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Satellite Phones - any ideas ?

Discussion in 'Backcountry' started by Kelly van den Berg, Jun 25, 2018.

  1. Kelly van den Berg

    Kelly van den Berg Hard Yards

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    Hi there

    I'm looking for recommendations on either a good sat phone or a sat sleeve to carry on backcountry trips.

    Any recommendations or ideas ?

    Cheers Kelly
     
  2. Untele-whippet

    Untele-whippet beard stroker Ski Pass: Gold

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    Garmin InReach.
    GPS, satellite text messaging, EPIRB all in one.
     
  3. Chaeron

    Chaeron One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Not a satphone per se, but definitely on the list.

    Advantages to separating out/ combining Epirb/comms and GPS functionality.
     
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  4. Tweekin

    Tweekin One of Us

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    Eprirb - not dependant on your phone state of charge - get one that has gps onboard
     
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  5. trappers

    trappers Safety not guaranteed Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    I have a Inmarsat. Reasonably cheap, and importantly I can get a plan which gives me an Australian mobile number for it, which means I can text someone for $0.50 and they call me back on it for the price of any normal mobile call!

    Note we also carry a seperate PLB (EPIRB equivalent) and I like the additional security of two emergency devices. If they are both in one =single point of failure.
     
  6. Kelly van den Berg

    Kelly van den Berg Hard Yards

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    Good idea ! Thanks
     
  7. oreo

    oreo One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    I have an iridium 9755 (extreme) see https://www.iridium.com/products/iridium-extreme/

    I bought it second hand from gumtree ($950) from a qld telecommunications company that specialises in providing communications for mining and rural companies. As it’s for emergencies, I’ve only used it a handful of times, but it’s always worked.

    It also has a emergency button that will send a signal to the same emergency commmand centre as spot.

    I’ve had it with a Pivotel casual plan that used to cost $22/mo and didn’t include any included value. but they’ve recently raised their prices to $33/mo(+gst? My last bill was 37.something). So I’m going to change to Telstra 35/mo iridium plan that includes a little bit of call/txt value.

    Iridium advantages
    Global coverage, non geo stationary satellites so you’ll likely get coverage at some point despite some sky obscurity (ie. you’re on a side of a mountain), small, rugged, water resistent device.

    Iridium disadvantages
    Plans quite expensive, the charging unit seems unnecessary/bulky it charges by mini-USB, I wish you could just plug it in directly to the phone. My device reminds me of a 90’s cell phone, I find typing texts on t9 device infuriating.

    All the major satellite networks are in the process of launching next gen networks that provide better data services (for satellite phone sized devices up to 128kbit - not that fast aye) so there may be new handheld devices launched in the next year or so. The new device cycle on sat phones is very long.
     
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  8. Kelly van den Berg

    Kelly van den Berg Hard Yards

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    thanks for the info !
     
  9. SkiMountaineer

    SkiMountaineer One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    What does the plan cost and is it casual?
     
  10. trappers

    trappers Safety not guaranteed Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    I can dig it up, but off the top of my head I think there is a one off $90 connection fee and $40/month but you can suspend for 3 months and reconnect with no reconnection fee, otherwise if you need to cancel for longer you can with no cost but you need to pay the reconnection fee again and you lose the number you had. Mine was also through Pivotel. Picked up the handset second hand through Gumtree for about $550.

    Inmarsat are geostationary which some people say is better because no drop outs as satellites change over, but it not truly global (although all AUs is covered, coverage map below) and because it is geostationary it is in a higher orbit which means slightly longer light travel time = very small time delay. We used ours quite a bit though and didnt really notice it.

    [​IMG]
     
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  11. shauno

    shauno Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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  12. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    InReach do a sleeper plan for their messenger, $6 per month.
     
  13. oreo

    oreo One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Just a quick information dump here that makes the sat nav/sat comm industry a little less opaque for consumer emergency rescue products there are three main networks:
    Garmin Inreach products (Iridium Network)
    Spot Products (Globalstar network)
    All the PLB and Epirbs (Cospas-sarsat Network)

    If you looked into those three, you'll see that the Cospas network is by far the most robust with three different orbits (low - 5 satellites, medium 30+ satellites and 6 geo-stationary). The drawback on this network is that the only communication available is a one-way emergency signal, no calls, text or data unlike the other two.

    The iridium network is the next best served with 72 (66 in active service, 6 spares) in low earth orbit.

    Then Globalstar's network which use 24 low earth orbit satellites.

    IMO, if two way texts are enough, inreach units are pretty good and affordable.
     
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  14. Chaeron

    Chaeron One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Thx!
     
  15. Kelly van den Berg

    Kelly van den Berg Hard Yards

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    I’m liking the look of the spot tracker product as it has a ‘check in’ button, SOS and text plus people at home can log on and track your movements live. I know a few adventure motorbike riders that use them and swear by them. I wonder if any what are the disadvantages to using this device in the backcountry ?
     
