pivotel sat phone

Hi. Thinking of buying a pivotel sat sleeve or the day sleeve hot spot fot travelling in remote areas of australia. I believe it is $15 per month for subscription and approx $1/min for calls. Can anybody inform me of any possible problems with this unit
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Reply By: Sigmund - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 06:13

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 06:13
It uses the Thuraya satellite constellation - pros & cons of that outlined here: http://www.satphonesales.com.au/Which-Satellite-Network-and-Plan

If the satellite is 25 degrees of elevation for some times & points on the globe that may well be a problem in mountainous areas.
AnswerID: 594990

Follow Up By: Sigmund - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 06:19

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 06:19
Also the price of the sleeve is a bit steep IMO.
If Thuraya will work for you then maybe check out 2nd hand handsets on eBay.
FollowupID: 863594

Reply By: Member - Boobook - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 07:37

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 07:37
Sigmund is right about the coverage. Great up north but not so good and low on the horizon for SE Australia. Can be a problem in the high country and Tassie if you are in a valley.

Also while the sat sleeve initially sounds like a good idea. You tend to replace phones more frequently than Sat phones.

If, for whatever reason you decide to get a new phone ( like you drop and break the current one) then you are restricted to phones that the sleeve will fit. Ie no shiny new IPhone 6Plus or Samsung Note 3 or that Sony that you might love because it has the nest photo quality.

Oh no, gotta get a IPhone 5 or Samsung S4 cause that is what the Sat sleeve fits.

Just something to consider.
AnswerID: 594994

Follow Up By: Sat Phone Sales - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 09:50

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 09:50
Hi, the issue about the SatSleeve fitting only the phone for which you have an adapter is no longer the case. You can use the Universal SatSleeve or the Hotspot SatSleeve which will allow just about any smart device to be used as a satellite communications device.


As far as coverage goes - we recently ran a photo competition showing Thuraya devices in use throughout Australia. Even in the southernmost parts of Victoria coverage was great. We've also heard of a drive from Hobart to Launceston with the SatSleeve on the dashboard or the car maintaining coverage for the entire trip.

It is true that coverage can be lost in deep and steep valleys. Even non geostationary services like iridium will struggle to get and maintain connections in this type of situation.

In general, if you can see the spot in the sky where the satellite is located coverage will be better than Iridium / Globalstar and similar too Inmarsat.

Hope that helps..
FollowupID: 863647

Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 11:09

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 11:09
Thanks, wasn't ware of that sleeve.

Re using in SE Australia, I am sure you have a lot more experience than me. I am also sure it works ok on flattish ground. I am mainly going by a seller of sat phones including Thuraya at a camping show a few years ago. He said that it was too low on the horizon, about 24 degees from memory, to be relied upon in the high country which was one of my intended uses.

He said Iridium was the only reliable solution, though Globalstar was still the old system at the time.

FollowupID: 863656

Follow Up By: Sigmund - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 13:58

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 13:58
So the Thuraya satellite you'd be connecting to would be approx over Malaysia Kevin? NW of us in Vic/Tas.Hobart to Launceston is pretty flat so a low elevation wouldn't be a problem. Elsewhere in Tas a ridge of greater than 25 degrees elevation would be a problem I take it.

FollowupID: 863664

Follow Up By: Sat Phone Sales - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 16:47

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 16:47
I don't think people realise just how high up I the sky even 20 degrees is. Here's a handy tool:


The satellite is Thuraya 3 at 98.5 degrees east.

Just as an example I plugged in an address that may be familiar to Taswegians. The Cascade Brewery in South Hobart. For those not familiar with that it sit just below a 4000' high peak called Mt. Wellington. Even in this proximity Mt. Wellington would need to be another 1000' higher to obscure the satellite!

Another example - an obstacle would have to be over 1400' above you at 1 kilometre distance. Or 500' above you just 500m away. This would be more like being in a narrow canyon. Fortunately we don't see a lot of topography like that. Iridium would work in these situations but very badly. An exercise in frustration building and maintaining a connection!

