Iridium will be changing the system time on its satellites on March 3rd, 2015. Iridium calls this "re-epoching." After that point, Iridium handsets (like the Iridium Extreme, Iridium 9555, Iridium 9505a, Iridium 9505, and the Iridium 9500) will display the incorrect system time until users enter in a string of numbers.
You can reset the system time on your satellite phone to reflect the correct time by entering a quick string of numbers into your handset.
- If you are reading this and it is not yet March 3rd, 2015, don't do anything to your handset. You won't see an incorrect time until after March 3rd.
- If you are reading this and it is already past March 3rd, 2015, please follow the instructions below.
Note: There will be no impact to handset functionality other than system time display.
How to Reset the System Time on Your Iridium Handheld Satellite Phone
At this time, the following instructions only apply to Iridium 9555 and Iridium 9575:
1) After the Iridium Time Re-Epoch Occurs (March 3, 2015) you can reset the time on your Iridium 9555 or Iridium 9575.
2) Dial *#99#2014051114235500# on an Iridium 9555 or Iridium Extreme (9575) satellite phone
3) Press the green key
4) Then power off/on.
Resetting the System Time on an Older Iridium Handheld Satellite Phone
Iridium 9500, 9505, and 9505A customers will need to set the updated time and date from their phone menu. The extended phone set-up menu must be set to "On" (see page 137 of Iridium 9505A user guide, page 149 of the Iridium 9500 user guide, or page 139 of the Iridium 9505 user guide), then follow these instructions to set time and date:
1. Follow the steps in "Getting to Phone Setup..." to get to "Set Time and Date," and then press OK to select.
2. Press MENU to choose "Set Home Time + Date" or "Set Away Time + Date," and then press OK. You will see "Enter Home Time or Enter Away Time" and the time currently set.
3. Press OK to accept the displayed time.
Enter the time in 24-hour format, and then press OK. You will see "Enter Home Date or Enter Away Time" and the date currently set.
4. Press OK to accept the displayed date. You will see "Completed."
Enter the date in day(dd)-month(mm)-year(yy) form and then press OK. You will see "Completed."
5. Press and hold C to exit the menu.
Still Need Help?
We'd be happy to recommend the perfect satellite communications equipment and airtime for your needs. You can get a free satellite communications consultation or just give us a ring at +1.877.379.8723 (US/CA) or +1.865.379.8723 (Intl) - we're here to help!
For a limited time, trade-in your Iridium AxcessPoint device and get Optimizer for 50% off the retail price.
Iridium is discontinuing their Iridium AxcessPoint device. While this won't immediately affect AxcessPoint and AxcessPoint Mail & Web users, it does mean that in the future there won't be software updates or hardware service for AxcessPoint. If you upgrade your satellite phone or upgrade your computer or mobile device, the service may not work at all for you.
RedPort Optimizer vs AxcessPoint - Is it Worth Upgrading?
Aside from the fact that Optimizer is a rapidly growing, Iridium-certified product with no end in sight and excellent support to back it up, there are some tangible benefits to using Optimizer over the AxcessPoint.
- When using its external battery, the Optimizer's battery lasts more than 10 times longer than AxcessPoint's.
- Optimizer has a faster processor, which speeds up connections, updates, and bootup.
- Optimizer has a longer WiFi range.
- Optimizer has much better cross-platform integration.
And that's just the hardware. What about the software?
XGate or Iridium Mail & Web
Optimizer has traditionally only worked with XGate satellite email service (or one of the RedPort Optimizer-compatible services like Satphone.me, SpeedMail, and OCENS Mail, among others). Now, Iridium AxcessPoint Mail & Web users can use Iridium's free email program - now called Iridium Mail & Web - with the Optimizer.
Keep in mind, however, that Iridium Mail & Web only works with smartphones and tablets. Iridium's version that works with laptops and computers (called AxcessPoint Mail & Web) will be discontinued along with the AxcessPoint device.
XGate may be a better choice for many users because Iridium Mail & Web, along with only working on smartphones and tablets, will only work while using Iridium satellite airtime. XGate allows you to use any internet connection you may have, saving time and money.
