I have not received a bill for calls.

By the way lives would have been lost without the phone being handy, Your wife may be a doctor, but unless she spends most of her time in accident and emergency, I would strongly suggest that she also does a first aid course, you should do one too.

Just my thoughts

Phill
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Follow Up By: Aussi Traveller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 13:15

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 13:15
You could try one of these if you have a Iphone, I just spoke at length with a dealer, you can get a subsidy and you can keep your phone #, you can leave the sleeve on and just switch from sat to normal, he did say that it is not as good as a iridium phone but it is definately better than the old globalstar net work.

Phill
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Reply By: Member - Noldi (WA) - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:45

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 11:45
G'day Andrew,
I've done a fair bit of travelling, even way before such things were readily available as they are now. I have a HF setup which I rarely take with me. I would not bother nor worry about it I would go out and enjoy the trip. I doubt you will be very alone on this trip.

Have a good time

Rgds
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:16

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:16
Hi Andrew,

It is true that along the routes you have nominated there are many other travellers, however, if it is a medical emergency will any of these other travellers be able to provide the timely assistance you need? It all comes down to the importance you personally place on support in an emergency and how much you are prepared to pay for that support. I'm sure you would appreciate that having a medical practitioner on-board does not cover all bases. We carry an Iridium 9555 as well as HF radio but then we do go into isolate locations alone. But it is a good feeling to be covered at all times.

An article here on ExplorOz deals with remote communications and is well worth reading.

I would suggest that if the phone was to assist with dire emergencies then it is worth purchasing the most reliable which is Iridium and recommend the 9555 model which can be found new for little over $1000. Second-hand phones can be had cheaper but bear in mind that they will not have full warranty support. More to the point, they will have aged batteries that possibly have not received good charge maintenance and replacement batteries are expensive. The last thing you need in an emergency is a flat battery.

The carrier for Iridium is Telstra and the cheapest plan is currently $35 per month. An alternative is as Athol has said above..... Just transfer your Telstra International Roaming SIM card from your mobile phone and use that. The downside is higher call costs but in a dire emergency that is unlikely to be of concern. Also, if you have been experiencing high numbers of casual incoming calls on that SIM, they may continue in the Satphone incurring significant call costs to you. You can of course leave the Satphone off until you need to make a call. Any SMS messages will be queued for you to view.

Some people put their faith in EPIRB's which certainly can elicit support in an extreme emergency. Their shortcoming is that you receive no assurance that your call has been received and is being acted upon and you are not able to talk to support services to receive advice on action to be taken whilst in wait such as where to travel to in order for RFDS to rendezvous or medical advice. Depending on your location and circumstances the EPIRB support may be as little as the local police driving out to you when what you need is urgent paramedic care. Furthermore, it will not be looked upon favourably if you have used an EPIRB when your problem was with the vehicle and life was not threatened. A phone will allow arrangement for vehicle support without calling out the Cavalry.

There is no "right" or "wrong" way in this. It is what suits your needs and the price you are prepared to pay.

PS. If you do go with the satellite phone option, there is a downloadable list of useful/essential phone numbers available here on ExplorOz. Go to Members/ File Swap/ Radio & Communications and look for "Outback Phone Numbers".



Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Member-George (WA) - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 13:41

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 13:41
I agree with Allan, an epirb works well when at sea, a rescue boat is what you will get. When land based and you set off an epirb, it may take up to a day or more, depending on your location, before either the police or emergency services arrive. At that stage they have no idea what your emergency is. When they arrive, they will assess the situation and make arrangements for appropriate assistance. Time is ticking on. I think you get the picture, especially in a medical emergency.
My preference would be either a satphone or HF radio or both. At least you will be able to explain the type of emergency to people at the other end so that appropriate assistance may be dispatched to your location. In all cases my own preference would be a HF radio. Cheers and safe travelling
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Follow Up By: TTTSA - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 14:19

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 14:19
To counter those "casual incoming calls" you can get a $10.00 month casual plan sim from Telstra which comes with a new phone No. and just give this No. to the handful of people that you want to have it. You won't get hammered with calls from people that don't know you are away.

