Cheap Satellite Phone Option

Submitted: Saturday, May 03, 2008 at 18:42
ThreadID: 57239 Views:6520 Replies:6 FollowUps:11
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Hi,

Since I have received very helpful advice from this forum over the years, I thought I'd post what I've discovered for a cheap satellite phone option.

I just purchased a Thrane & Thrane TT-3060A mini-M satellite phone on ebay, for $285, including registered post.

I have activated the phone with Selex Communications, a UK based company. I only pay for call costs, which are USD 1.50 per minute, both to land-lines and mobile phones. There are no monthly or annual fees to pay.

The person I dealt with at Selex is John Tabor, email address John.Tabor@selex-comms.com.

However, once the phone was activated, although I could call the satellite phone, I was unable to make calls from it. Well, eventually, I spoke with Mark at Electrotech, http://www.electrotech.net.au/, who was able to give me the PIN codes needed to configure the phone, to make it work.

The phone was originally sold by Telstra, and they had it configured to use auto-prefix; this meant any telephone number was prepended with the digits '221'. Now, this meant that all calls would fail, as they all began with 221.

But, once I was able to disable the auto-prefix option, the phone now works like a charm. It is the size of a small laptop, so obviously not as small or convenient to use as an Iridium Motorola phone.

Also, to use it, you have to point the antenna towards the satellite. However, this is easy to do. Simply enable antenna beep, move the antenna around until the beeps become more intense, and that's it.

Also, it does not have the capability to send or receive SMS. But, it does have the option to send email at 2400 baud; although quite slow, this should be sufficient for text based email using Outlook/Eudora etc. Again, not as convenient as SMS but in some ways, better.

Although, I suspect, email using an Iridium Motorola phone is also a possibility.

And, the voice quality is very good. Admittedly, I've only used it once so far to test it, but in my conversations with various people before I purchased it, the Inmarsat network is meant to be quite good, as it was originally developed for ships.

So, I thought it would be helpful for others who'd like to own a satellite phone but who do not want to spend a lot of money, to know about this as an alternative.

Regards,
Peter
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Reply By: Bonz (Vic) - Saturday, May 03, 2008 at 18:48

Saturday, May 03, 2008 at 18:48
hmm worth looking into fifo, thanx for the info
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AnswerID: 301880

Reply By: Member - Olcoolone (S.A) - Sunday, May 04, 2008 at 16:00

Sunday, May 04, 2008 at 16:00
You should be able to get a vertical antenna to suit instead of the Planer type.

It seems every one on here is hell bent on Globalstar or Iridium and don't realise there are other satellite communication providers out there.

We use Optus Mobilesat and it costs us 60cents per 30 seconds.

Do you know what satellite band they work on.

Well done

Regards Richard
AnswerID: 301997

Follow Up By: Member - Fifo - Sunday, May 04, 2008 at 19:42

Sunday, May 04, 2008 at 19:42
Yes, well I posted mainly to let others know that I think Inmarsat is a good alternative, especially if you can pick up the phone for a reasonable price.

Sounds like you're on a good deal with Optus Mobilesat; do you only pay for the call costs? If so, that's even better than what I'm on.

No, I don't know what satellite band Inmarsat is on.

Regards,
Peter
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FollowupID: 568089

Follow Up By: Member - Olcoolone (S.A) - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 08:44

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 08:44
The phone is on a $35.00 per month plan.

The other thing is we can also run a cordless phone off it and use it in our camper trailer and hotel room.

It gives us about 400m range from the vehicle

Regards Richard
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FollowupID: 568121

Reply By: Member - bushfix - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 08:41

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 08:41
yep, i've mentioned this a few times. maybe people just want a nice little handheld job instead, but the maths does not make sense.

got mine for $170, costs nothing except when i use it, $2.60 per minute. laughing, esp as no money is going to "bloody telstra."
AnswerID: 302084

Follow Up By: Member - Fifo - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 10:13

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 10:13
Actually, it was a comment that you made in a post on satellite phones that prompted me to checkout the Inmarsat option. The only issue I had was that all the Australian providers of airtime wished to charge between $200 & $360 per year.

Asta used to provide more plans but now only provide the one plan. So, that's why I went with Selex, only pay for calls made.

Yes, I'm very happy and thanks to your comment in an earlier post, I now have a very good satellite phone that was both cheap to buy and cheap to run.

Not only that, the build quality of these Thrane & Thrane phones looks like they'll last forever.
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FollowupID: 568130

Follow Up By: Member - bushfix - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 10:46

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 10:46
only one plan now eh?

i had the option of $200 per year for calls at $1.90 per min or no fees at all and calls at $2.60 per min. No minimum calls.

yep, Mark at Electrotech is a very canny and helpful fella.

well done mate. if you don't have it, you can find a pdf of the manual on the web.
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FollowupID: 568136

Reply By: Axel [ the real one ] - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 10:09

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 10:09
U.S.$1.50 per min is not exactly cheap ,take into acount that the bill will have to be paid by c/card in US$ , conversion +fees will end up round $2 / $2.30 AU per min ,,,,,,,,,,
bought an erricsson from ebay 12mths go for $250 / handbook /disk / leather cover /both chargers .... activated 5 weeks ago on Pivotel [globalstar] ,,,$35 per mth on a mth to mth basis ,$10 included calls at $0.90 per min ,,, have now used phone at Windoorah / Cordillo Downs and at Innaminka ,,, longest wait for service was 3min ,,, not bad considering all the "bagging ' that the Globalstar network recieves on this forum .
AnswerID: 302097

Follow Up By: Member - Fifo - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 10:26

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 10:26
Yer, well each to their own I guess. I don't consider paying $35 per month, when I may only use the phone for one month out of twelve, to be exactly cheap. If you're on the road full-time, then fair enough.

