satellite phones

Submitted: Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 16:50
ThreadID: 23639 Views:3092 Replies:11 FollowUps:7
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I am considering the purchase of a satellite phone but am unsure of which is the best. One salesman says Globalstar whilst another says Iridium. Could those of you that have either give me some feedback on the positives and negatives of each.
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Reply By: Member -Dodger - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:13

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:13
Whatever Sat phone you get make sure it roams and tries for the CDMA & Digital services first before going to the sat system. Cheaper this way for those wringing in as well.
Most that I know of have the Iridium phones, however it is a choice you will have to decide.
I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

Cheers Dodg.

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Reply By: Melly - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:27

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:27
We are about to pick up our Qualcomm satellite phone tomorrow and chose to go with Globalstar because of the flexibiltiy of their plans and cheaper call rates compared to Telstra's service. We were also lucky enough to get a $1500 government rebate off the $2000 phone as we will be spending more than 3 months out of the next 12 months of the year living and working in remote areas. The phone we got is able to roam on the CDMA network and the thing that I liked was that for incoming calls in Satellite mode costs us NOTHING and it costs the person calling us the same as calling a normal mobile.

As far as service goes...I have no idea coz i haven't been able to test it, but from what i have read they are pretty comparable.
AnswerID: 114615

Reply By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:34

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:34
A good mate of mine has a successful satphone hire business. He did the numbers and the practicals on all the various plans, hardware, technology and networks before he invested - and went Telstra on Motorola/Iridium.
AnswerID: 114618

Reply By: ginga - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:36

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:36
I've only used Globalstar (GSM & Satellite) & found it to be unsatisfactory insofar as coverage was poor ... especially when really needed - specifically satellite coverage ( GSM coverage was provided by Vodaphone).

Everything I've heard & read says Iridium is far better.
AnswerID: 114619

Reply By: Peter McGuckian (Member) - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 20:14

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 20:14
I use one of the old Ericsson phones on Globalstar. You used to be able to get them for around $500 on ebay. The thing to remember with all sat phones is that yu have to have line of site(!) to a satellite in order to establish conenction. So you get OK reception if you stop the car, get into the open away from trees and make your call. Battery life can be an issue but I sue the phone on the 12v car adaptor.

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AnswerID: 114654

Follow Up By: gqpat - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 20:57

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 20:57
Hi guys just finished using a Globalstar in the vic high country i found had to be very still while using or would drop out even when phone was sitting out in open coverage would drop off for no reason would like to try iridium to compare ???
FollowupID: 370507

Reply By: Ruth from Birdsville Caravan Park - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 22:56

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 22:56
I have Iridium and use it in the Desert and anywhere for that matter - have a number of friends with Globalstar who are very disappointed to find that it doesn't actually work everywhere(on sat/cdma). You should be able to purchase using the Govt. subsidy without any problem so it makes it very achieveable. Ours is used only for the absolutely necessary calls - but then, we are used to living without mobile phones annoying the heck out of us every couple of minutes! One of the advantages of living in the outback! Also, our sat phone is NOT mounted in the vehicle, nor do we have an aerial mounted on the vehicle - reason, if there was an accident the aerial would probably break first so we choose to have the phone free.
AnswerID: 114693

Follow Up By: geocacher (djcache) - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:43

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:43
Hi Ruth,

The other good reason not to use the car antenna adapter on a 9500/9505 Iridium phone (Motorola) is on heavily corrugated roads (in my case the length of the Tanami) the centre pin on the antenna vibrates on the centre of the antenna receptacle in the back of the phone (the little gold button in the middle of the antenna socket) and eventually fatigues the solder joint causing frequent call drop outs and eventually total loss of connection.

Fortunately I had the tools and skills to fix mine myself but for others it is inconvenient and if relying on the phone for emergency comms I suppose dangerous.

I had my phone in a RAM mount attached to the cargo barrier with the antenna adapter going to the magnetic antenna on the roof. The vibration was fairly bad. I believe if I had have had it stuffed in a bag or in the glove box like usual wrapped in a cloth this wouldn't have happened. The vibration was accentuated by mounting the phone in a cradle.

