Satphone vs HF radio

Submitted: Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00
ThreadID: 1569 Views:1720 Replies:12 FollowUps:13
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We are setting up for the big OZ trip and I am stuck on the comm's gear. Can anyone suggest which I should take and why. From what I have found the Satphone is a much cheaper option with better coverage but I'm not sure.

Also What is "BushFone" that david mentioned in his lattest trip journal?
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Reply By: Andrew O - Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00
I've just come back from a trip using a satphone - basically its the same as using your mobile - its many thousands cheaper to buy - thats alot of phone calls, even at sat rates. Also smaller and lighter, without a bulky aerial. Also, when you are in a major town, you can use the GSM (normal mobile) network. I'm unsure, given that you are starting from scratch, as to why you would use the HF radio these days ... I doubt very much I would go with the HF radio now.
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Follow Up By: Nigel - Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00

Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00
The reason people still buy HF's is because a HF is a radio first and foremost. It can also be used to make phone calls (although not as clear and not as private as a satphone).

I have a HF but can also use my $1 GSM mobile when in a major town without having to buy a satphone, so that's hardly an advantage.

The benefits of a radio over a phone is that you can be heard by more than one person at a time, and you can talk to other radio users for free. I'm not saying everyone needs those benefits, but you did ask why people would still use HF.

If I had bought a satphone I doubt I would have used it much because of the cost of calls, but I would still have to pay the monthly plan fee to be able to use it if I needed to.

On the other hand I regularly use my HF to talk to friends that are travelling around australia. So for me the HF represents better value for my money.
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Reply By: Member - Sam - Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00
Kiwoka, on 17 May 2002, there was a post titled "GlobalStar Telit 550 sat phone". If you check this post out, you should be able to wade through all the posts and get some info. Both forms of communication have their own strengths, but each also have their own weaknesses. Neither is "Better" nor "more inferior" than the other. It ultimately comes down to the needs of the user(s) versus costs. Satphones suit some people, HF other people. cheers, Sam.

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Reply By: ExplorOz Team - David - Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00
Kiwoka,My I suggest that you try the search option and use the keywords of HF Radio. I think all you questions will be answered in the many many posts and replies on the subject.Regards David
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Reply By: Member - Mal - Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00
Kiwoka, We need to know more to be able to help you. Firstly, "BushFone" is a company that runs a HF network that enables telephone calls. Are you at present overseas and coming to Australia for a trip then going back home? If not, where are you situated in Australia and where will you be starting your trip? Are you hireing a vehicle or do you, or will you own one? What is it? Where do you intend going; Around OZ on the bitumen? Some popular gravel roads such as the Gibb River Road? or Simpson Desert / Ann Beadle Hwy type stuff?
I,m a HF type person and I have explained why in he past but I wouldn't bother with the expense unless you are going to do 100,000Km in the outback. I've done more than that and have got my money's worth from my second hand Codan. If you're on a one off trip I would look at hireing a Satphone for where you might need it. (Simpson Desert) Even if you buy one it can still be used as a normal mobile phone or overseas. If you are only travelling on popular roads at popular times UHF will suffice. If you do need to use someone else's HF or Sat Phone buy them a case of beer or a bottle of rum and all will be square, that is after paying for the Satphone call costs.Tell us more. Hope that helps. Mal Try.
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Reply By: Bob - Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, Jul 25, 2002 at 00:00
Kiwoka,
Can't imagine why Mal needs to know so much about you to answer a simple question!!! If you want to be able to contact friends, family, emergency services etc, instantly then a Sat phone is for you. If you want a very expensive "Big Boy's Toy" then HF is it. Reasonably priced radio communication with most travellers within 50 or so km (can those further away be of any use to you?) is available with a UHF CB radio. Most outback stations have repeaters which at least double your range too! And of course the vast majority of people travelling around Australia have none of the above and manage perfectly well!! Good luck!!
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Reply By: Nigel - Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00

Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00
If you want a phone that will work vritually anywhere, then a satphone is for you. If you go this way, then be sure to take a good list of every phone number you may need for the area you are travelling through (eg RFDS, Ambulance, Police, Recovery/Mechanics, Outback service stations, etc).

If you would prefer a radio with huge range, that allows you to talk to other radio users for free, and also have the ability to make phone calls (although not as clear as a sat phone and not private) then a HF is the way to go. A radio allows the free exchange of information between a community of users.