Cheers
Peter
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Follow Up By: Peter K20 - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 at 17:04

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 at 17:04
Hi, the info regarding time frames in response to Epirus above is incorrect :)
The detection will be treated as a distress and the best available response will be sent. In most outback scenarios an accident/medical issue is considered highly likely. At a minimum an aircraft will try and get over the scene as quick as possible to confirm the problem. Delays are normally a result of it actually taking time to get something out there because they are a long way away. If a local policeman is the nearest or only available a medical person is normally sent with them. Sometimes if it's a bogging or defect and the aircraft can verify everything else is safe then it may take a longer for someone to get out and conduct a recovery.
The best information that can be provided is if the epirb and registered and has up to date contacts and trip details.
Pete
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Reply By: The Stathams - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:54

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:54
Thank you all for your valuable contributions. I'll chat with wife Cath (and yep, I wasn't suggesting she could fix whatever medical emergency arose) plus also a couple of communications engineers here at my work. Not sure which way we'll go yet on the sat phone but I do like the idea of the EPIRB, with or without a sat phone. (My watch has a GPS which at any point in time can give me co-ordinates.)
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Follow Up By: TerraFirma - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 14:34

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 14:34
There was a lot of YES and lot of NO in the answers, in my opinion that simply demonstrates everyone's personal view vs what is the correct answer, if there is one. I like the Epirb and GPS enabled option. With your Telstra phone I presume you also have an external antenna? Can extend range dramatically and be the difference in getting a call out. (Speaking out aloud here). GPS co-ordinates are one thing, but getting external help is another so adding a Sat Phone as a backup would not go astray, what price do you put on better to be safe than sorry. You need to have a contingency plan for every scenario, not just the most common if that makes sense.
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Reply By: The Stathams - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 15:05

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 15:05
OK, it seems the most important issue here is a medical emergency. Breakdowns will be an inconvenience, but we won't starve. So, my question for the 'pro-sat-phone' group then becomes ... do we need a sat phone or would a HF radio suffice given that (I understand) it'll get us the flying doctor?
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Follow Up By: Aussi Traveller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 15:12

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 15:12
You can reach all the emergency services with both, I think the only difference would be cost.

Lets just say you roll your vehicle and break your HF arial, what then ??

Phill
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 16:13

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 16:13
Andrew, This subject of communications is complex. It took me some years to settle on the system that I consider most favourable.

I started with HF but came to relies its limitations so I obtained a Satphone. I retained the HF as it was already installed and did have some worthwhile features. I now consider the HF and the "Club" VKS737 to be useful for such things as Road and Weather condition reports, assistance with obtaining spares and the footy. On occasions the reception was not good and I realised that if that was to be during an emergency then the HF service was not adequate.
The HF service does also require some skill & training to operate whereas the Satphone is identical to using a mobile phone which anyone over the age of 5 years seems to have no trouble with.

A HF radio will cost several thousand dollars installed whereas you can be up and going with a Satphone for a little over $1000. Should you change vehicle, the Satphone goes with you, the HF would require reinstallation.

If away from the vehicle, you can take the Satphone with you. The HF remains firmly in the vehicle.

The RFDS has changed much of its communication to Satphones, retaining HF for ground-to-air comms for obvious technical reasons.
RFDS publishes phone numbers for emergency purposes.

There exists a group of amateur HF users who are highly familiar with the service and swear by it and scorn Satphones. I am not at all sure that any of them have actually used a Satphone for any length of time.
I was using HF at Woomera in the 1950's. At the time it was considered great technology. Although the radio features have become more convenient, the propagation is unchanged to this day. Satellite telephony is now well established as the reliable convenient technology. However there have been and continue to exist, satellite phone services of less than ideal performance and the knockers may quote failure instances which came from these. The optimal phone is the Iridium range with Telstra as the carrier.