Anyway. Maybe mentioning it here may save another member having the same problem. On bitumen it would be fine.

FollowupID: 370530

Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:35

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:35
Hi Oz Outback.

I just came back from a trip down the Canning and took 2 Satphones - 1 for each vehicle.

Both were Motorola 9500 phones on the Iridium system. Both performed fine when required - no reception problems even in Durba Gorge with limited open sky. One was with TR Telecom (mine) and the other with Telstra. (Both use the same satellites.)

The only observation I would make is that dialing in from a landline to the phone on the TR Telecom plan was expensive++. That has nothing to do with TR Telecom and more to do with the rate IPrimus chose to bill me to ring a phone with another provider. That said I won't be changing as TR Telecom let me suspend my plan to $15 a month when I'm not using the phone where Telstra it's $30 a month regardless, so in the end I'm still in front.

With the benefit of hindsight now having done a trip where communication with home was inevitable (after all I did leave the wife & rug rats behind for 5 weeks...) in future if Lynne needs to talk to me she can sms me and I'll ring her back. Either way I pay for it anyway and it's much cheaper to ring home from the Satphone than to ring the Satphone from home.

There's a voice delay on Iridium but it's not bad.

I also made several calls on the HF radio which is half the price of the Satphone again using Radtel Network. The clarity was good. I had no trouble getting a clear base station and I was really impressed. The only downside is others who choose to can listen to your conversation but if they are that desperate for entertainment I couldn't care less.

The summary based on my recent experience is as follows:

Call rate - Satphone to other number
Telstra or TR Telecom Iridium - about $1.98 per minute.
Call rate - home (IPrimus) to TR Telecom Iridium - about $19.80 per minute (ouch). I'll be having a big argument with IPrimus tomorrow. Keep you posted.
Call rate - home (if I was with Telstra to TR Telecom Iridium - $4.85 per minute)
Call rate - home to Telstra Iridium - not sure but possibly cheaper - I'll ring them tomorrow and keep you posted.
Call rates to any satphone vary wildly as you can see depending on who your land line provider is. Check before you ring.
Can make and receive calls.
Depending on model of phone you can send and receive SMS. (Motorola 9500 can only receive SMS.)
HF will find you help (maybe) if there's someone else just down the road. eg. I'm a Paramedic and travelled the Canning with a comprehensive medical kit. Had someone needed help I may have been several to 20 or so hours closer than outside help depending on proximity to an airstrip but on a Satphone you'd never know.

Call rate - HF with Radtel Network- about $1-00 per minute.
Can only make outgoing calls but offers a message service for people wishing to contact you.
Other benefits - HF can also be used to listen to Collingwood thrash the West Coast Eagles while at Well 6 on the Canning!!!
HF also allows use of VKS737 4wd Radio Network message service and location logging and other services. (Like very helpful operators chasing fuel info for Well 33 on Sundays and fridge repairers in Halls Creek.) Chatting to others from the network who are travelling in the same area.
Your satphone won't do any of the above.

As an aside and I've mentioned this here before; if you have an Iridium phone and you setup your Telstra GSM (digital not CDMA) phone to international roaming (ring 125111 to setup) you can use your GSM sim card in your Iridium phone and you don't need an Iridium account. You pay slightly more for calls ($3.00 per minute ringing from inside Aust.) and if you don't divert all calls to voicemail then you pay if anyone rings you too. If like me you don't want to be rung while away divert all calls to voicemail before you go. Someone can still sms you if you do this.