Regardless of whether you use XGate or Iridium Mail & Web, you have the flexibility to use the compression email program that works best for you, all in tandem with Optimizer's world-class firewall.
50% Off Optimizer?
Here's how it works: you purchase RedPort Optimizer for full retail price and then send us back your AxcessPoint device. When we receive your AxcessPoint (along with this form) we will refund $75 back to the credit card you used to purchase Optimizer. (If you purchased Optimizer from another certified RedPort dealer, please contact them for instructions).
That's it! Easy peasy.
This promotion isn't going to last long, so make sure to upgrade now.
XGate satellite email service was named by Global Telesat Communications as one of the best apps for satellite communications.
XGate is state-of-the-art data compression software that delivers email, weather, web, and social media - right over your satellite phone. XGate is carrier-independent which means that you can use it with any satellite carrier using an IP-based satellite device (ie: the vast majority of them).
Global Telesat Communications said this about XGate:
"XGate is the easy way to access email through a satellite connection. The app compresses the data sent and received offering up to 85% savings on satellite airtime expenses. It also blocks out other unnecessary data use by the phone to avoid a large bill at the end of your trip!"
XGate is the leading independent satellite data service with thousands of people all over the world currently using XGate to keep connected over satellite.
Although Global Telesat Communications specifically mentions the iOS and Android versions of XGate, XGate is also available for PC and Mac. Once you have an XGate account you can use XGate on any device you have - no need to pay more to use different or multiple devices.
You can read the whole article from Global Telesat Communications here: Our Pick of the Best Satellite Communications Apps.
XGate Satellite Email Service
You can read more about XGate here. If you have any questions about XGate or would like advice on the right satellite communications setup for your needs, please get in contact. We're here to help.
Vessel tracking is a huge priority in the marine world. Whether you’re a single sailor who wants to make sure his family can follow his route or a large fleet operator needing real-time position reports from your entire fleet, satellite GPS vessel tracking is integral to knowing where you - and your assets - are in the world.
There are three satellite GPS trackers that Global Marine Networks offers. Each of these units comes in a marinized, extremely hardy dome with water resistance up to 1 meter. They are mounted on standard threaded 1" antenna mounts although you will need to purchase the antenna mounts separately from a marine supply store.
All prices quoted here are up to date as of publication, but please check with us to make sure that prices have not been changed.
XTracker IR (Iridium) is a robust, dependable and extremely compact tracking device that sends out GPS position reports at pre-programmed intervals from anywhere in the world using proven Iridium satellite technology. Position reports contain date, time, latitude, longitude, and average course and speed over the ground. GPS position reports are recorded, transmitted, and posted on the web in 20 seconds, on average. XTracker’s modest power requirements make it ideal for remote locations where solar panels or batteries are the only source of electricity.
Because the XTracker IR operates on the Iridium satellite network, this tracker offers truly global pole-to-pole coverage.
Learn more about the XTracker IR here.
Get a quote for XTracker IR by contacting us here.
This tracker only works if there is a satellite broadband unit on board (VSAT, Fleetbroadband, Iridium Pilot, BGAN, Thuraya IP, and others) and provides position reports from anywhere on the planet. Unit can be connected to a long-life battery to keep the unit self-contained. Because the XTracker BR routes the position reports through your satellite broadband device, the frequency of the position reports can be whatever you want. Hourly? Sure. Every 10 minutes? No problem. Every 30 seconds? Done.
There is no additional charge for XTracker services for increased frequency, although you may incur additional charges on your satellite airtime bill for the airtime required to send the GPS pings.
Learn more about the XTracker BR here.
Get a quote for XTracker BR by contacting us here.
The RedPort XTracker GS allows you to track your assets and vessels anywhere within the expansive Globalstar Simplex coverage area without even relying on powering cables (although you can power over Ethernet, as well). Tracking can be set to every 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. Faster tracking is available (every 2.5 minutes), but it increases the monthly price. The tracking duration on these units has to be set on the tracker itself. It cannot be changed remotely.
