Outback communications

Submitted: Saturday, Aug 16, 2003 at 23:41
ThreadID: 6629 Views:2073 Replies:8 FollowUps:6
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Friends tell me that I should have a HF radio for outback travel. I think a UHF (repeaters give hundreds of km range in the outback) and a Sat phone, with the money saved compared to HF, is the way to go. After all if I need help I want to be able to call the service I need. Any opinions?
I'm also concerned that HF looks like a major, immovable installation job whereas a Sat phone can come on walks, in boats etc.
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Reply By: Member - Raymond - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 09:02

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 09:02
Hi Bob
I travel into the out back frequently and have used HF for twenty five years and have found it great.
UHF is great for talking between vehicles and yes in some areas you will get UHF repeater coverage, but 50 klms is more the usual range.
Sat phones are great, but you need to carry a list of phone numbers with you as 1300, 1800, 13, 000 numbers don't work on them.
If you are only planning to travel for a few weeks or this may be your only outback trip you can hire HF radios to use in an emergency, they do not require installation, they come in a case and you plug the power lead onto the battery and throw out a long wire antenna.
Regards ray wanderin' in retirement. victor 2010
AnswerID: 28158

Reply By: Mixo - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 10:00

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 10:00
Yes Bob .... communication options are just like choosing a car ... none of the options are right or wrong - like Bob I choose HF - love it. But I'm into communication with other users that I know. If you are the quiet type, the satphone should be good, but on the issue of getting help fast, an HF respondent could be 1 sandhill away - using a satphone, that potential help won't even know you are there. Re the UHF, your generalised communications expectation is way too optimistic. Excellent for shorter ranges and good on a repeater IF there is one).Gotta have red sand on those boots !
AnswerID: 28161

Reply By: Allyn (Pilbara) - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 10:23

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 10:23
I don't know what you consider outback but I've travelled the Pilbara and Kimberley at reasonable length and haven't found UHF repeaters in action. An excellent tool for convoy's and that's about all I reckon.
Advantages of Satphone I believe to be as follows :
Advancing technology
Portability and easier to keep secure
Can be used as a mobile when within CDMA range
Cheaper initial outlay
Other people can contact you any time (up to you whether you turn it on or not)
A lit of phone numbers is really easy to carry in your car

You'll find a large group of HF enthusiasts who don't want to look at the other side of the coin.
Things I've found that they like is the chat factor and talking to people that they know or have spoken to before & that calls are free. That's easy when you already have a HF radio too I suppose. I'm not trying to bleep anyone off here but no doubt someone will jump on this - they're a pretty passionate lot !
To each his own but for me Satphone is a much better option and as soon as they get a teenie weenie bit smaller I will be buying one. For now we hire.Next Trek - Carawine Gorge, Skull Springs & Nullagine
AnswerID: 28163

Follow Up By: Brad - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 13:45

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 13:45
"......Can be used as a mobile when within CDMA range....."
I think the vodafone satphone system can be used as a GSM when in range, but is this right that some satphones can be used on the (Telstra) CDMA network ?
Give me the web address if you have it.
FollowupID: 19502

Reply By: Member - Nigel (QLD) - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 11:00

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 11:00
Some sort of long range comms is advisable if going remote (don't rely on UHF - it's very useful but range can be as low as 5km if hills or forests block the signal).

I use HF coz I can talk to all my friends for free, and I don't travel enough to justify paying the monthly satphone charge every month. Also I like the community spirit of HF.

But if your not interested in radio then a Satphone may suit you better. Others have listed some of the disadvantages of satphone (HF has some disadvantages too), but it's up to you what suits your needs.

A mate of mine bought a cheap HF for his tinny and I've talked to him when he's in his boat over 1000km from me.

For now I'll stick with HF as Satphone can't provide me with unlimted talk time to my friends (who also have HF) for $70/year.
AnswerID: 28167

Follow Up By: Member - Donald_L - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 19:54

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 19:54
What is the cost to set up a HF rig from scratch??
RegardsGet out there and use it.
Life is too short not to.
All the best...
FollowupID: 19534

Follow Up By: Member - Nigel (QLD) - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 23:06

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 23:06
It can cost anything from a few hundred to $4000 depending on what sort of gear you go for...
FollowupID: 19555

Reply By: Member - Bob - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 11:58

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 11:58
Bob, HF doesn't need to be a major installation. I keep mine in an old brief case and only pull it out when its needed. Use alligator clips to attach to your battery. The antenna mount, if you use a tapped whip, can be on your spare wheel at the back, or even on your trailer (which is what I do). Auto tune antenna bases could be similarly mounted but are more cumbersome. If you mount it on the bar up front it will be the first thing you damage and leave you without comms when you most need it. The whip can be stowed in a PVC pipe mounted on your roof. The satphone is obviously easier to stow and use, and unless you spend time becoming part of the HF community, is a more reliable form of emergency comms.Bob
AnswerID: 28174

Follow Up By: Williewags- Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 16:13

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 16:13
The same for me. My HF lives behind my seat in its box. I test it every now and then.

Gee Bob, for once we agree on something :-)


Gunbarrel Highway.

Always going somewhere
FollowupID: 19514

Reply By: Bob - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 22:30

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 22:30
Thanks for the many and varied opinions everyone and i guess it's a matter of what a person needs and wants. Just listening to UHF and HF I feel that a lot of the users are "playing" (boys with toys) at being radio operators and spend a lot of time saying very little. Anyone else noticed this? SSB on 27meg is particularly bad for this too with lots of "overs" and rogers" and they usually take at least 5 minutes to conclude a communications after giving farewells to almost everyone except the Queen of Sheba!!
Think I'll settle for UHF and Sat phone. By the way my UHF must be a lot better than most. I've often had contact over more than 100km through repeaters. Most outback stations have repeaters.
AnswerID: 28253

Follow Up By: Member - Nigel (QLD) - Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 23:08

Sunday, Aug 17, 2003 at 23:08
I've had contacts over 100km on UHF without a repeater...

BUT you can't rely on that sort of range as terrain has a big affect on UHF range.
FollowupID: 19556

Reply By: Steve - Monday, Aug 18, 2003 at 18:10

Monday, Aug 18, 2003 at 18:10
What u pay for is what u get and that is why HF is not cheap !!! (and Sat phones are an expensive toy , but some are happy with them !!) HF is the system really only for the real outback, not just outside the metro area of cities and large towns !!
AnswerID: 28327

Follow Up By: Slammin - Tuesday, Aug 19, 2003 at 00:54

Tuesday, Aug 19, 2003 at 00:54
Most locals here have the UHF on more and for longer than HF, no it's not emerg. comms but it's not just for metro and towns either.
FollowupID: 19657

Reply By: Slammin - Tuesday, Aug 19, 2003 at 00:13

Tuesday, Aug 19, 2003 at 00:13
I live and work in remote areas and most people have NT Fleet Cars with HF and S.ph. and guess what the HF is rarely even turned on.

Yes HF is a very useful tool and yes it may even be better in some situations but too often this turns into the old Cruiser V Nissan, Splits V Fats, Minnie Skirts V Tight Jeans...

BTW the most common outback emergency is a single vehicle rollover, now tell me if a car battery dependent, big antennaed HF is going to work then?

It sounds to me Bob that you already know what you want but S.Ph are as stated above pretty exy but for my dollar a much better option. As usual on this topic I will add always carry an
EPIRB * 40+ hrs worst case scenario

Remember it could be an emergency where you can't even talk.
AnswerID: 28383

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