Take a look at what the mining and oil & gas industries use....... Satphones, or in some cases private satellite comm channels, never HF radio today.

Some focus on the cost of phone and service but when compared to the other costs of outback travel..... vehicle, tyres, fuel etc it is minimal.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - Laurie K (WA) - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 16:18

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 16:18
You have two choices if you decide to go a Sat Phone. Buy, or Rent. We have used the latter option a number of times.
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Reply By: The Stathams - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 16:34

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 16:34
Thank you all again for your contributions. There certainly is a lot of knowledge amongst you. (I also didn't realise how expensive HA radios were - ha, you pay less for 'Ultra' :)) I've come to the conclusion now that if I choose not to get a sat phone then it's my own stupidity. I don't yet understand how to go about that (whether I just visit a Telstra store and ask for the iridian sat phone?) but I suspect that's the way we'll go. Buy or rent, not sure yet (a friend said he rented one for a week and it cost him 60% of the purchase price).
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Follow Up By: Aussi Traveller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 16:53

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 16:53
Ask about the government subsidy, Pivotel have an Iridium phone as well, I use one with no probs, it might be worth checking out as a comparison.

Phill
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 17:34

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 17:34
You certainly can purchase from Telstra but you will probably pay a premium price. It can be useful if you are signing-up to a Telstra plan.
Otherwise better prices can be found from independent businesses on the internet, not necessarily eBay.

Hiring can be useful to try the phone out. Generally, six months rental equals the purchase price of a phone.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 17:45

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 17:45
Hi

Buy a second hand Iridium (e.g. 9505A) on ebay (many are generally in unused or very good condition). Insert your existing post paid telstra sim card into it (assuming you have telstra post paid) (with international roaming enable), test before leaving.

Away you go.

Try not to use phone except for emergency as calls expensive...also keep in mind you will be charged for incoming calls and sms - so leave SIM in normal phone when in/near civilisation.

On return sell sat phone - should get at least what you paid (if you are not in a hurry and/or didn't pay to much when you purchased it).

If you don't have telstra post paid get $10 casual plan sim - throw away when you get back.

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 20:58

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 20:58
Hi Stathams

I already sided with EPIRB before the Sat Phones as they have different prime functions and before HF radio topic was introduced.

Really, I'm a Professional radio engineer and go HF every time but I was more interested in your mention of communications engineers at work. The term radio engineer began to dissappear in 1970's as courses dried up and the more general term Communications engineer was adopted which included more theory relating to non-radio communications - Rather than get into the various arguements I was sort of wondering if those engineers came from the radio or computer theory side of things.(Could they do a path loss calculation for satphones for example ? )

(P.S. The best HF radios are 2nd hand because later models have to comply with transmission restrictions and were more powerful - mine a Barret 950 was only $700 )
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:24

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:24
"..later models have to comply with transmission restrictions and were more powerful.."

Don't you mean later models are less powerful ? Plus, even new HF models are available second hand shortly after release so your comments are a bit confusing (even for those who can "do a path loss calculation for satphones" (I assume) :)

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:32

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 21:32
Your right Greg , I meant to say some earlier ones could transmit anywhere (only in emergency cause not legal ) and some early models were also more powerful.
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Follow Up By: The Stathams - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 09:38

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 09:38
Hi Robin, I may have been a little loose with my "communications engineer" terminology. I was referring to some of the engineers I work with. I work (as a lawyer) within an international engineering consultancy which covers broad areas of engineering, including communications. The engineers I was referring to are those who locate and design broadcasting, reception and transmission towers, such as those used by our major mobile phone carriers.

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Reply By: Skulldug - Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 17:54

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 17:54
I posted this not long ago. I hope it helps.