So yep' terrain can obscure you - but it'd have to be pretty darned high, close by and steep. As you go further north this becomes less and less of a issue. Curiously, we have supplied a Victorian water board in the high country with Thuraya and they are happy with the performance.
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Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 18:12

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 18:12
Sat Phone Sales, I'm not sure about the Cascade Brewery, maybe we need a site visit. :-)

Also I think a mountain would only have to be 1200 feet high ( or abot 280m) to obscure the sat from 1 km away at 20 degrees.

It's a mute point, I am sure the sat will work when you are a long way from a mountain, or even driving on a highway, but a large number of camp sites are right next to a river in a valley. The hills are up to 35 degrees or more and you are camped right at the bottom of the mountains. I have a satellite predictor tool on my phone and frequently watch iridium sats when camping, so I you get to be fairly familiar with the terrain. And mountains do get in the way.

Sure you could climb the opposite side if the valey to get height, but that terrain is pretty steep and if you are in an emergency then going to get reception may not be an option. With Iridium, even if you don't get reception, it will come to you.

I guess that is the main difference for me.

Anyway, as I said, I am sure you know more about this than me, but I have to question why a dealer based in Victoria steered me away from Thuraya for this exact reason. Maybe he had local experiences.


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Follow Up By: Sat Phone Sales - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 18:27

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 18:27
35 degrees is down in a canyon or crevasse! :) You hit the nail on the head. If there is no view of the satellite with a GEO system you need to move. With a LEO system the satellite will come to you. BUT if your horizon is 35 degrees good luck maintaining more than seconds of a call!!!

As for the dealer - I don't know what their motivation would be. Some just run on rumour (and there's plenty of wrong on the net)

We actually use and test our phones, we hike, sail, adventure bike ride and fly - our phones get used in all these scenarios. I can assure you it is much more lucrative to supply a customer with an Iridium service and handset than Thuraya. However, we take our role seriously as advisors and try to work with the customer to get them the right network, the right handset, the right plan at the right price.
FollowupID: 863680

Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 08:25

Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 08:25
I know this is dragging on but these climbs up from rivers are very common in the high country.

To say that an Iridium would only get a few seconds of a call in not correct and inconsistent with my experience. An Iridium sat coming over the top of a mountain would be visible for many minutes, up to 6 - 8, and it is possible, even likely that another sat will be visible at the same time.

Even a few minutes is enough to say "Help, I broke my leg and can not move, I am on the Wongungurra river about 3km east of the Moroka junction."

Personally I would not recommend that the Thuraya or even the Inmarsat to anyone for the High country based on my experience in the area. But I don't sell them so it probably doesn't matter.

FollowupID: 863703

Follow Up By: Sigmund - Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 09:39

Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 09:39
I use an Inmarsat. At the lat of the Vic high country the satellite's about 45 degrees elevation to the North. Valleys generally run north-south. Haven't done much testing but as examples there's easy connection from King Hut and the Diamantina Horse yards on the W Kiewa.

When you consult a satellite tracking program for Iridium there are plenty of times in that part of the world when the nearest satellites are below 20 degrees. Of course you just wait.

I've done a good deal of testing getting a Globalstar link with the Spot Messenger. It's possible to get a msg confirmed light when in fact it's not been sent. It's also possible for the coords to be out by 50 or more metres. Nonetheless I rely on it when on foot. It pays to let it run for half an hour regardless of what the lights say.
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Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 10:37

Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 10:37
I am sure Inmarsat at 45 degrees would be much more dependable than Thuraya at about 24 degrees. Not a lot of mountains would block 45 degrees.

Anyway I guess anyone reading this thread will have a few opinions to enable themselves to check their own situation and the facts as they relate to them.

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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 10:49

Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 10:49
Hey, we haven't even started on call and plan costs! lol.

