Satelite Phone

Hi, we are heading back to Cape York in May. We have previously used an Iridium Sat phone but last time we got very sick of the drop outs. Can anyone with Satelite phone experience enlighten me to the best allround phone for the Cape. I am looking at Thuraya but get confused as to what is best. There seems to have been very little discussion around this topic in a long time. Thanks
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Reply By: Grumblebum and the Dragon - Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 18:36

Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 18:36
I have had an Inmarsat Pro sat phone for the last 18 months - no problems at all - and its a pre-paid unit - so no plan and monthly fees. Mine cost $123.75 with the assistance of the 85% government subsidy. I live outside mobile coverage area.

Most people should be able to get the 50% subsidy where you have be be 'outside' a mobile area for 180 days over a 2 year period. 15 mins in any one day outside mobile coverage= one day. A simple itinerary should see you right.

John
AnswerID: 502542

Reply By: olcoolone - Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 18:38

Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 18:38
Strange you got a lot of drop outs when using Iridium...... are you sure it wasn't Globalstar.

We use two different carriers for our satellite phones, Iridium through Pivotel and Optus Mobile Sat through Optus....... two totally different services.

The Optus Mobile Sat is what we use in our service vehicles and are permanently mounted, the Optus Mobile Sat is a commercial based system that is very stable and offer a few benefits over the others..... Optus Mobile Sat is different to the Thuraya satellite service. Optus Mobile Sat uses an Optus high cost commercial satellite whereby Thuraya uses their own low cost commercial satellite...... Optus is a reseller of Thuraya.

For general travelling we use a Motorola Iridium phone through Pivotel, we have found this to be the best cost option as we can use it in the mount kit or carry it whilst walking our when using the motor bike.

We chose Pivotel because they offered reasonable out going call costs but the big draw card was the cost for others to phone us..... Iridium on Pivotel costs the same for someone calling us as it would them calling a normal mobile phone in Australia and the phone number issued is just like a normal mobile number.

Some other onsellers use overseas based service providers that can cost anyone phoning you BIG dollars, in some cases $14-$23 per minute...... I'm sure some family members would get a little cranky if it cost them over $100 for a 5 minute call!!!

The other down fall of some is not being able to dial Australian phone numbers like 000, 13, 1300 and 1800 numbers..... and when you want to dial a local standard number you have to use overseas prefixes

On our Iridium we can dial all Australia numbers just as you would from a landline or mobile.

Remember "nothing is for free or cheap", there is always a catch and what may seem cheap can become very expensive if not for you but others.

AnswerID: 502543

Follow Up By: mikehzz - Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 19:55

Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 19:55
Yes, I have an Inmarsat and although I haven't had many problems, the downsides that you raised about overseas carriers are all very valid points. You have to have every emergency number that you are likely to need pre programmed into the phone before you leave and don't give your number to any friends, the incoming call costs are high. You get an email address they can use for free and you can call them at a reasonable rate of about $1 a minute. To dial an Australian number you use +61 std code (2 for NSW) then the number. For a mobile its +61 then the number minus the leading 0. Also, the further south you are the harder it is to get a fix, especially if you are in a valley. The Inmarsat satellite is over New Guinea and the Thuraya one is up near Singapore (or used to be). Iridium uses more than one so the coverage is better.
I just text as email my family to keep in touch and they reply the same for free. Talk is overrated... :-)
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 20:06

Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 20:06
Gotta agree with everything Olcoolone said.


We have an Iridium and never had a dropout on the few occasions of voice use. Mind you, as with any satellite connection, it is necessary to have clear sky vision.... no heavy tree canopy.


It is not as cheap as some options but ours is essentially for emergency use in remote areas. So when life may depend on it, the cost is not an issue.




Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Mick O - Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 21:05

Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 21:05
Just thought I'd add my two centrs worth about my Iridium phone which hads been simply great. On my plan ($35 per month) people can call me at normal mobile rates. What a lot of people don't realise is that if you are on a "bundled" home plan (you know the type that bundles your local/national/mobile calls and internet together for a set fee a month), calls to my Iridium don't attract any extra at all. They are just included meaning I could talk for hours each day at no cost other than my monthly bundle fee with my telco.

Cheers Mick
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Follow Up By: ozychris - Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 11:32

Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 11:32
Thanks for the replies. We have an iridium extreme 9575. We found that calls without the antena dropped out very quickly. If we used the antena is was much better but still some drop outs. We had clear skies and not buildings or mountains where we were.(Vrilya).

Still don't know whether to change to inmasat,thuraya or stay with iridium.

We only want a couple of months and most plans are 12 months or you pay an extra $100. Are there any that are better for short term than pivitol.any style of satelite.
Last year we had to bring the phone in from the USA as there were none in Australia and we wanted the extreme. We got the pre paid plan from the company we bought the phone from and as far as that went we had no problems in fact we had $ left.