After a fair bit of research I just purchased an Iridium Extreme on a Pivotel Classic Casual plan and am very happy so far. I'll do a quick write up for anyone who is interested. I have no affiliations etc. Just a consumer.

We are caravaners who sometimes travel to remote areas and do side trips with our tent. Sometimes I go on my own beach fishing (Coorong or Robe area) or looking for more difficult 4x4 tracks in the Victorian High Country or Flinders Ranges etc.

Thus, we need some ability to let our family know where we are, or when I am broken down, hopelessly bogged or in serious trouble. I may also take up shooting again so a device that can come with me is a consideration.

As a yachtie, I am familiar with EPIRBs and Personal Locator Beacons and decided they were good for life threading emergencies but not the less serious incidents like a breakdown. I also considered the Spot system which gets good reviews in Australia but attracts some scathing comments from users in the US. The inReach system looked good to me but when I saw the unit itself, I didn't like the size, shape and plastic feel of them.

I had previously looked at sat phones, but was put off by the price of the hand sets (I'm not eligible for the government subsidy) and in particular, the cost of calls.

Here's what I finally decided. The Iridium Extreme seems to get good reviews and is ruggedised (supposedly mil spec). It still feels a little "plastic" but is the sturdiest hand set I have seen. I managed to pick one up for the old price ($1,499). They now seem to fetch $1,699.

I went for the Pivotel Classic Casual plan. This gets me a normal Australian mobile number and it can make sat phone calls within Aus without having to add the international prefixes. Emergency 000 also works just like it does from a normal mobile. It can send SMS messages and although call costs are expensive, in-coming calls are at normal mobile rates to the caller and free to me. This means that if I want to call home, I just sent send my wife an SMS asking her to call me and it cost the same as calling my mobile.

The hand set has an SOS button just like an EPIRB. What you do is remove a rubber cap on the top of the phone and press a little red button. It gives you 30 seconds to cancel it before going into emergency mode. I have mine registered with Geos Alliance and programmed to call them and at the same time, send a SMS to a short list of family and friends. Both the phone call and text message contains my lat, long, alt, age of fix, number of satellites and how much battery the hand set has. It doesn't cost anything to register with Geos Alliance and they pass on your details to the Emergency response centre in Canberra, so its just like activating an EPIRB (I will be corrected on this if others have actual experience). I have requested an actual test so I will post an update if I have anything wrong.

The SOS button is also programmable. You can set it to call 000 or home or simply to send a SMS with your location.

When my short listed friends receive a text with my location, there is also a hyperlink that when pressed, shows my location on a map.

Here are the costs of the plan. Monthly payment $22. One-off connection fee $110. Calls included $0. Flagfall $0. Calls to Australian numbers, inc' mobiles, 13/1300, 1800 and voicemail $3.30 per 30 seconds. SMS messages $0.55. Calls to other satellite services are even more expensive ranging from $4.40 per 30 sec (Thuraya) to $19.80 per 30 sec (BGAN). Calls to 000/112 are free.

The reason this suites me is that I don't need to make sat phone calls to anyone. In a real emergency if one arose, I don't really care what the call rates are. So, once the initial costs are paid, it only costs me $22 per month and $0.55 for SMSs. The rest is at normal mobile rates if you accept my "text and phone me back" approach.

Set-up out of the box was easy and the phone registered itself with the Iridium sat system while standing on my back porch. Just be aware that the instructions that came in the box contained one wrong number (set up number for SMS) and I had to ring Pivotel to get the right one.

I have heard that some mobile carriers do charge more to call sat phones. I have only tested this with Telstra and the charges are exactly as Pivotel said they were.

I'm in a 12 month plan so if forumites know any better ones, I'm stuck for now.

Also no criticism is intended at other systems. This is just what seems to suite me.

Skulldug





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Reply By: Mark T6 - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 08:27

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 08:27
I picked up an old Iridium 9505A on E-Bay for about $400......stick a Telstra SIM card in if needed and away you go.