When deciding which way to go, work out the running costs for each for a year or two and add that to the purchase price to get a better indication of real cost.
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Reply By: P.G. (Tas) - Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00

Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00
I have been going through this tormenting argument for 3-4 months. My answer? I bought the Sat-Phone! Telstra has made the re-launched Iridium system afordable for everyone now (given previous Sat-Phone costs). I purchased a Motorola 9500 from Telstra for $995.00, and this is a brand new, 12 month warranty, full house package that includes 2 batteries, ac&dc chargers, leather carry case and auxillary external antenna. The base monthly costs on Mobile-Sat is $28.00, and call costs are $0.99 per 30 secs. I believe the Iridium system is immune to call exclusion zones in Australia, unlike the GlobalStar system. If you want more information on the phones go to www.iridium.com or contact Telstra's Mobile-Sat hotline on 1800 632 995. I hope this helps. Cheers!
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Follow Up By: Member - Clay - Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00

Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00
I agree. Having used both the GlobalStar and the Telstra Iridium extensively on our recent trip on the CSR I can say that the Telstra Unit is significantly better than the GlobalStar. The latter would not have a signal about thirty percent of the time and even when a signal was present was prone to frequent and very annoying dropouts. The Telstra Unit basically just powered on and was about half the price factoring in both sent and received calls. Vodaphone may sponsor the Wallabies and Telstra may be squandering money on Stadium sponsorships but when it comes to Satphones go Telstra!!
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Follow Up By: Nigel - Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00

Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00
Thanks for the useful information. Do you know what the minimum contract period is with Telstra's Iridium. And if you do cancel, then want to reconnect, is there a minimum period for reconnection.
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Follow Up By: P.G. (tas) - Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00

Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00
Nigel, my contract is for 12 months continuous. If you cancel short of the 12 months you are still liable for the remainder of the contract. After the 12 month period is up you have 2, possibly 3, choices. 1. Remain connected and continue to pay $28.00 per month. 2. Have your number put on hold (for a small fee, but there is a maximum time period involved) and finally 3, By the time my contract expires, prepaid may be available and this will suit me right down to the ground, being a casual user. I hope this helps. Cheers!
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Follow Up By: Tim Nivo - Saturday, Jul 27, 2002 at 00:00

Saturday, Jul 27, 2002 at 00:00
P.G. Does the telstra/iridium handset have 2 modes (ie sat @ GSM)? That was one reason I always liked the Vodaphone setup, as I could have just 1 phone and 1 plan. Being a country boy, a sat/cdma 2 mode phone would be the greatest! thanks. Tim
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Follow Up By: P.G. (tas) - Monday, Jul 29, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Jul 29, 2002 at 00:00
Tim, my sat-phone is capable of dual band operation, either sat/gsm or sat/cdma, however at this stage Telstra is not offering these combinations to my knowledge. The phone uses plug in modules in the back to select the operating modes. Hope this helps!
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Reply By: Steve - Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00

Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00
P.G. you forgot to tell us if it work everywhere you went, or maybe you haben't used it in the Outback just yet ?
steve
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Follow Up By: P.G. (tas) - Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00

Friday, Jul 26, 2002 at 00:00
Steve, I have used the phone extensively in remote Tasmania where no other existing services work with absolutely no problems or dropouts (where GlobalStar can have problems locking onto a Sat on the far south west coast). My mate has used GlobalStar for some time and after seeing and using my Iridium phone he is going to switch, he says it is superior by far. I am leaving Thursday to do the Oodnadatta track and beyond and I'll let you know when I get back how the Iridium system performs. Cheers!
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Reply By: Member - Jim - Saturday, Jul 27, 2002 at 00:00

Saturday, Jul 27, 2002 at 00:00
Kiwoka,
HF or Satphone is a personal choice, as Nigel says, if you are using a satphone you need a comprehensive list of telephone numbers prior to setting off on your trip and I suppose storing them in any Personal Digital Assistant will suffice for this.
What you find with HF is, and particularly if you join VKS737 you become one of many out there and if you listen to the sked each day you can hear who is ahead of you on a trek (say CSR).
If you wish you can selcall that person on completion of the sked to find out more detail, by being limited to a satphone you are not aware of who is out there.
The same applies if you need to call for help, the satphone will do this no problem.
Being a member of VKS737 you can achieve the same but the assistance may well be the next person ahead or behind you on the track.
As others have said in this string, you could argue for days on this subject.
Me I have HF, and in just over an hours time I will take a bottle of wine out to the garage and listen to the sked....because thats what HF people do.
Regards