References related to above
TR Telecom
Telstra Countrywide Satellite
RadTel Network HF
VKS737 4wd Radio Network


AnswerID: 114701

Follow Up By: Ruth from Birdsville Caravan Park - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 07:36

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 07:36
Very thorough and informative response, Dave.
FollowupID: 370542

Follow Up By: Dean (SA) - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 13:48

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 13:48

Excellent stuff. I have just signed up on a 9505A with the TR Telecom suspension plan , they were dearer on the handset but met Telstras price.
Telsra landline to Telstra Iridium is $1.60pm. Also telstra sat to telstra gsm, you can sms direct, like gsm to gsm. Two things that I thought would be the main advantage for going with telstra.
However the lower plan fees I hope will make up for dearer calls in some situations and you can sms via the internet.
One advantage I see with this plan is no contract, opposed to 2 years with telstra. I can monitor things for a while and easily change plans as neccessary.
Telstra quoted me $2.36 per 30 sec for calls using your sim card, for both calling and recieving. You mention $3.00pm ?
FollowupID: 370571

Reply By: Member - Luxoluk - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 08:54

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 08:54
Good "account" Dave. Those sat phones can be expensive!! I rang you for about 6 minutes and it cost me $100 on my bill. I contacted you on the HF from Victoria whilst you were on the Canning...cost...ZIP!! Sorta says it all eh!! Cheers mate.

AnswerID: 114719

Follow Up By: Melly - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 09:20

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 09:20
For us, this is where Globalstar was more suitable for our needs, our family and friends can contact us and it only costs them the same as a normal mobile phone call.

"Calls to a Globalstar mobile are charged at their standard mobile rate only." - from the globalstar website.

We also have an EPIRB in case of a super dooper emergency and the sat phone doesn't work...although hopefully that won't happen.

We are going onto a $70 a month plan with $45 worth of included calls. 60cents per 30 secs in Sat mode or 21 cents per 30 secs in CDMA mode.

FollowupID: 370548

Reply By: Bob of KAOS - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 09:42

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 09:42
I just had a week away in the Centre. The head of our local phone/power/water authority brought along a Globalstar phone with data cable etc. It worked fine at all times. What more can you ask?
AnswerID: 114727

Follow Up By: oz outback - Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 16:41

Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 16:41
Thank you One and All for the excellent response.
A wealth of information has been received to deliberate on.
I am particularly interested in Bob's comment about the Data Cable etc. as I envisage the same now that the speeds are meant to be up to 38.4bbps, if in fact they are. Did you find that data calbe worked Bob?
FollowupID: 370838

Follow Up By: Bob of KAOS - Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 18:07

Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 18:07
I didn't get around to trying it. Too much else going on.
FollowupID: 370856

Reply By: Member - Mike - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 21:28

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 21:28
Gee I wonder what Len Beadell would have suggested or maybe Sid Kidman

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Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 14:27

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 14:27
Hi all,

Well despite lengthy conversations with Primus Telecom which left me the impression that they have not a clue about Iridium or the nature of Satellite phones and the differences between providers and satphone numbers I was unable to resolve the issue with their call costs.

As a result of their patronising attitude (never assume a customer knows less than you do - particularly when you don't know what you are talking about) and their criminal charging policy I will be taking my home phone and internet business elsewhere.

They don't give a rats about losing a multi thousand dollar a year account but I'll feel better.

When I first rang them to ask their charge per minute to call a satphone (I provided the number) they stated that they could not tell me and would get back to me in writing. The next consultant I discussed rates with asked if I had checked the call rate before ringing the number!! Not much point if they can't tell you.

It turns out that $19.80 per minute is their call to a satphone (Iridium) outside Australia. They have a lower rate (aobut $11 per minute) for ringing an Iridium phone which is inside Australia but are insisting that even though I was on the Canning Stock Route in WA the international call rate is the correct rate to apply to those calls. Clearly they failed geography also.

Interestingly they also informed me that if I ring my next door neighbour and put 03 in front of the number they will bill STD rates! If you have the full numbers programmed into your home phones for caller ID you better check that one out.

I may still take this one up with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman but I'll still be closing my account with this particular bunch of crooks. The international rate of $19.80 per minute is 410% of the Telstra rate. Even the approx $11 per minute rate that they don't appear to charge to phones inside Australia is more than double the Telstra rate!

More later if anything eventuates. In the mean time if you plan on getting a Satphone check the rate your home provider is planning on charging - if they even know - before your wife rings.


AnswerID: 114897

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