But Kevin (I assume, from SatphoneSales) is right about slope angles. Eg. 30-35 degrees is pretty steep, about a black run at one of our ski resorts. Hard work to walk up.
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 13:54

Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 13:54

On costs...

If you use your satphone smartly costs can be as little as the cost of 1-litre of fuel per day!

I have an Iridium handset with Pivotel $40 per month plan (1-litre of diesel per day!) and use it regularly, I just avoid outgoing calls. Mrs Landy can ring me from her mobile and neither of us pays anything!

No incoming costs from Pivotel on the Satphone and no outgoing costs from Optus on the GSM network. The calls are simply mobile to mobile.

My account with Pivotel is simply a mobile number and as Kevin (Satphones) indicated somewhere in this thread, Optus tried to charge Satphone rate for Pivotel terminations, but lost...

Most companies allow unlimited mobile to mobile calls...

I wrote some more on this in an EO blog recently...I'll leave you to review our experience if you have a chance.

Cheers...Baz - The Landy
FollowupID: 863729

Follow Up By: Sigmund - Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 15:38

Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 15:38
Thanks Baz.

In case anyone's interested, this is how Inmarsat works out for me.

1. Prepaid airtime cost: 50 units, $85. 1.3 units per min (c. $2.30) to call a landline, 0.5 units to send a text or short email. It's cheaper per min the more units you buy. No monthly cost.
2. The expiry on 50 units is 90 days but it's bought as a voucher that I can wait to activate when I need it, from the handset. There's a validity period in which it has to be used - a year I think but Kevin can correct me (since I bought it from him!). The more units you buy the longer the expiry.
3. Telstra charge an arm and a leg for someone to call in from a landline. Skype is much cheaper. But we ask folk to email us from an Inmarsat webpage (free) and we call back.
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Reply By: TomH - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 08:08

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 08:08
This thread is about different brand but same answers will come up I would think

Satfones have been discussed endlessly over the years and a search will keep you amused for a week
AnswerID: 594995

Follow Up By: Sigmund - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 09:57

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 09:57
heheh. Yes.

There are four sat networks and as per my earlier link they have different coverage characteristics, so there's a premium on being clear on where you need to connect from.

There are also widely differing costs and it's far from easy to compare them. Apart from the handset there is the choice of prepaid credits or postpaid plan and call costs, and varying rates for calling in and for calling out (eg to landline, mobile services and satphone services). But for emergencies calling 000 is I think now free for all four providers.
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Follow Up By: maurice b - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 13:42

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 13:42
Hi guy .Slighty off subject .I have 2 old telit 550 but have been using Isatphone since 2011.Pivotel wont connect these any more but were trading them in for a free Quailcom 1600 refurbished from the USA. Dont think they supports Sms.Deal was to stay connected for 6 months x $20 plus calls and its your .Its still possible to connect the Telit thru a european globarstar dealer and use it in Australia. New batterys are still availabe for them online
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Reply By: Geoffrey J2 - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 16:54

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 16:54
Thanks for that people. A little clearer now. I may lean towards the sat sleeve hot spot.
I heard a rumour that some carriers will not allow connections to the pivotel sat sleeve. Myself i couldnt imagine that but would appreciate confirmation
AnswerID: 595083

Follow Up By: Sat Phone Sales - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 18:21

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 18:21
Optus tried to charge satellite rates for calls terminating on a Pivotel Satellite service. This went to court and Optus lost as the call termination costs are the same as to a mobile. as they are the only other carrier with access to Thuraya it was a move to be anti competitive. They won't try that stunt again. Any other carrier trying the same thing would be foolish as the prescedent has been set.
FollowupID: 863678

Follow Up By: Sigmund - Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 07:32

Monday, Jan 18, 2016 at 07:32
What about Telstra's charge to connect a landline call to Inmarsat? Wouldn't this fall into the category of monopolist extortion?
FollowupID: 863699

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