The Telstra card comes out of an existing phone so I don't count that at as extra cost.

Just sits in the glovebox of my 4WD, and before each trip I charge it up.....had to buy a car charger which was about $50.

Calls are expensive ($4.00 a minute) BUT never use it for "idle chat".

In fact in 4 years of ownership only time I have used it was to send my family a few SMS messages along the Canning Stock Route to let them know I was ok.....total expenditure to date .........$7.30......one 1 minute call to make sure it worked, and 3 text messages.

Bloody handy to have if the bleep e hits the fan, and then cost isn't an issue
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Follow Up By: The Stathams - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 09:45

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 09:45
So I can just take the SIM out of my 'normal' everyday Telstra mobile phone and stick it in a sat phone (which I purchase without a sim or plan etc) when I need to use it?

Cheers,
Andrew
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Follow Up By: Member - KBAD - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 10:14

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 10:14
Andrew you need to initialise international roaming first the same as if you were going overseas with your mobile. I have bought the iridium handset which IMO had the best coverage signal wise, everywhere i have taken it i have been able to get a signal.
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Follow Up By: Mark T6 - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 18:38

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 18:38
As KBAD stated....yep.

I went away with some mates last year who borrowed an Iridium Phone, signed up for a casual (no contract) $10 a month plan (post paid), enabled it for Global Roaming.....went on their trip, never used it once, came back an deactivated the account...total cost $20!!

One small word of warning, depending on the age of the phone it might take a "BIG SIM CARD" (mine does) or a little SIM card.....if it takes a big SIM and all you can get from Telstra is a little SIM you'll need to buy (off e-bay) a SIM adapter....costs about $10, and the small sim fits inside and then it will slide right into your old phone.

I imagine (although don't know) the more modern Irridium phones would take the smaller one.

Mine is probably 6 years old so takes the bigger SIM, which my wife uses in her old phone which she has for calls only.

BUT beware the call costs are double what the average "plan" rate is
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Reply By: The Landy - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 08:41

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 08:41
This question falls into the “risk management” category, and perhaps everyone will have a different approach to how they manage risks.

But let me break it down like this. Many of us (most) will have our vehicles insured and we pay a premium for that, but for many of us, we go years without the need to make any claim, some possibly never. So why continue to pay for something you don’t use?

The same could be said for home and contents, and health insurance that many of us have.

Put simply, the cost and risk of not having it when it is needed far outweighs the alternative of not having it and saving a few dollars. So think of a sat-phone in the same way.

Take a look at the risk/reward equation of a sat-phone. The reward is you save a $1,000 by not having one; the risk is not having it could be the difference between life and death on a worst-case-basis.

People will have strong opinions on whether it is needed based on the roads and routes you will be travelling, but that advice is cheap and far too easy to dispense without any real regard for your requirements.

Remember you don’t need to be far from home to be remote, and remote means not being able to contact someone when you most need to, and that could be within less than 50-kilometres of one of Australia’s major cities.

And to put it in perspective the cost of a sat-phone will be less than 1% of the value of your vehicle, and yet the value of it will be priceless if you find yourself in a life-threatening situation.

We travel with an EPIRB, sat-phone, and HF radio – they all have a role and place in our “risk management” kit and we view the cost as just another insurance premium.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 09:15

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 09:15
I'm all for facts and real analysis Landy , but it has to be fair honest and balanced.

A proven fact is now that 20% of us can no longer afford prescription medicine and follow that up by actually not getting it.

The fact that something may be priceless in some circumstances is irrelevant if you can't afford it up front.


So practical cost effective choices have to be made !

I suspect that putting a new set of tyres on before every trip would save more lives than any of the 3 devices in this post.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 09:38

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 09:38
Facts Robin?? 20% cannot afford medicine??

I simply do not believe that statistic is relative to Australia, the country of this conversation. Elsewhere maybe. Can you provide reference to it's source?