Depending on the type of battery being used, the XTracker GS can last as long as 10 years without changing the battery or needing any kind of upkeep.
Learn more about the XTracker GS here.
Get a quote for XTracker GS by contacting us here.
How The GPS Vessel Tracking Works
Tracking for all units is provided through RedPort Tracking and consists of a detailed, robust online tracking interface that provides:
- Real-time Position and Tracking
- Longitude and latitude info
- Emergency alarm/ SOS/Movement alarm/ Overspeed alarm/ Border crossing alert.
- Geo-fence alarm
- Course and Speed (on web-based tracking site)
- Web-based tracking or mobile-phone-based tracking
- Central Monitoring system (web-base)
- History of tracking movements
- Ability to track hundreds of vessels or assets on one web-based monitoring system
Tracking is a monthly charge that encompasses the airtime required to send the satellite pings as well as a small fee for the dedicated web-portal and continuing tracking services.
We recommend going to tracking.redportglobal.com and clicking on the "Live Demo" option. This will give you a view of how the web interface works and what information can be derived from it.
Get a Custom Vessel Tracking Quote
We often work with large vessel operators and would be happy to provide you with a custom quote for tracking solutions needing a volume price. You can contact us here.
We often get asked what is the most affordable option for satellite internet while at sea. As the satellite industry matures, more and more options are becoming available for internet connectivity on your boat and some of them can be very affordable. The options we've detailed here are intended for single users or small crew situations. (For large satellite internet options at sea, please contact us).
Satellite internet is still more expensive than any land-based internet you will find. How affordable (or not) it can be depends almost exclusively on how you use it.
Low-data usage (low cost)
Downloading weather files
Very small webpages (like NOAA, etc)
Note: if this is the kind of data you'll exclusively be doing, you will also be very well-served by a handheld satellite phone, as most of them can do this for you for a much smaller up front hardware cost. Popular options are the Iridium 9555, Iridium GO!, and RedPort Aurora.
High-data usage (higher costs)
Web-browsing, especially without compression
Any kind of streaming service (Youtube, Skype, Spotify, etc)
Certain VoIP services
Large and frequent file downloads
Satellite Terminals for Marine Satellite Internet
Now that we know what kind of internet activities will most affect your satellite airtime bill, let's talk about the equipment.
The Iridium Pilot is a fixed installation antenna that provides broadband capability. It is one of the least-expensive hardware options for marine satellite internet. Although it runs slow by land speeds (up to 128kbps - about twice the speed of dial-up) it is significantly faster than a handheld satellite phone (which runs at 2.4 kbps - 25 times slower than dial-up).
Because of this and other operational features of the unit, doing basic activities like email, weather, and voice calling becomes incredibly inexpensive. Downloading a GRIB file over a handheld satellite phone will cost somewhere around $2.15 in airtime. Downloading the same GRIB file over the Pilot would cost about 2 cents in airtime. While the upfront costs of the unit are more than a handheld, the ongoing costs are significantly less. Adding in the ability to web-browse (which, while expensive and slow, is possible and a very nice feature to have in an emergency!) means that you get a much higher quality of service than with a handheld satellite phone.
Hardware cost: $4,793 for the Iridium Pilot Savings Bundle
Airtime cost: From as low as $39 a month, with seasonal contracts available.
Estimated low-usage cost: Around $50 - $100 a month will cover you for email, downloading weather GRIB files, and doing emergency web-browsing.
Estimated high-usage cost: Committing to bundle with 1,000 MB per month will cost you just over $1,000 a month, with per-MB overage from $0.56 each.
Coverage: Worldwide, pole-to-pole
More info: we have a great (free!) guide to affordable satellite broadband that specifically looks at usage cases for the Iridium Pilot. You can check that out here.
FleetBroadband is one of the oldest marine satellite broadband options and certainly one of the most reliable. FleetBroadband comes in 3 different terminals: the 150, 250, and 500. Each terminal reflects the max download speed of the unit (the 150 goes up to 150 kbps). FleetBroadband works most places on the planet, provides smooth connectivity for downloads, and remains a popular choice for everyone from cruisers to commercial vessels.