Do we change or not? Is it reasonable to not be able to get satelite for a number of minutes at a time?
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Follow Up By: muffin man - Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 16:29

Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 16:29
No wonder the thing dropped out if the antenna was not used.
Anyway as you have an iridium already buy a $10 casual sim from Telstra just before you go and cancel it when you return. If you are after the cheapest option this is the one for you.
Whatever you do stick with your iridium, any other network will be a downgrade and dissapointment will follow.
MM
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Follow Up By: ozychris - Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 19:25

Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 19:25
Hi MM
I was using the antenna attached to the phone but it only was reasonable with the external antenna attached.
Thanks for the suggestion of the telstra prepaid cards. I have justy looked at theses and I think they will be the way to go,
We will just have to use the external antenna all the time and hope for no dropouts.
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Follow Up By: muffin man - Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 21:57

Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 21:57
Dont confuse a casual sim with prepaid, not the same as prepaid sims will not work.
MM
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Follow Up By: ozychris - Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 22:20

Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 22:20
I didn't know there was a difference. I will look into it further, We have used our sim form our ordinary mobile phone a couple of years ago in a different iridium phone but it was a fairly expensive way to do it. I thought any Telstra sim would work as long as it is enabled for international calls. We are not going till May. I just wanted to get organised if I had to find a new phone, but I guess i will stick to our Iridium and find the most cost effective way.
thanks
Chris
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Follow Up By: mikehzz - Saturday, Jan 19, 2013 at 08:28

Saturday, Jan 19, 2013 at 08:28
I'm pretty sure it has to be a post pay with international calls enabled. The call charges are expensive but you don't have to go on a special sat plan.
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Follow Up By: Alan L6 - Friday, Feb 08, 2013 at 15:37

Friday, Feb 08, 2013 at 15:37
Hi, does using the Telstra post-paid $10 casual SIM 'trick' still work with the Iridium 9575? I have this phone, and a $10 casual Telstra plan (not pre-paid), I have International roaming on, and 1900 premium number working. I turn the phone on, registers the phone, searches for Iridium, signal goes to full strength then goes to zero bars, and says "Sim Error" - insert valid sim. BTW, this sim works fine on a normal Telstra mobile.
... Or is Telstra forcing customers to use the Satellite plan for minimum $30/mth?
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Follow Up By: muffin man - Friday, Feb 08, 2013 at 16:50

Friday, Feb 08, 2013 at 16:50
You would reckon it should, maybe check with Telstra to confirm IR is definetaly on. Sounds odd particularly as it's ok in your mobile.
MM
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Follow Up By: Alan L6 - Friday, Feb 08, 2013 at 17:12

Friday, Feb 08, 2013 at 17:12
I asked for international roaming and 1900 premium numbers to be turned on 8 hrs ago, and they said it should not take more than 2 hrs - well that has come and gone ... does this phone need to be "unlocked" to do this? I've seen on eBay they advertise this phone sometimes with the word "unlocked". I bought this phone from a guy that had an Iridium sim card in, and it worked, but he cancelled the account before selling it to me.
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Follow Up By: muffin man - Friday, Feb 08, 2013 at 22:23

Friday, Feb 08, 2013 at 22:23
Maybe there is the problem. I didn't know these things were locked but that does make some sort of sense. Contact the seller and/or his previous network provider and try that.
MM
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Follow Up By: Alan L6 - Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 at 08:02

Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 at 08:02
Forgot to also mention one other status message that comes up ...
After the status goes to registered (with full signl strength bars), the status then says "Denied", then the signal goes to zero bars and says "Sim Error" - insert a valid sim. Anyone know how to get around this, so I can use the Telstra casual plan SIM?
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Follow Up By: muffin man - Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 at 18:15

Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 at 18:15
That error code indicates an error with the sim or no sim.
I reckon contact Telstra again and double check the IR againm or maybe the sim itself is dodgy.
What colour is the flashing light on the phone, red, orange or green.
If it's orange that suggest sim issues again.
Not much help I know but it should work ok.
I just nipped outside with mine and all is good.
I have an old iridium sim which I put in and that just shows invalid account.
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Follow Up By: Alan L6 - Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 at 23:02

Saturday, Feb 09, 2013 at 23:02
OK, I tried again tonight (1.5 days after IR was enabled) and this time it worked! Oh well, as long as it works I am happy! Thanks for your help ...
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 20:07

Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 20:07
Hi ozychris

Like John above, I also have an IsatPhone, but only had it for a short time. In August last year I gave it a good try out in the Great Victoria Desert and across the Nullarbor.

I was able to lock on to Satellites very quickly and never had any issues with drop outs. I am aware that calls to this phone can be dear, but advise those that need to know they can contact me for free via the free SMS Messaging through the internet. In return I can them give them a return call for less than $1 per minute.

