There are 2 options, ie ssb based or satellite phone. personally I chose the second option and use an iridium phone.There were a number of reasons. I have no ssb transeiver so would have had to had start from scratch. The ssb route is then quite pricey. SSB tranceiver, aerial and tuner, earth plus installation. Then you need a Pactor modem. So you're probably looking at £2500
However once bought and assuming you have a ham license it costs nothing to email. If you don't have a ham license you pay about 200USD a year
I have watched people email via ssb and its not as easy or quick as people say. Often the progagation is wrong (whatever that means) or the servers are down. I have enough trouble coping with the technology I do know about, so a major minus with ssb is learning a whole lot more.
As PBO readers know, I was hit by lightning 2 years ago and lost all my electronics. Lightning strikes are very common when tropical sailing.
I like to phone my Mum at Christmas and birthdays etc.
So these last two points made me go the Iridium route. I bought a secondhand phone, plus software plus 500 mins air time (more than enough for a year of emails) for £800. The phone lives in the oven when not in use and phoning the Uk costs about 50p a minute.
I use mailasail.com for my software as this compresses email significantly. Thus I can send and receive 10-12 emails for less than £1
V interested in this - we are comparing GPRS vs satellite phone as we need to be contactable at all times. Therefore sat phone seems the better option. Currently only looking at coverage UK, Baltic, Med.
Can you tell me - do you pay anything for incoming calls ? What does it cost someone to phone you or email you ?
Which model phone do you have (there seem to be rather a lot !) In addition to the phone did you buy or need any of the add-ons such as external aerial, data pack etc ? Did you need any kind of dome receiver (or wotever they're called) ?
Where did you get your 2nd hand phone (I see there are some on ebay) ?
Did you make comparisons with other networks ? I've previously been looking at Thuraya but you seem to want wider coverage then we need in the near future. There are an awful lot of figures to compare and I have this nasty feeling that finding the truth from salesmen could be as frustrating as our previous experiences with mobile phones and the GPRS threads on the Liveaboard forum at the moment.
All info very gratefully received. Where are you off to next ?
I only have the phone on when I send emails. (One charge lasted me about 2 months) so I don't know how much it costs to phone in, but I know its a lot unless your caller is also using Iridium.
You need the data pack or more accurately you need the connecting cord. Mailasail and others have a work round to the supplied Apollo software (Iridium have just updated Apollo to remove bugs). I haven't got the external aerial. Its expensive and I gather has a thick cable. I send emails in early evening from the cockpit when I can see the computer screen (also in the cockpit) and the phone screen.
I find it more cost effective to send 6-10 emails at a time (ie every 3 days or so) rather than just send one email. It takes 20-30 secs to log on however many emails sent.
I got my phone in the US, from Outfitter Satellite. It's the older Motorola model 9500. But make sure it handles data calls the very earliest ones don't. The new models have better sms capability. Incidently sms receiving is free on iridium
It is the only world wide sytem and so long as the US is in Iraq, and thus soldiers keep phoning home, the system will be kept running. Global star has limited range outside land masses
Does this help?
I am in the uk at present, drawing a 38ft version of Eclipse, and don't return to my boat until Oct. Its in a new marina in Panama just east of Portobello - the wettest place in N America!
Thanks Richard - our requirement is rather different as we get paid for remaining in contact with the clients so we have to have the phone on. I had a long and useful conversation with CallMonitor in London who were most helpful. Having asked you I had a real fright as I discovered on one of their spreadsheets an incoming call cost of £6 per call ! However this turns out to be a bit of a red herring as it only applies if you use Thuraya with an existing Vodafone contract.
However the costs are still such that I think we will have to stick with GPRS and remain constrained by land coverage for much of the time. This shouldn't be too much of a problem at least for the time being.
Thank you very much for your information. Interested to hear about GlobalStar constraints - this isn't what the coverage maps show and I'm sure that the salesmen either don't know or would be unlikely to tell.
Sorry to hear you're not off sailing - nuisance this money-making business isn't it !