Anyway, someone in such financial plight is unlikely to be driving around the isolated areas of Australia in a $50,000+ vehicle and be a subject of this topic.

Fair, honest and balanced? ....... And supportable?


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Follow Up By: Aussi Traveller - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 11:06

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 11:06
Landy I actually thought this was the most fair honest and balanced post to date, have a nice day.

Phil
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 15:01

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 15:01
You may need to hang onto your socks then Allan - I may or at least the Herald sun may have under estimated the issue.

The reports were carried in it a few weeks ago .

I don't subscribe to it so can't cut it out for you - I spent 2 minutes doing a search and came up with following though which is interesting reading. I don't know if its where the Herald sun report came from but its full of facts and figures on the problem.

http://www.productiveageing.com.au/userfiles/file/medicinesreport.pdf


It concludes with - >

One conclusion stands out: the cost of prescribed medicines is a significant issue for many older Australians. In particular, we have found that affordability issues are most acutely felt by the younger cohorts, those earning low income and those of poorer health. Importantly, when faced with affordability issues, many mature age Australians embark on strategies which may be deleterious to their health. For example, delaying taking prescription medicines, rationing intake of medication and in some cases, not filling scripts at all.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 15:42

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 15:42
Whew! I waded through you referenced report "Prescription Medicine Affordability" (in short) and nowhere could I find an expression of, your quote "20% of us can no longer afford prescription medicine". Nothing even like it in fact.
The nearest expression was "23% of people who have used prescription medicine in the last 5 years report that the cost caused them financial strain". It did not state that they failed to obtain the medicines, it said that they used varying tactics including in some cases not obtaining them.

This is very different from your "proven fact" and quite misleading. But express something in a convincing manner and it becomes believable if left unchallenged.

Paying my Rego causes me financial strain, but I still afford it.
Paying my household insurance causes mr financial strain but I still pay it.
Purchasing a satellite phone caused me financial strain, but I still bought it.

You quoted "statistic" is in fact false and I think my socks are quite OK thank you very much.

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Follow Up By: Aussi Traveller - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 16:02

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 16:02
"This is very different from your "proven fact" and quite misleading. But express something in a convincing manner and it becomes believable if left unchallenged."

You mean the same way Tony Abbott got into government yeah.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 16:18

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 16:18
Good effort on reading it Allan but you forgot my first line - I said the reports of 20% were in the herald sun.

I did not say they were in this article, which I then said I came up with after a 2 min search.

But even this articles conclusion directly supports my affordability line using the words "not filling scripts at all ".

And not far from your quote breaks it down into age groups

"Have not filled prescription 10% 15% 30% 16% 18% 7% 10% 3% 13%"


How could you miss that !
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 17:07

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 17:07
I certainly did not forget your first line Robin.
If the Herald Sun was the source of your information, present the reference to support your assertion. What you did present certainly did not support you expression.

Again you misrepresent the facts with the words "not filling scripts at all". It is entirely out of context.
The report stated that of the 23% expressing financial hardship, SOME elected to not purchase the medicine....... SOME!!

And your latest offering of age group breakdown is an attempt to misrepresent data. Those age group percentages are subgroups of the above 23%, not percentages who have not proceed to purchase prescribed medicine.

You really are failing your expressed mantra of "fair honest and balanced."
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 17:59

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 17:59
"is an attempt to misrepresent data."

When you make statements like about a referenced document we can all read in full there is little point in continuing Allan.

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 18:05

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 18:05
Agreed Robin. The points have been made. I'll call it a day.
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Reply By: The Landy - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 10:33

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 10:33
Robin

I’m not offering any facts on the subject, but for sure I’m offering an opinion based on my experience as a professional risk manager and in context of the original question…

A vehicle that is well prepared prior to any trip will go a long way to ensuring there are less problems whilst touring, whether that means a new set of tyres, or a sat-phone for use when you’ve shredded two of your new tyres…

Though, I’m not sure it can be said that tyres save lives; at best they may reduce the risk of an accident vs. a set that has been used. In contrast, having access to effective communications when most needed may well be the difference between a good or bad outcome, possibly life or death.