I purchased mine to add to my safety umbrella in the event that I require urgent outside help and cannot get out on my HF radio.

The best part about my phone, it is pre paid, no lock in monthly contract fees and with the Governments 50% subsidy, I was able to get the phone for under $400, which is cheaper than many other well know mobile phones.

The agent where I purchased my phone has used has used his own same type of phone all through Great Britain and Europe, as well as many remote locations in Australia with the same great results.

I am a very happy and satisfied customer and have peace of mind that if all else fails, have another avenue to contact the outside world.


Cheers

Stephen






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Reply By: Dennis Ellery - Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 23:26

Monday, Jan 14, 2013 at 23:26
I have had an Inmarsat Pro sat phone for 18 Months and had no problem using it to call people from the phone in locations around Perth and the Northwest of WA. In tests I have found it hard for me to get connected the other way around, that is when ringing the sat phone from my home landline. Rang Telstra and was told - best of luck it’s a common problem, put up with it. That being said, it’s suitable from my purposes and I only ring out on it – no incoming calls. I'd be interested if others have had the same problem.
Regards Dennis
AnswerID: 502569

Follow Up By: mikehzz - Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013 at 00:33

Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013 at 00:33
I've received calls on mine although I discourage it due to how much it costs them. To dial it you dial 0011 then the satphone number. Emergency services called me back twice in the high country a few weeks ago when I called in about a trail bike rider having an accident.
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FollowupID: 779066

Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013 at 09:39

Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013 at 09:39
We have a prepaid Isatphone. No hassles at all. Only outgoing contacts have been GPS location emails to home so that the family know we are still alive and where we are. We are not into chatting, I don't even use my mobile phone, so I cannot comment about long call drop outs etc. No hassles with short calls. Only made a couple without issue. No emergencies or anything other than "We are alive" calls or to change a booking.

I have a bunch of numbers on the back of the phone to '000' centers in case they are needed and easy instructions (in English) for anyone to follow to make a call. If I am unable then I need any Tom, Dick or Harry, or Mary, to be able to pick up the phone and make a call without any input from me.

Took it to on our trips to; The Kimberleys, Kakadu, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Cape York, Simpson and on many trips in the Vic high country. Naturally no good in valleys. All GPS emails went through without a hitch.

Phil
AnswerID: 502593

Reply By: ozychris - Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 11:34

Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 11:34
FollowupID: 779397 Submitted: Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 11:32
ozychris posted:
Thanks for the replies. We have an iridium extreme 9575. We found that calls without the antena dropped out very quickly. If we used the antena is was much better but still some drop outs. We had clear skies and not buildings or mountains where we were.(Vrilya).

Still don't know whether to change to inmasat,thuraya or stay with iridium.

We only want a couple of months and most plans are 12 months or you pay an extra $100. Are there any that are better for short term than pivitol.any style of satelite.
Last year we had to bring the phone in from the USA as there were none in Australia and we wanted the extreme. We got the pre paid plan from the company we bought the phone from and as far as that went we had no problems in fact we had $ left.

Do we change or not? Is it reasonable to not be able to get satelite for a number of minutes at a time?
AnswerID: 502855

Reply By: Tjukayirla Roadhouse - Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 15:08

Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 15:08
G'day, we have our own Telstra Iridium Sat phone, and also one for work here, and have used them in other jobs around the country (all Iridium). We have never had an issue with Iridium dropping out, and is probably one of the most reliable of Sat signals.
Are you sure you have the antenna extended, and pointed straight up when talking?
That can be an issue.

Cheers
Al
AnswerID: 502868

Follow Up By: ozychris - Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 15:21

Friday, Jan 18, 2013 at 15:21
Hi Al
Yes antenna was extended and pointing up. As I had forgotten to take one of the charging parts with us I could only charge it with the external antenna on it and that's when we found call were better but still not as good as i would have expected.
cheers
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FollowupID: 779420

Reply By: Sigmund - Friday, Feb 01, 2013 at 13:47

Friday, Feb 01, 2013 at 13:47
Here's a comparo of some satphones/comm sat constellations:click

Note that this was commissioned by Inmarsat.

It was on the basis of this and user reports that we went for the Isatphone Pro. The prepaid deal we got was very reasonable.

Having used it over approx 12 months however my estimate is that about half of the attempts to connect fail. A strong connection in one spot can be followed several hours later by a failure to connect. I'm hoping that the new firmware due Feb. 8 might improve this.
AnswerID: 503783

Follow Up By: ozychris - Friday, Feb 01, 2013 at 14:55

Friday, Feb 01, 2013 at 14:55
Hi Sigmund
Thanks for the link. I had a quick read. One of the faults of the Iridium 9555 has been improved with the Extreme model, it is much more robust.
Interesting to see you have had lots of connection issues.
I have decided just to keep my Iridium and use it only with the external antenna. I still have to decide on a deal.
Chris
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