  16. sourmash

    sourmash One of Us

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    I think the big difference between the Spot and InReach is that Spot is one-way messaging out. InReach can send and receive. I have the original bluetooth-phone model InReach on a $20/month plan that (from memory) gives me 5 texts a month plus emergency monitoring. Mainly used for offshore fishing (along with GPS EPIRB) when out of VHF range and a little back country.
     
  17. Chaeron

    Chaeron One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    IMO cannot stand in for a genuine epirb and a dedicated GPS with a workable size screen, but when complementing these no disadvantage that I can see as its reasonably robust.

    Of course, avalanche beacons are another game altogether, but then, it depends on what terrain you’re moving through..
     
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  18. Red_switch

    Red_switch Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: 30 Day

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    Good info to get out there. It's important to understand the differences.

    If triggering SAR in an emergency is your number one concern, then an EPIRB/PLB (they are not the same thing either...) is your best bet. But they are only for the heavy cavalry. The Garmin InReach is a pretty nice product for two way messaging, but while it can effectively send an SOS and trigger SAR response, it is not an epirb/plb.

    Satellite phones are awesome because you can actually talk to people, but it can be a real exercise to get good signal in high relief terrain (real pita when you're trying to confirm weather conditions for a heli pick up during a narrow window...), text devices have the advantage that they will continue to try to send a message until it is successfully transmitted - particularly useful if you're on the go.
     
  19. climberman

    climberman CloudRide1000 Legend Ski Pass: Gold

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    Do they? Could you point to some data on this?
    Not being a dick but this is great news to me. My issue with mobile phone system texts is that the sender has zero guarantee of message delivery.
     
  20. Red_switch

    Red_switch Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: 30 Day

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    It's not a guarantee that they've been received, just that they've sent. This was certainly the case with both spot messengers and the Delorme (now Garmin) inReach when I last had to dig into this stuff a few years back.

    A key learning here is that redundancy is useful for emergency comm's. I went through a period where I was forced to carry vhf, sat phone and plb in the mountains. Quite a bit of overkill, but actually they were all pretty useful (vhf radio was tuned for DOC here so I could listen to the radio sched and get weather forecasts/relay messages whether I was at a hut or not when doing field work up around Aoraki), and could also be used as a means to contact heli companies in (unlikely, but you never know) event of sat phone failure. PLB was last resort, but would generally be first choice if I really thought I was dying.

    Why can't this shit all be lighter?
     
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  21. oreo

    oreo One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    I think this thing is crazy...
     
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  22. Red_switch

    Red_switch Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: 30 Day

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    yeah, the PLBs are getting pretty good! Just the fact that with 7 year battery life, it's hard to toss one away that's only a couple years old to upgrade on size alone.

    Sat phones and vhf radios - still significant hardware limitations, but improving. As you say, we will soon see a new generation of sat phones which should provide a relative leap forward compared to the current bricks.
     
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  23. climberman

    climberman CloudRide1000 Legend Ski Pass: Gold

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    Ahh ok cheers.
     
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  24. Kelly van den Berg

    Kelly van den Berg Hard Yards

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    Thanks ! I have a beacon and kit. Just thinking some sort of communication device to let folk know I’m ok would be useful and of course Incase of emergency
     
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  25. art

    art One of Us

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    Some of the plbs have a longer battery life.
    I got the kti safety alert. Its only 140grams and has a 10 year battery life (mine actually had 11 years when delivered). Its also one of the cheapest at about $250. At that price for 10 years use it was an easy decision.
    The 2 way messaging of the inreach would be nice but i cant justify the ongoing cost for the amount of use.
    Those are the only 2 i would consider (and for an extended trip or large group take both)
    For me the spot offers very little extra features over the plb and a sat phone making voice calls can be more hassle and prone to issues then 2 way txt with the in reach.
     
  26. ecowain

    ecowain One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    99 grams on my scales, including tether and Velcro on the back. $20 per month incl unlimited preset msgs and 10 proper text msgs, plus 75 cents per proper text after that (sending or receiving).

    For my primary purposes either flying or solo trips, tracking is probably my most important feature on this device or a spot, as if something serious happens to me, I may not be able to push an SOS button! 2 way texting is a very big bonus though, and the reason I've just swapped spot for inreach. That, and the fact that subscription plans are now comparable on both devices.

    Spot sends multiple messages until one is confirmed sent (although not necessarily received). Not sure if Inreach does or not.

    And speaking with police rescue in the blueys, a rescue initiated from spot or Inreach is now nearly as efficient in time terms as a PLB.
     
