Outback communications

Submitted: Tuesday, Aug 03, 2004 at 23:22
ThreadID: 15276 Views:2136 Replies:12 FollowUps:14
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Should I be considering the use of HF radio and all the associated hassle of installation (I buy a new vehicle every 11 months) or should I go for a Sat phone? I intend doing some quite extensive outback travel and whilst not anticipating the need to call for assistance, I think it is wise to be prepared. I guess if HF radio is the best choice I could get a little man in a shop to do the installation and removal which would largely remove the problem for me. Thus I am open to advice on either medium, or for that matter any other viable alternative. Thanks in advance.
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Reply By: Truckster (Vic) - Tuesday, Aug 03, 2004 at 23:24

Tuesday, Aug 03, 2004 at 23:24
Go with HF, and get it fitted by place you buy from most will work with you on price...
AnswerID: 71171

Follow Up By: Aandy(WA) - Tuesday, Aug 03, 2004 at 23:32

Tuesday, Aug 03, 2004 at 23:32
Thanks Truckster - I'm thinking along those lines too, but a Sat phone does give instant access to emergency services from any part of the continent. Does HF do that, and can I rely on finding help with it? By the way, the idle chatter which seems to be common on CB radio is of no attraction to me, so I wouldn't regard the ability to chat as an advantage. I really am just looking for the most effective way of summoning assistance if needed. Just thought - what about those beacons?
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Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:17

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:17
You should carry an EPIRB too. That would be the fastest way to get a distress call out, but you cant tell anyone what the issue is with them.

HF or Sat you can.

HF you will always get someone somewhere. Same with Sat.
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Reply By: Mad Dog (Victoria) - Tuesday, Aug 03, 2004 at 23:38

Tuesday, Aug 03, 2004 at 23:38
It a personal choice Andy. If you a like a bit of chat and having a vast rescue force available go the HF but there is a small learning curve. If you like making lots of phone calls, being put on hold and told that the NRMA, RACV don't rescue from the Simpson and no one really being interested go the phone.

This has been done a few times before...have you searched
AnswerID: 71180

Reply By: Member - Captain (WA) - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 00:22

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 00:22
Hi Aandy,

A HF radio is perhaps the most useful communication tool in the bush, but it does take some training to be able to use it properly. A satphone on the other hand is easily used by almost anyone, but who do you call?

I am a member of VKS 737 and one of the things you continuously read about in their member magazine is the assistance of other VKS 737 members who are close by. I have used my HF to log my position during scheds and while "on the side" have been amazed to hear of how close, or far, others are away. There really is a bush telegraph out there and VKS 737 taps into it. Think of how many vehicles you see "in the outback" with a HF antenae hanging off it - all potential rescuers.

Now think of your sat phone. You can call the RAC, NRMA, 000 or whoever, but how do you contact a mechanic who lives 50km north of the black stump? If you must make telephone calls, do not forget that a HF radio can do this, even direct dialling a number! But it is not as simple as using a sat phone (but nothing that 5 minutes of reading a manual wouldn't teach you).

Now there is also an EPIRB (emergency positioning indicator radio beacon). This is a true emergency device, not to be used otherwise. While there is much hype about simply turning it on and waiting for the helicopter to arrive, the reality is vastly different. To cut a long technical story short, it takes a considerable amount of time (~6 hours) to get a fix and even in ideal conditions it will only have an accuracy of 20kms radius (~1200 square kms - a large place to look).

So, back to your question, IMHO if you are doing "some quite extensive outback travel" you are irresponsible if you do not have some means of reliable two-way communication (either HF or satphone). While I would recommend HF, I can understand the hassle of changing vehicle and hence going for the satphone option. But I would also recommend an EPIRB, simply as extra insurance. It's a once off ~$250 cost and is a backup in the event of HF/Sat failure.

Cheers

Captain
Its not what you drive, but how you drive it!
LC 200 + AOR Quantum

Member
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AnswerID: 71184

Follow Up By: Member - Bernie. (Vic) - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 01:06

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 01:06
EPIRB YOU get to pay the tab for the rescue I understand, but open to correction.
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Follow Up By: Mad Dog (Victoria) - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 08:17

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 08:17
I don't think anyone has ever been sent a bill for the job Bernie., been talk about it though.
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Reply By: Member - Mungo Explorer (NSW) - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 08:20

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 08:20
Why "a little man in a shop", is your rig that small?
But seriously, those who adopt a condescending attitude should not be surprised to get poor service...
AnswerID: 71198

Follow Up By: Aandy(WA) - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 21:09

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 21:09
There's never been any reason for me to complain about the service I receive Mungo. Mind you it is a simple matter of making one's wishes absolutely clear and that top quality service is the expectation. People perform largely according to the expectation of the person paying the money I've found - people management skills I call it!
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Reply By: GO_OFFROAD - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 09:44

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 09:44
I have a codan 9323 and autotune antenna for sale, if your wanting a cheap HF.

It comes with all required items except aerial bracket to mount in car.
AnswerID: 71215

Follow Up By: Austravel - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 11:25

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 11:25
Hi,

How much for your HF? How old is it?

Thanks
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Follow Up By: GO_OFFROAD - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 11:28

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 11:28
Austravel,
it is the model HF before the current model NGT, has all the books, manuals etc with it, is in good condition, and Im asking $2200 ono for it.

I am in Geelong melb area.
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Follow Up By: Austravel - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 12:41

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 12:41
Thanks, I'll keep it in mind I'm still tossing up whether to use HF or sat phone.
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Reply By: CruiserHead - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:06

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:06
Well, I am swinging the vote the other way. HF radio is fine your you to make calls out, but the sat phone is easier for someone to get in touch with YOU! You can even send text messages out and receive them, as long as the phone is on. We use UHF radio, EPIRB and a sat phone for all our remote work.