Hardware cost: Around $6,000 for a Sailor 150, around $11,000 for a Sailor 250, and around $16,000 for a Sailor 500.
Airtime cost: While prepaid options are available, be sure to read the fine print. We recommend a postpaid plan. These start at $106 a month (includes 5 MB of data).
Estimated low-usage cost: Around $100 a month will cover you for email, downloading weather GRIB files, and doing emergency web-browsing.
Estimated high-usage cost: FleetBroadband postpaid options for high usage jump from 200 MB per month to 2 GB (with nothing in-between). 200 MB per month will cost you around $1,000 and 2 GB per month will cost you around $2,000.
Coverage: Excellent coverage up to 70 degrees latitude. For worldwide coverage, consider adding an Iridium Pilot as backup.
Inmarsat Fleet One
Inmarsat Fleet One is the newest satellite broadband option from Inmarsat. It is basically a lean version of a FleetBroadband 150. It runs at a max speed of 100 kbps and offers very inexpensive airtime options...with a catch. Inmarsat has created a special coverage map for the Fleet One. If you're within the "home zone" you get fantastic airtime rates of around $6 a MB. But if you go outside of the home zone you get dinged at $33 a MB.
Hardware cost: $3,295 for the AddValue Fleet One and $4,154 for the Sailor Fleet One.
Airtime cost: Prepaid and postpaid available. For $60 a month you get 10 MB a month within the home zone.
Estimated low-usage cost: Around $60 a month will cover you for email, downloading weather GRIB files, and doing limited web-browsing.
Estimated high-usage cost: Hard to calculate. There isn't a graduated scale for Fleet One airtime so usage as high as 1,000 MB a month would cost you around $5,800 (for home zone) - not a great solution. If you plan on doing high data usage, consider a different system.
Coverage: Excellent coverage up to 70 degrees latitude. For worldwide coverage, consider adding an Iridium Pilot as backup.
The KVH Mini-VSAT, more than any other broadband unit available for individual users, offers the fastest, cheapest airtime. With data speeds up to 2 mbps (around what you would get on 3G on your cellphone), you can quickly and easily access the web. There are three KVH systems: the V3, the V7, and the V11. The V3 is the least expensive at around $13,000 and the most popular with individual sailors.
KVH airtime is where the system really shines. Starting at $49 a month, KVH overage per MB is only $0.99 to $1.99.
Hardware cost: Around $13,00 for the V3 (although contact us, we might be able to make you deal), around $30,000 for the V7, and around $60,000 for the V11.
Airtime cost: Postpaid airtime starts at $49 per month. (For the V7 and the V11, unlimited plans are available starting at $995 per month).
Estimated low-usage cost: $49 a month will easily cover you for email, downloading weather GRIB files, and light web-browsing.
Estimated high-usage cost: 1,000 MB a month costs $999 per month, with $0.99 per MB in overage.
Coverage: KVH has good coverage in the Northern hemisphere, but doesn't have good coverage in the Southern hemisphere. Many users use an Iridium Pilot as a backup if they plan on traveling outside of the KVH coverage area.
Please contact us for pricing on KVH equipment and airtime.
Find the Right Satellite Internet System
Not sure which marine satellite internet system is right for you? Request a free satellite communications consultation today to get a custom recommendation for satcomms just for you.
One of the nice perks of the Iridium Extreme satellite phone is that it has an integrated GPS. This means that you can do GPS tracking over the Iridium network, giving you coverage everywhere on the planet.
But how does it work? Does it consume your regular airtime? How much does it cost to do satellite GPS tracking with the Iridium Extreme?
How Does Tracking Work on the Iridium Extreme?
Tracking on the Iridium Extreme goes over a channel on the Iridium network called LBS. LBS (location based services) is different from the channel that sends voice, data, and SMS and is therefore charged separately, with its own distinct airtime pricing.