  27. Ziggy

    Ziggy A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Inmarsat too.
    You can get a prepaid plan for a given number of call units. Buy a voucher and activate it when you need to (within 12 months). Calls out are about $2.50 min, texts c. 75c. You can set it up to send your location to predefined email/mobile recipients with a couple of key presses. Reception and call time are excellent and as Trappers posted 2nd hand handsets are reasonably cheap. So I get a voucher for 100 units at the beginning of winter and that covers outback as well as backcountry travels.
    I also use a Spot Messenger for v lightweight travels but the annual sub is getting ridiculous, c AUD 300.
    You need to be clear about your most critical use. If you need to have a conversation under pressured conditions (eg administering first aid or getting a vehicle going) then a phone is the go. Hunt and peck on a small keyboard isn't the best.
    My only use for it so far (knock on wood) was to check a diagnosis with RFDS of a crashed motorcyclist on the Birdsville track. But it's also there to get updates on an aged parent's health status - family can send a short email free.
     
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  28. ecowain

    ecowain One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    And disadvantages too. Your pack fills up with electronic gadgets... :p
     
  29. art

    art One of Us

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    It interesting how different features appeal to different people and different activities. I can see why you want tracking particularly for flying but for me its really low priority. I doubt my family would ever look at it and if they did i would worry that they would react the wrong way if it stopped tracking me or i wasn't doing what they expect.
     
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  30. Simplicius

    Simplicius Hard Yards

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    If your main concern is letting people know you are ok then standard phone reception might be enough. I can't speak for NSW but most of the snow covered areas of vic have easy line of sight to phone towers at hotham, falls or buller, so a check in call is usually a matter of a 10 min stint to a spot that has reception, which if you are fine is no problem. I use irridium sat phones at work all the time and find their messages super unreliable making them useless for check ins. Phone calls are expensive delayed and stutter often. They are great if you need them but telstra 3g for check in and a plb for when I cant pull myself from the bottom of a run is my choice for personal trips. Spot check in buttons work really well, but then you need to register and pay.
     
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  31. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    To attract attention you need good equipment!
     

    Attached Files:

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  32. Ziggy

    Ziggy A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Iridium call drop-outs were commonly reported when I was making a decision on a satphone about 5 years back.
    If you're in a gorge, particularly towards the equator, you may connect but lose that when the satellite goes out of sight before handing over to the next one. But recently it seems Iridium has improved coverage of Australia.
    Spot uses Globalstar with a geostationary satellite in the north and it too can be occluded. A steep ridge on that side of you will do it. I send daily OK messages every day when travelling in the Vic high country and maybe one in ten fails.
    Isatphone/Inmarsat also connects with a northern satellite - about 45 degrees above the nominal horizon here in Vic. Never had a problem with that but it's not impossible.
     
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  33. currawong

    currawong Old but not so Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    was considering an inreach a while ago and decided iy was overkill. main use would be +1 cycling out of mobile range.

    got a bit of a scare today. did not expect much out of range but +1's phone was unresponsive for 3 hours. I was imagining snake bite, concussion etc. Got to calculating how late I could leave raising the alarm workout being silly. +1 arrived back safely, oblivious to the phone needing a reboot.

    while nothing went wrong, it makes you more aware of what could go wrong, even in a half day ride. an inreach or new 2 way spot would have made a lot of difference, at least to my peace of mind. +1 admitted to being worried when I was out of sight kayaking yesterday. the inreach mini sounds like the best answer for fairly tame use. does anyone have an opinion on the 2 way spot competitor?
     
  34. art

    art One of Us

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    Last time I looked the spot 2 way was only 2 way in North America or something like that.
     
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  35. Ziggy

    Ziggy A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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  36. currawong

    currawong Old but not so Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    really only looking at Aus use. mainly roads and firetrails. a little bit of enclosed, inland and very close coastal waters.
     
  37. currawong

    currawong Old but not so Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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  38. Darb

    Darb Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Might have to hit you up for a borrow of this one day (or at least familiarisation). Is it tied to you personally ?

    As you know , I often camp with the boy solo or soloish and it’s always in back of my mind what happens if I fall over with a heart attack or snake bite
     
  39. Ziggy

    Ziggy A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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  40. ecowain

    ecowain One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    I changed from spot to inreach mini a few months ago. Very happy so far.

    Ive been told that spot x is going to be released in aus, however it probably wont have the two way capability, which makes it pretty pointless in my eyes.
     
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  41. Ziggy

    Ziggy A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Bit puzzling. May be a traffic volume issue.

    This is Pivotel's coverage map for the Globalstar satellite:

     
  42. trappers

    trappers Safety not guaranteed Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Sure! I infact just renewed it with a fresh SIM card as I’m off to explore the goldfields with a gliding mate so it’s ready to go again!

    There are a bunch of stations up there that have been handed back to the govt. we are looking for one with a half decent landing strip to use as a base to go gliding :)
     
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  43. Darb

    Darb Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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  44. Ziggy

    Ziggy A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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  45. Ziggy

    Ziggy A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    And I believe it's still using Globalstar so the limitations noted in #35 and #41 apply.
     
  46. Mister Tee on XC Skis

    Mister Tee on XC Skis A Local Ski Pass: Silver

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    I have a PLB and a GPS. Two gadgets. No news is good news and I carry a mob. ph. too ,so I will not get a satellite phone. I do go out in the wilderness on my own quite a bit , but so far so good.