Sat Phone or HF Radio

Submitted: Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:27
ThreadID: 66648 Views:3602 Replies:13 FollowUps:5
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Evening all,

Chatting to a mate today who is retiring in 2 years and he's weighing up the pros and cons of these 2 options. It's something I have little knowledge in and all I've picked up along the way is:

HF: can talk to fellow travellers (without big $$$ per minute fee), if in need of trouble there's someone on the other end to get things rolling.

Satphone: as long as you see sky you'll get reception, if in trouble you need to know which numbers to call to get rescue/help (can't you call 000?).

Both expensive to purchase (unless hiring), phones high cost to use, HF licence fee's but talk is free.

He has asked for my advice but it's one area I'm not confident in. Can any one give some advice from experience on what option he should be looking at?

Thanks everyone,

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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian (SA) - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:43

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:43
This query pops up regularly here - see the page here on Eoz re Outback Communications - there is also one at ..... the Satphones link .... makes comparisons too.... should be informative....(HF for me).
AnswerID: 352977

Reply By: SteveD - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:47

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:47
Gidday Mark
With a sat phone you may have dificulty in cloudy conditions or during storm activity and you are dependant on satelites. HF a bit of knowledge of ground wave, sky wave, the ionosphere etc will go a long way, understand how radio waves work, selcall and auto tune attennas make life easier but to get comms most time you need to know the basics and therefore know what to try if you can't get through. HF has other advantages such as radio Australia 24/7, weather updates etc. For a rare communication in an emergency and needing little knowledge I would go sat phone. For universal communications general day to day and emergency I would go HF. Defence still heavily use HF.

Cheers Steve
AnswerID: 352980

Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:33

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:33
Clouds and storms do not affect propagation at 1500MHz used for Satphones.

Thunder storms within hundreds of kilometres will cause static crashes that can make HF unusable.
FollowupID: 621176

Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:47

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:47
Hi Mark,
I am a great fan of the HF radio, having owned one for over 15 years. There have never been any locations in our outback travels where we could not log onto the VKS 737 Radio Network. During our travels, you get to build up a real bond with the operators when you log in and give them details for your trip and your expected travels the following day.

We have been with people that have taken a Sat phone, only to make a phone call with either in signal, or the phone would drop out on a regular basis.

With the Sat phone, sure you get an emergency call out if needed, but if you do not know who to contact, you can be up the creek. If you are in trouble and contact the VKS Network, they will put out a call to all people that may be in your area and help can be very close at hand. Also the operators have all the correct contact details at their disposal and can save a lot of time and frustration in the time of any real emergency.

The final choice will come down to your friend, but I know what type of communication equipment that I can rely on when out in the bush.


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AnswerID: 352981

Reply By: 3F62 - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:52

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 21:52
Having used and owned both, and have a real soft spot for HF radio we decided on Sat phone.......

The main reason being you could toss the Sat phone to anyone with 10 seconds instruction they could use it, (clear sky view etc.)

The HF was far more complex for the occasional operator, then add to the senario that you may be making a urgent call/ request for assistance under duress OR you the operator who can use the HF in your sleep are out of action. Could your spouse/ partner complete this task ??

my 2 bob's worth

AnswerID: 352984

Reply By: Member - Josh (VIC) - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:14

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:14
Hi Mark,
It depends on your exact need. Is it just for emergency comms or other use as well ie. track conditions, weather, contact back home. We have been travelling for two years and have a sat phone. In an emergency (with hf) you are relying on other people relay a message of where you are or what is wrong. Sat phone you talk direct. We were given a list of emergency numbers for remote areas when we bought our phone Ie stations, police ect. With a sat phone you can ring ahead or ring home to notify if you are going to be late rather than relay via hf.
We also have an epirb so in real extreme emergencies we can set of the epirb for our exact location and call to notify of situation, this would be someone is dying type case.
Heard of a couple who broke down on the canning, called up on HF radio for help. Operator knew of another group in area so relayed message to them. 2 hours later all fixed and were on their way. Sat phone would not have been as useful in that situation. We Had an electrical fault on the Gibb. Rang a mate for info on solving the problem. Cost me $22 for the call but got us going. In remote areas where we were out of contact for a week and had notified people of our arrival date, we could ring ahead and let them know we were running late and not to send a search party.
As I said it really does depend on the exact use it is intended for. Both have their pros and cons. Hope this helps

AnswerID: 352988

Follow Up By: Member - Josh (VIC) - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:17

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:17
Should have mentioned we also carry our sat phone on long hikes just in case, am yet to see someone with a HF radio in there pocket lol.

FollowupID: 621167

Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 07:47

Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 07:47
That's why the Codan 8332 was invented - very small, but very limited !
FollowupID: 621199

Reply By: Member - Footloose - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:25

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:25
I'm a little biased, but let me add my opinion. HF is great, and cheaper. But less reliable and harder to learn. Some people are radio people and some aren't.
In the event of a vehicle fire, it's easy to grab the phone along with a survival pack. Much more difficult to watch your HF go up in smoke !
AnswerID: 352993

Reply By: oldfart1953 - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:39

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 22:39
G'Day Mark,
I'm currently a member of the HF radio club.... I feel I should mention that from the yes I am probably biased.
A great group of people who are only to willing to assist & guide you through your learning stages with HF radio.
Sure, it isnt as easy to use as phone, (not that I own/use a sat phone) but any goose can use a phone. With HF you will generally know or know of the person you are talking you which makes it all so much more personal & reassuring if the need of assistance rises. With HF you can participate in the daily 'skeds' giving you current location & your intended destination for the days journey....all giving you experience in using the radio. Your partner should also participate in this a it is great practice for them. With HF you can also do phone calls to a landline or mobile. Also, with the latest HF radios you can transmit your GPS coordinates with the press of a few buttons, should the need arise. (Much better than saying I'm about 100k's from 'The Black Stump'
I can only speak about the HF radio club (as that is the club I belong previously stated) but they have regular get togethers across the country at which you are free to attend to learn of the latest innovations & technology. They also have a regular newsletter that comes out quarterly with heaps of info. Other radio clubs probably do the same.