With the sat phone subsidy from the Government, you will be cheaper off! Anyone can use it easily. A 2 year telstra deal is going to cost you $2600 minus ~ $1000 from gov subsidy, with $10 worth of call or SMS included per month. You get a Motorola phone with external entenna (magnetic for the roof), Irridium access, car charger, international charger, etc. You can take it hand held in the backpack, leave it in the car, and pretty much use it anywhere in the world. Batteries last ~36 hours if left on all the time!

Definitely my choice!

CruiserHead
AnswerID: 71219

Follow Up By: Member - Rohan K - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:23

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:23
I'm with CruiserHead. Being able to take the Sat Phone with you when away from the vehicle has to be a major benefit. And if you can only afford one of the options, the ease of use (who is going to use the HF if you are incapacitated?) and portability are major advatantages over HF.
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Reply By: Banjo - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:16

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:16
HF is the go for me (I'm in VKS737 and a volunteer). But with swapping the HF installation every 11 months even I might go Satphone ! For the reasons stated above re 'community contacts", I choose long distance HF (with CB's as back up).
See the vks737.on.net pages and info here at EOz re comparison's on available Comms. Re the EPIRBS....note that the cheaper ones are rapidly heading toward low support by the authorities (too many false alams for them to maintain interest).
The dearer ones (400+megs) carry your personal ID so the resue auth. know who the signal is from. In a few years the latter will be the only supported system. The lag time for getting on-site help to an Epirb is hours + - via HF it could be quite soon (suggest Satphone would be somewhere in between)...decisions...decisions....
AnswerID: 71222

Reply By: duncs - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:55

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 10:55
Another consideration is this. In a recent rollover my boss wiped out all the antennaes on his vehicle end result no communications whatsoever. He was in a CDMA black spot, not really very far from assistance. If any one of his antennaes had been operational he would have been OK. HF and Satphone were both vehicle mounted units and useless because of the accident. HE did a bit of walking and got help.

Hand held satellite call costs have come down considerably in the last couple of months and they will now operate either sat or CDMA. If you can only afford one unit I would consider a powerful handheld unit with the ability to communicate over large distances.

Duncs
AnswerID: 71236

Follow Up By: Mad Dog (Victoria) - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 11:56

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 11:56
This is why it is recommended to carry an emergency HF antenna. Just some scrap wire from the shed cut to a 1/4 wavelength. Tie one end to a tree or fence post and wrap the other end around the centre terminal where the antenna screws on or poke it into the spring and it'll work better than the the one that got broken. This has been covered quite comprehensively on here before with detailed instructions, a search will bring it up.
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FollowupID: 331444

Reply By: Austravel - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 11:31

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 11:31
Hi,

What about a 27 meg side band AM radio. I don't have any experience in them but have heard that you can transmit long distances via skip.

As for sat phone I've heard 2 stories, the one on the official site is that you can only get the subsidy if you work or live in an area not serviced by land line or mobile. The other story I've heard is that you can also get the subsidy if you spend time in these same areas for example just on holidays. Is this true, has anyone actually got the subsidy for a phone just because they travel in and through remote areas??
AnswerID: 71241

Follow Up By: CruiserHead - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 13:12

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 13:12
For work, here.
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Reply By: Utemad - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 16:19

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 16:19
New vehicle every 11 months!!!

Half the fun is customising it :-)

Utemad
AnswerID: 71288

Reply By: Crackles - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 21:23

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 21:23
The difference is: Sat phone you break down in the desert, ring the garage & they come out, repair your car & charge $3000 for your trouble. (Good service)
HF: You call up Alice Springs radio. Operator Ken treats you like his best friend and with all the recources of the 4x4 radio network, technical assistance is relayed over the air. A couple of members in the area detour to your location either fix your car or tow you out. (Better service)
The sat phone is a good tool. The HF is a great organization. (the EPIRB is a poor option)..... Cheers Craig.......
AnswerID: 71324

Reply By: member-skippyking - Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 23:58

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2004 at 23:58
Aandy,

go to the Barrett site and check out the portable, knapsack HF radios. No installing from vehicle to vehicle and no loss of aerials in a rollover.

I'm trying to decide which way to go as well. Pros and cons for either.

SK
AnswerID: 71350

Follow Up By: Peter - Thursday, Aug 05, 2004 at 08:05

Thursday, Aug 05, 2004 at 08:05
Also
Look up qmac as they have portable ones 50 watt which in techo terms is 3db down on barrett and codan ( not much at all). Couple with portable aerial single end and away you go .

Desert access has a few portable codan 8525s available

Just a thought for portibility
Peter

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Follow Up By: Aandy(WA) - Thursday, Aug 05, 2004 at 19:50

Thursday, Aug 05, 2004 at 19:50
Thanks Peter, That sounds like the best bit of advice I've received for a while - it sounds very applicable to my needs! Do qmac have a website or shopfront?
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Follow Up By: Peter - Friday, Aug 06, 2004 at 08:52

Friday, Aug 06, 2004 at 08:52
have a look at Qmac http://www.qmac.com/Portable.htm

or desert access

http://www.desertaccess.com.au/html/for_sale.html

Also get an older codan 6,7 or 8525 put in box and anderson plug to connect to battery etc.

get or make long wire aerial have a look here http://www.bushcomm.com.au/REFD-P.htm

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FollowupID: 331646

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