satellite phone & epirb/plb ???

Submitted: Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 10:31
ThreadID: 66041 Views:5841 Replies:5 FollowUps:1
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G;day ... we are near completing our preparation to 'go hard around Oz ' & excitement is building ... now at the point of determining the best communication system/s for when we are out of mobile / UHF range ... what's the consensus on Satellite Phones , types & effeciency & is the general consensus pro also having an EPIRB/PLB???... we've been referred to a choice of two sat phones .. a PIVOTEL IRIDIUM 9505A or a THURAYA SAT phone...opinions / experience???.. With regards to the EPIRB/PLB choices .. there are many .. one we have been leaning towards is the GME M410G w GPS though another that has our attention is the relatively new SPOT SATELLITE MESSENGER ...which has a number of groovy functions allowing preset 'We're OK' or 'Need assistance' messages w GPS co-ordinates attached to be sent to friends & family via SMS or Email at the press of a button unless in dire straits when the Distress function can be used to alert Emergency services ... anyone know of these ... the bottom line I guess is how 'far in' does one go with all these expensive communication devises ??... I am a great advocate of FORSIGHT but conversely don't want to cross boundaries into paranoia ?? As always will be extremely appreciative of any advise / opinions from experienced off-roaders ... ciao for now.. aka Sassy
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Reply By: Zebra400 - Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 10:53

Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 10:53

Good to hear you are getting away to see our great outback.

Sat phones are great if you need to have verbal comms with people back home or in emergency situations.

SPOT is also a great new option. I have been using one for 6 months now, and love it. It's downside is that it is does not give you 2 way comms. If you are not bothered about 2 way comms, then it is a good option.

SPOT lets you send out your positions on a regular basis, plus giving you the additioanl 'Need Assistance & 911' emergency functions. Cost is reasonable. The unit sells for $299 AUD and the annual charge for operating it is currently $115 USD.

If you want to see what SPOT can do (with regards to sending positioning back to your friends), take a look a this link of an Ozzie member who is travelling through New Zealand with SPOT.

When travelling, we usually find we are never away from a main outback town for more than 2 weeks, so it allows us to use our Telstra mobile to logon to the internet and send emails & check our location on the map.

Have a great trip!

AnswerID: 349451

Reply By: Wayne (NSW) - Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 11:35

Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 11:35

There is a third option and that is HF radio and the VKS network.

All types of communication have the good and bad points and I don't think that one is really any better than the others. They will at times let you down. So what I am saying have at least two options for outback communication if not more.

As you already know a mobile phone is next to useless but the areas that you can get service is improving. Next G would be my choice.

HF is good but you are subject to atmospheric conditions and having the radio set up in the vehicle. If you have a flat battery or roll the vehicle and break the aerial it would be hard to get a signal out.

Sat phones do have there own battery but they must be charged up and having an external aerial on the vehicle does give a better reception. I know many disagree with me but I have Globalstar with the in car kit and I have been able to find and lock onto satellites to make a call OK.

EPIRB are for life or death situations. No good if you want to talk to some one about how to replace a shock.

Spot Messenger is new to Australia and from what I see if you hit the emergency button a signal goes to America than transferred to Australia. It is all well and good that someone knows where you are but if you need to talk to someone I don't think that it is possible with this system.

If at all possible travel with another vehicle and let family and friends know where you are and when you expect to arrive in a place that has a normal phone service. Also talk about what to do if they do not hear from you after a certain time.

The other thing that I have found which is not to bad is the "Bush Telegraph". When you meet another vehicle on the track, stop have a chat about where they are going and where you are going. This can be helpful for track conditions and what other vehicle are in the area.


AnswerID: 349459

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 13:29

Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 13:29

First of all, you must determine your specific needs.

Do you wish to remain in contact with anyone/someone at all times?
If yes, then a satellite phone is appropriate. The Motorola 9505A is a good choice as is will allow use via a NextG sim card with global roaming enabled, without the need for an expensive "plan" if just for occasional use.

The Spot Satellite Messenger is probably OK, but a bit gimmicky IMO.
If you need the tracking feature you are up for an additional $50 per annum, on top of the $99 per annum for satellite use.

If you need a "last chance" emergency solution, then the GME M410G EPIRB is an excellent choice and the one I chose for us.
You have a once off cost of the unit itself and nothing further to pay.
Your registration details provide both an emergency contact you nominate for the authorities to contact, (yes you are away on a remote trip, etc.) plus accurate location via the built-in GPS. This is a means of verifying a valid emergency and not just an "accidental" activation, although such an "accident" is not easily done.
The battery lasts around 9 years and can be tested at any time.

With this EPIRB, you will hopefully never need to use it, but it is the best "insurance policy" you can have.


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AnswerID: 349471

Reply By: Member - Fred B (NT) - Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 13:33

Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 13:33
Hi Lyndl,
as usual, comms questions throw up a number of different points of view... these views are of course influenced by our own experiences (both good and bad), and also what we have gotten used to.

I have been researching the comms question for some time, and am influenced by initial outlay cost plus ongoing costs. Here are my thoughts (for what they are worth).

In the last few days I have come to the decision that I am going to purchase a HF radio. The initial outlay is a little higher than the sat phone, but has the advantage of lower ongoing costs. You can make rad-phone calls, talk to other vehicles and bases etc.... These are still a lot cheaper than having to be on a sat ph plan. I also use a UHF radio and carry an EPIRB (or PLB as they are now called), as well as the telstra nextG ph. Include "bush telegraph" (as mentioned above) and you have a fairly well balanced all round plan for comms.

There are now a number of HF networks that you can join that have a variety of plans for HF comms. I plan on joining VKS 737 and possibly one other to give me a variety of options. Now that VKS 737 allow rad-phone, I may not even go past them.
Hope this helps.
Fred B
VKS 737: Mobile/Selcall 1334

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AnswerID: 349472

Follow Up By: Willem - Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 16:02

Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 16:02
G'day Fred

I have gone the opposite way....LOL

Having had a HF Radio for nigh on 25 years I have sold it (it was an old one). I bought a Satphone in 2004 2nd hand for $650. Been on Telstra Iridium plan since that time at $30pm with $10 worth of free calls. So that would cost $3600 over 10 years plus the occasional bush calls probably costing around $200 max per year. New NGT Codan might set me back $4000? Some free calls? Much of a muchness.

I only have this device as I do some serious remote treks. Just driving around the block would not warrant the expense and in this day and age it is not necessity either..

FollowupID: 617775

Reply By: Member - Mike DID - Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 19:16

Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009 at 19:16
If you have a Next G simcard with international Roaming, you can have Australia-wide coverage with no monthly costs, if you buy a Motorola 9505.

This will give you low-cost bothway text messaging - why bother with SPOT's send-a-message-and-hope-it-was-received ?

Thuraya will give you good coverage in northern WA, lousy coverage in South Eastern Australia, as you need to link to a single satellite over Singapore.

410G EPIRB is an absolute essential for remote area travel - regardless of what else you have.
AnswerID: 349533

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