I think you answered your own question in the 2nd paragraph.

Tony H
Hunter Valley

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AnswerID: 352996

Follow Up By: RV Powerstream P/L - Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 18:11

Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 18:11
Hi OldFart 2325
There is nothing biased about security and even though HF is an old technology it is still the best communicator for people in remote areas proven over many decades by outback people.

Even if technology changed to another system that is better would it be as cost efficient and give the friendship of like minded people and the benefit of that community assistance available form HF radio people in general be it VKS HF Radio or HFOZ.

I hardly use mine but I enjoy the knowledge that I have it and feel the safety that it brings in knowing that you are rarely out of contact with someone somewhere in Auistralia.
Ian another old fart 1252

FollowupID: 621295

Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 23:02

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 23:02
Mark, I went through this choice 4 years ago when we hit the road for 8 months per year, and we chose a Globastar sat 'phone.

1. There are no 'secrets' to talking to a non radio fan. It is just a 'phone. No "over", your turn......
2. You pay for rad-phone calls from HF. Don't know how or how much.
3. Incoming calls are free or us.
4. Callers pay normal mobile rates to call us. (they don't know it is a sat 'phone).
5. Outgoing calls cost is normally $1.80/minute (currently paying half that). Flag fall is 60c. This is on the minimum plan ($35/month with $10 included calls). When not travelling we suspend the service (for up to 3 months at a time) for $10/month.
6. "000" calls are free.
7. We carry the 'sat 'phone on long walks and boat trips.

8. Most important, anyone can call us at any time, just by dialling the ordinary mobile number.

Old technology Vs new technology........

OKA196 Motorhome
AnswerID: 353001

Follow Up By: Axel [ the real one ] - Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 09:54

Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 09:54
Would love to know how often you have actually used the phone in "anger" , when you really need to make the call we found Globalsta /pivotel next to useless , cant make or receive a call through them even in the metropolis of Windorah.
FollowupID: 621210

Reply By: Markymark - Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 23:47

Sunday, Mar 08, 2009 at 23:47
Thanks everyone for your replies, much appreciated advice above. I'll pass this onto him (he doesn't have Internet at home) and obviously it's his choice. Fortunately I don't have to make this decision yet but in 3 to 4 years I will!


AnswerID: 353005

Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 00:04

Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 00:04
Hi Mark

Most of it has already been said.

Who knows what technology will bring us in two years, let alone four. Make the decision closer to the time of travel.

It all depends on style of travel, remoteness, physical fitness, whether taking risky walks or just mainly driving.

We chose a Sat phone for emergency use only and as an insurance; it worked because we didn't need it. We could take it with us on long walks, as we are no longer young and sprightly. Getting back to the car could be impossible after a bad fall. We chose the Telstra Iridium network on a $30 per month plan (paying $2,000 up front for the phone). This was the cheapest plan, which means calls would be dearer, but as not something we planned to use regularly, this was the cheapest option. Our family could call us in case of an emergency at home.

At present there is still a Government subsidy for those who live or work outside of a mobile phone range area. This could change at any time. If eligible, it needs to be arranged in advance of making the purchase and can take some weeks. We were not eligible.

We have of course 40 channel UHF in the vehicle as well as hand helds which can be taken on walks. Provided there is traffic around, you can talk to passing motorists free.

If you search the forum, some people are using their SIM card from a normal mobile phone with a satellite phone, and paying 'diverted call' rates on all incoming calls.


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AnswerID: 353006

Reply By: - Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 08:21

Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 08:21
G'day Mark, check out this thread 64218 from a little while back, regards, aussiedingo
AnswerID: 353017

Reply By: Member - Graham H (QLD) - Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 09:26

Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 09:26
I have both and as they are for emergency only hope I never have to use either.
3 months is a long time in todays electronic world so would wait for 18 months and see whats around then.
I was told by an ex airline pilot that new stuff is well on the way which may make HF obsolete but didnt go into it with him.

have bought other stuff in advance for the big trip and regret it.
EG expensive Nikon camera which is superceded already.
Just wait and read up on stuff till closer to the time


AnswerID: 353027

Reply By: Zebra400 - Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 14:25

Monday, Mar 09, 2009 at 14:25

I think your mate needs to think about what his needs are. As others have said, the HF will take a little more training to get you going than a sat phone. So, if your mate only wants it for use in emergency situations, then the Sat phone will be much easier to remember how to use it. Also, if he wants to talk to family members while he is away then Sat phone is better as the communication is duplex, i.e. just like your telephone, whereas HF is simplex i.e. only one of you can talk as once (like your CD radio).

However, if he likes talking to people while travelling, then HF gives him the ability to listen in to stations like VKS737 for weather & track info as well as talking to the base stations on a regular basis. By using the HF for this purpose, it will be second nature to him when/if he has to use it in an emergency situation.


AnswerID: 353068

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