Satellite phone coverage

Submitted: Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 19:44
ThreadID: 3228 Views:2020 Replies:8 FollowUps:2
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We are travelling the Canning Stock Route in a couple of months and have decided to take a satellite phone for our emergency contact - does anyone know if the coverage is as good as an HF radio (ie for RFDS contact).
Thanks for your help.
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Reply By: surveyor - Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 19:57

Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 19:57
Sat 'phone should cover you but as an emergency contact you may be able to hire an EPIRB for the trip
AnswerID: 12500

Reply By: chopper - Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 20:18

Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 20:18
in theory you should be 'covered' just about anywhere.

however the following may help,

Optussat and inmarsat both rely on looking at a single (different) satelite. If there is something (like a tree) between you and that satelite you will lose signal, also depending on the aerial you may need to either manually or electronicly tune the aerial after a significant location change (or even if you park on unflat ground)

Vodafone Globalstar -(i haven't used these personally) require 3 satelites to be seen to operate, hence potential for dropouts to increase.

Iridium- (my favourite) only requires one (out of something like-don't quote me- 20 birds) for a fix. We have used these in all sorts of geology, geography and biology and have found them to be far superior, although they do go through the batteries, even on standby, so be sure to take the 12volt charger, the ones that we hire also have a magnetic aerial for whilst in the car.

hope that this is of help.

AnswerID: 12501

Reply By: Cobra - Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 21:43

Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 21:43
I have used both the Vodaphone and Iridium for work and outback trips and found that Iridium is the most reliable. Had a lot of problems with Vodaphone and no longer use it.
AnswerID: 12504

Follow Up By: Sean - Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 22:35

Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 22:35
I have used both vodaphone/Globalstar and the iridium system. Both systems use orbiting satellites about 1400km above us.

I owned 2 vodaphone globalstar phones for 2+ years during which time I had 3 handset failured as a result of a capacator failing due to a design problem.

The motorola 9505 iridium handset is good quality, I have had for about 6 months and no probs to date.

There is one big difference between the 2 systems that should be understood.

The globalstar works by the handset being able to reach a satellite that can then relay to the ground station closest to the handset.

Note the word 'closest'.

This means that if you are at Port Augusta and the ground station at Dubbo, which is deemed 'closest' to you is down for maintenance, then you cannot make a call even though the phone can see the groundstation 'gateway' at ceduna (or wherever it is) (Dubbo, Ceduna and Mt Isa I think). Thats right, the phone will not work until the groundstation is operational again. This happened to me and the phone would not work anywhere between Kulgera and the Vic Border. Given this limitation, I find it hard to believe that Globalstar will give 100% coverage. I found that Borooloola was always a blackspot. Phones drop out alot also. Not a system for reliable comms - believe me. The telit phones hardly work unless fully charged - adn this charge level does not last long.

Iridium relays sat to sat until and ground station can be reached. Also iridium/motorola 9505 seems to be more robust in signal strength and phones do not seem to be as affected by battery charge level.

The motorola 9505 can also be worn on the belt with antenna folded and can signal an incoming call. So calls can be recieved with antennal folded. Vodaphone/ Globalstar will not do this.

If you go the sat phone , DONT go vodaphone/Globalstar - even if it is given to you as I believe you will reget it.

I believe you would be satisfied by the motorola 9505 / iridium as sold be telstra. I have not used the geostationary systems or radphone so I cannot compate with these.

My only interest in above companys is that I have telstra shares I wish I never bought.....