Besides, the two can’t be compared side-by-side. One is proactive, and the other is reactive.

It would be like suggesting that if a vehicle has ABS braking then there is no need for an airbag in the vehicle. Is one aspect that much better than the other that it should exclude the other? Of course not, one is proactive, the other reactive…

And on prescription medicines?

I’m sure there is an appropriate forum that would enable you to have a lively discussion on the cost of prescription medicine in Australia, but it is outside my scope, besides I have no idea if you are quoting facts that are fair, honest, and balanced, nor the inclination to check… ;)
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 15:24

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 15:24
I think we agree more than disagree Landy.

In risk management the first think we have to do is defined the risk.

And I don't beat around the bush and state quite catergorically that the overwhelming risk out there is vehicle accident and much of it is single vehicle. So this is were efforts should be placed to max effect as prevention is better than cure.

Places like Copley garage survive on drivers driving to fast on hard tyres and losing it in the dirt.

Most of those who use sat phones do so in a nice enviroment - usually out of car to get a good signal and the conditions are conducive to making a connection.

The sat phones are not designed to the same enviromental survivabilty standards of an EPIRB , and its quite a different matter to use one trapped in a car on its roof where they usually just don't work.

When I went across the Madigan last nothing required use of an EPIRB , there were 2 sat phones and 1 HF radio - guess which was the only 1 to connect every time.



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Follow Up By: Member - KBAD - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 19:09

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 19:09
Robin which phones were they the Iridium or the Thuraya, they do have differences. I have found the Iridium to be very robust and have excellent connectivity.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 19:59

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 19:59
One of each Kbad

They are quite good making connection 9 times out of 10 when used as per instructions and even better with no obstructions.

If one was to be considered as an emergency device though its desirable to go to the extra expense of an omni directional car roof mounted antenna as well as portable - this generally favors the use of your Iridium.
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Reply By: disco driver - Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 19:38

Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 at 19:38
So having read all the posts and follow-ups what does it tell you.
You don't really need a satphone for where you are going. Your UHF and mobiles will suffice.
If the idea of doing your trip without one seems too risky, then buy or hire one.

Take an epirb anyway.

Most important of all..........Enjoy your trip.

Disco.
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Reply By: Member - Munji - Saturday, Feb 22, 2014 at 15:11

Saturday, Feb 22, 2014 at 15:11
A lot of comment's here about emergency devices, which one is better than the other, costs etc. Sounds to me like we should also be talking about some driver training in the first instance.
Too many people retiring, buying up 4WD / Caravans and going bush but not upskilling themselves on the hazards ahead and, the old experienced hands sound like they getting a bit complacent.
Develop a risk matrix with your family /friends, identify all potential scenarios and then identify the controls you feel will help eliminate the risk identified.
Refer to this and go out and buy the emergency equipment you need to mitigate the risk identified.
Safe travel, always drive to the conditions, manage your tyres properly,dont drive fatigued, look where your driving and not where your talking.
Happy days
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Follow Up By: The Stathams - Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 09:18

Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 09:18
Thanks. Both myself and wife Cath are already booked in for both bush and sand training. Car will be serviced by Toyota, and then taken to a 'specialist' 4WD mechanic for a pre-trip check-over. Am also speaking with Gibb River Rd mechanic about what spares to bring. We plan/hope to be doing no night or dusk driving. We won't be 4WD-ing for the hell of it; just to get to the scenic spots etc.
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Reply By: Member - Marg G (VIC) - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 at 16:43

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 at 16:43
Your travels are within communication, just make sure you have charged all nec. phones.
I agree with disco traveller...
Enjoy your holiday break and keep a diary, especially on fuel consumption on your vehicle.
sounds like you are semi organised. Good travelling to all
Marg & Nev
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