I have a Wizard Mastercard which does not charge extra fees for foreign currency. So, current exchange rate, USD 1.50 is approx. AUD 1.67 per minute.

And, with the way the US dollar is going, it'll be at parity before too long.

As far as Globalstar is concerned, I would not own a Gloablstar phone if I needed it for an emergency. I rented one last August for a Simpson crossing and sometimes I had to wait 30 to 45 minutes before I could make a call. And, then typically the call would drop out.

So, the bagging Globalstar receive on this forum is valid. Until Globalstar fix their problems, then all the bagging they receive is deserved.

But, if Globalstar fix their problems, then the bagging will stop. There is no doubt that the voice quality on Globalstar is excellent, when connected.

But, Inmarsat have been around for a long time, and now provide high speed Internet options (very, very expensive), so I don't see them going away, so, I'm more than happy with my choice.




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FollowupID: 568132

Follow Up By: Axel [ the real one ] - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 14:56

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 14:56
Seems some people cant do simple maths or read a reply properly ,, $35 per mth on a mth to mth basis , NO 12 mth contract at all and 10min of calls included , and the problems are as good as fixed already ,, funny that ,, while at Windorah the Globalstar /Pivotel worked and the next --------- door campers iridium did NOT,
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FollowupID: 568174

Follow Up By: Member - Fifo - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 15:36

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 15:36
Let's do some simple maths, eh...

Inmarsat AUD 30 / 1.67 = 20.9 minutes worth of calls

Globalstar AUD 30 includes AUD 10 / 0.90 = 11.1 minutes of calls

So, pray tell, am I missing?
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FollowupID: 568187

Follow Up By: Member - Fifo - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 15:43

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 15:43
Let's post what I calculated, not what I typed...

Let's do some simple maths, eh...

Inmarsat AUD 35 / 1.67 = 20.9 minutes worth of calls

Globalstar AUD 35 includes AUD 10 / 0.90 = 11.1 minutes of calls

So, pray tell, what am I missing?
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FollowupID: 568188

Follow Up By: Axel [ the real one ] - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 16:44

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 16:44
What your missing is that you no longer have to have a "contract" with Pivotel / Globalstar for any lenght of time , can now do month by month and cancel at any time , also that the per min price has effectivly been halved from .90c per 30sec to .45c per 30 sec.
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FollowupID: 568199

Follow Up By: Member - Fifo - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 17:16

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 17:16
Well, after providing an appalling service for the last few years, they obviously have to do something to attract customers back.

As I said, my experience with Globalstar in the Simpson last August was enough for me. Even if they halved their call costs to 45 cents per minute, I would not be a Globalstar customer.

Inmarsat have an excellent reputation and that's what I want if I need to make an emergency call. I want it to work 24/7.
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FollowupID: 568205

Reply By: AdrianLR (VIC) - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 11:01

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 11:01
What's coverage across Australia like? It appears to be ok for north west but the rest of the country is possibly not covered?
Inmarsat coverage

Adrian
AnswerID: 302109

Follow Up By: Member - Fifo - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 11:13

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 11:13
Adrian,

No, the whole of Australia is covered. The coverage map you're looking at is for the new high speed Internet access; they haven't yet launched their high speed satellite in the Pacific ocean, which will then provide high speed Internet access for all of Australia.

But, for voice using mini-M, all of Australia plus the rest of the world is covered, except for the North & South poles. I live in Sydney and called my wife in Ireland the other day, on a Vodaphone mobile, just to test voice quality.

Based on some comments I received whilst talking to various airtime Inmarsat providers in Australia, I got the impression that possibly Inmarsat would shutdown their mini-M service.

So, before I bought the phone on eBay, I decided to call Inmarsat direct in the UK and asked them several questions. He said that they had no plans to discontinue their existing voice capability.

And, also as a result of that call, the guy emailled me an Excel spreadsheet containg a list of all the companies in the world that can connect you to the Inmarsat network.

I called Selex first up, they seemed helpful to deal with and I was happy with USD 1.50 per minute call cost. I suspect if I had called around and bargained, I probably could've gotten a better deal.

Peter
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FollowupID: 568140

Reply By: Member - Fifo - Monday, May 05, 2008 at 11:17

Monday, May 05, 2008 at 11:17
Adrian,

Take a look at

http://www.inmarsat.com/Support/Coverage/Aero_classic.aspx

to see what I mean.

I agree, it looks a bit funny that it is not obvious from Inmarsat's web page about voice coverage. I think it's because they're trying to promote their high speed service, and, as a result the old boring voice service is not so easy to find.

Peter
AnswerID: 302111

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