FollowupID: 7300

Reply By: Steve - Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 22:31

Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 22:31
Melanie : I reckon you picked the wrong one !! If I was 'doing' the Canning it would be with HF as main unit and as last resort ( most expensive and limited usefullness) a Sat phone contact RFDS the HF is the best way to go ...and you are in touch with all those on the track who also have HF...Sat phone keeps you in touch with nobody except you call them !! no 'emegency' button on them !! Why dont you look at all the other hits on this site that deal with the same subject ?
AnswerID: 12508

Follow Up By: Member - Richard- Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 22:56

Tuesday, Feb 04, 2003 at 22:56
Melanie, I agree with Steve's advice. With the HF you can contact the RFDS and you can hear what is going on from other travellers. Also if you have a problem you may be able to get help from someone in the immediate area who hears your call. A Sat phone is nice to call somone but if I wanted to have a backup comm system I would take a second portable HF. Also make sure you carry a EPIRB at all times. The Canning can be a very lonely place and very unforgiving. The most fear for me was always the possibility of a bad accident and/or a vehicle fire. Make sure you have your essential survival equipment readily accessible and easily removable from the vehicle. You may only have a few minutes to get it out. ALWAYS carry some water (enough for a few days) that can be quickly removed from the vehicle together with the essential survival equipment. Its lovely to build everything into your vehicel, IF you vehicle remains in a usable condition. If it does not ??
FollowupID: 7302

Reply By: Member - Chris - Wednesday, Feb 05, 2003 at 10:15

Wednesday, Feb 05, 2003 at 10:15
The HF/Sat issue is as good as chalk and cheese really.

Sat systems such as globalstar use the best dynamic connection of 3 birds to achieve connectivity, some others use one. Environmental conditions will degrade all of these no matter who has shares in what or which company operates the system. A side benefit of the globalstar/vodaphone unit is that it works on GSM when in an area as well so you only need one mobile when you travel. For good information, contact a company in Sydney called MARLEC - the manager has significant expereince in

HF on the other hand has black spots all over the country, and the world, and is very exposed to environmental conditions. For the operator to overcome this, you need practice. But lots of people use it - some not very well, others all the time.

As I have some experience in both, I'll be taking an EPRIB and a SAT phone when I'm off to the remote tracks, under the premise that if I need this level of contact, then I'm buggered and can afford to wait for either the atmosphere to be kind, or the birds to shift slightly.

Cost, and what you are comfortable with, are the issues. Some won't go off HF, some won't consider anything but sat, what beneifts you in terms of functionality and what you are prepared to accept in an emergency should drive your decision I reckon.

For good information, contact a company in Sydney called MARLEC - the manager has significant expereince in both civil and military communications and can give good advice.

Good Luck whatever you choose.

AnswerID: 12530

Reply By: Topcat - Wednesday, Feb 05, 2003 at 22:41

Wednesday, Feb 05, 2003 at 22:41
Hi Melanie, I have to agree that the H.F. Radio setup is the cheapest & best option for travelling the C.S.R. With the VKS-737 radio network setup in W.A., you get full coverage from theirPerth Base as well as the others at Sandstone & Derby in the north. I have travelled the stock route & found no problems with communications through H.F radio. You can hire a portable set reasonable cheap which works fine using a long wire tuned to the frequencies you require. Your local comms radio store should be able to give you further info on the setup. Check out VKS-737 on their web site at :
AnswerID: 12585

Reply By: Steve - Thursday, Feb 06, 2003 at 23:05

Thursday, Feb 06, 2003 at 23:05
Melanie : hope you got the message and as I don't wish to push it down your throat.... I think you can see by the answers that HF is the way to go on the Canning.... (just like I said) you will have no difficulty operating a simple HF unit and as mentioned the facts are simple...its a 24/7 unit that is in contact with all emergency services at the touch of a button --- the EMERGENCY one!!!

AnswerID: 12637

Reply By: Member - Cruiser1 - Saturday, Feb 08, 2003 at 16:29

Saturday, Feb 08, 2003 at 16:29
We've been here so many times before!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There is no ultimate 'better than......'
Both will do the job. Either can be 'better' in certain circumstances.
I have (and use) both - iridium and HF, depending on who/what I want to contact. My satphone has ALWAYS worked, even in the worst atmospheric conditions, on land and at sea. HF can be temperamental but will reach more people - some of whom MIGHT be close enough to help in case of trouble.
Use what you prefer, can afford and are happy to operate, without getting too involved in this circular argument.

If you go the satphone route, make sure you have the RFDS phone number and a couple of Police numbers. If you go with HF, learn how to use it.
AnswerID: 12698

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