AnswerID: 5192

Follow Up By: Cruiser - Saturday, Jul 27, 2002 at 00:00

Saturday, Jul 27, 2002 at 00:00
I echo Jim's sentiments entirely. Regardless of whether you're on the track or in the garage, a bottle of wine is a good sked-companion.
Either a satphone or HF will do the job, depending on how involved you wish to get. I use both, for different purposes. A point worth thinking about if you only have a satphone and need to call for help: as long as you have even one Police or RFDS phone number, you can ring them. If it is serious, they should be able to relay your problem and location via the RFDS or VKS-737 networks. There are plenty of people with HF and UHF who may be within reasonable distance but outside UHF range. So even though you can't contact them on HF, as long as they know where you are, someone will be able to help. So whether you choose satphone or HF, you should still carry a UHF radio to talk to people close by.
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Reply By: Steve - Saturday, Jul 27, 2002 at 00:00

Saturday, Jul 27, 2002 at 00:00
Cruiser has just hit the nail on the head..... get a Sat phone, but when you need 'HELP' those people will more than likely be around the corner with an HF set listening for those in need and ready to do what they can.. and a few may just be at home in the yard having a bottle of red and relaying messages if and when the need arises.. As an contributor from Sydney --almost CBD area , i listen and am on 'stand by' on VHS 737 on many Sunday evenings even though i may never call in ..... users of HF know how silly a Sat phone can be in the real Outback of Australia, and I'm sorry but - Tasmania is nowhere near the Outback ....

steve
AnswerID: 5198

Follow Up By: P.G. (tas) - Monday, Jul 29, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Jul 29, 2002 at 00:00
Steve, you are making a lot of assumptions here. Firstly a question was asked and I gave my first hand response. Secondly, I have travelled over 30,000k's on holidays over the past 2 years (and I am about to go again in a few days) through QLD, NT and South Australia, and survived with "only" a UHF set and a couple of mobile phones (GSM & CDMA) and never had need for anything else. Thirdly, I have brokendown out there but was smart enough to carry enough spares to fix things with the help of a passing truckie. The point is, take what you are comfortable with. Without being anti social, not everyone wants to broadcast their whereabouts or what they are doing, I go into the outback to get lost, not be contactable, and the last thing I want to do is turn on an HF Radio, Mobile Phones or anything else where I can be found. I am very happy to stop to help or assist anyone in trouble that I happen to wander across, but I'm not wandering around out there looking to be a mobile mechanic or workshop supply! I'm sorry if this doesn't meet your code of the outback, but my sole reason for succumbing to buying a sat-phone is purely a recently diagnosed medical one. PS, 3 days walk out of Tasmania's South West is just as isolated as anywhere in the outback (HF definately isn't practicle to carry in a backpack down there!):-)
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Follow Up By: Bob - Monday, Jul 29, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Jul 29, 2002 at 00:00
Steve - those people around the corner who will come to your help are contactable on UHF for one tenth the cost of HF. A quality UHF set using repeaters will cover well over 100km. Nearly all off roaders run UHF. HF is nowhere near as common.
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Follow Up By: Member - Nigel - Wednesday, Jul 31, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2002 at 00:00
It's rarely likely that you will get 50km or more coverage on a UHF, and in hilly or forested areas it can be less than 5km. I would hate someone to get into difficulty because they believe that their UHF will work for 100km.

Quoting unrealistic distances like that for UHF is simply irresponsible.
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Reply By: Steve - Monday, Jul 29, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, Jul 29, 2002 at 00:00
P.G don't blow a gasket... the loss of life in Tasmanias' bush is well reported in this part of the world.......where an EPIRB possibly would and should be mandatory for long walks ? anyway, have a good trip !
steve
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Follow Up By: P.G. (tas) - Thursday, Aug 01, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, Aug 01, 2002 at 00:00
OK, sorry Steve, I've calmed down now (work related stress!). I'm off on my adventure today, thanks for your good thoughts. Cheers.
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Follow Up By: P.G. (tas) - Saturday, Aug 17, 2002 at 00:00

Saturday, Aug 17, 2002 at 00:00
Good news Steve! I have just returned from the N.T. and my Telstra Motorola 9500 Iridium phone worked flawlessly! I made calls from Oodnadatta, Lamberts Centre, Finke, Chambers Pillar, Arltunga, Hermansburg and the Devils Marbles, all loud, all clear and with full signal strength. The phones come with an external antenna but this was not needed. The system now has SMS activated as well. I am pleased with my choice rather than going with HF. Cheers!
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Reply By: Kiwoka - Tuesday, Jul 30, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2002 at 00:00
Thanks for all the info.

I have deided - for now at least - just to go Sat. If I can find a cheap HF as a bonus for me "Boys Toy" that would be great.
AnswerID: 5248

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