LBS is a proprietary subset of a type of satellite transmission protocol called SBD (short burst data). Both LBS and SBD can only send very small bits of data at a time - a max of 1000 bytes - so it’s limited to data transmission like location reports, which are extremely small in size.
Tracking on the Iridium Extreme can be set up to go out on regular intervals or to simply send out a position report every time the phone registers. Tracking on an regular schedule with the Iridium Extreme has the benefit of keeping friends and family back home updated at a routine progress, but means that your phone needs to be powered on and registered with the network the entire time.
If you set your tracking to go out whenever you register you’ll get much less frequent position reports, but you’ll conserve power and not spend as much in airtime.
Does Iridium Extreme Tracking Consume Regular Airtime?
No. Tracking on the Iridium Extreme will not consume your regular voice or data minutes. Airtime for Iridium Extreme tracking is completely separate and in addition to your prepaid or postpaid airtime for your phone.
Furthermore, you must have an active SIM card (with either prepaid or postpaid airtime) in order to also use the Iridium Extreme’s tracking feature.
Where Can I See My Satellite Position Reports?
When Iridium receives the position reports from your Iridium Extreme satellite phone, it can then send those position reports to a LBS-certified third-party provider to then show your position and history on a map. Global Marine Networks works with RedPort Tracking, an industry-leading tracking platform that consists of a detailed, robust online tracking interface that provides:
Real-time Position and Tracking
Longitude and latitude info
Emergency alarm/ SOS/Movement alarm/ Overspeed alarm/ Border crossing alert.
Course and Speed (on web-based tracking site)
Web-based tracking or mobile-phone-based tracking
Central Monitoring system (web-base)
History of tracking movements
Ability to track hundreds of vessels or assets on one web-based monitoring system
How Much Does Tracking on the Iridium Extreme Cost?
Basic tracking for the Iridium Extreme starts at $29.95 per month. This includes approximately 220 position reports per month (about 7 per day, or about once every 3 hours). The frequency of the position reports can increase, but each additional position report will incur an overage fee.
There is a one-time new account setup fee of $59 that goes towards the configuration of your web-based tracking account, setting up tracking on your Iridium phone, and making sure your phone is correctly relaying position reports.
Note: pricing good as of publication of this post. Please contact us for the most up-to-date pricing info for any of our products or services.
Needing Tracking for Your Iridium Extreme?
Feel free to contact us to learn more about tracking for the Iridium Extreme or to set up your Iridium Extreme tracking account.
Over the years, XGate has teamed up with a number of third-party GRIB retrievers and viewers to help deliver GRIB weather files over satellite connections. Until now, all of these programs (WeatherNet, iNavX, Weather4D, WeatherTrack, etc) have been for Windows, Mac, or iOS.
But we’re happy to announce that there is a great new option for Android: SailGrib!
SailGrib is a GRIB retriever and viewer all in one. Using SailGrib in conjunction with XGate satellite email service will allow you to retrieve GRIB files through email using XGate and then view them right in SailGrib using their Android app.
SailGrib is a handy little app that goes beyond simple GRIB files. Here are a few of the features sailors find most useful:
SailGrib Over Satellite
We’ve already mentioned it, but we’ll do it again - using SailGrib with XGate means that you aren’t tied to land to get your weather files. Using leading-edge compression, XGate allows you to download your GRIB files over satellite connections that are very, very slow by land standards. XGate works with any IP-based satellite phone (which is the vast majority of them) so you can get your weather anywhere you can get satellite reception.
SailGrib "talks" to XGate directly by spooling the GRIB request to the XGate outgoing email queue (through SMTP).
Fully Featured Weather Info
The weather information that comes through with SailGrib is pretty extensive: colored wind barbs, isobars with low and high values highlighted, precipitation map (rain and snow), cloud cover map, air temperature map, significant wave height map, mean wave direction and period arrows, and CAPE map.
You can also loop through time, allowing you to see weather movement and make decisions based on mobile patterns.
SailGrib can retrieve worldwide oceanic and European tidal currents, making it a truly robust resource for weather information around the world.
You can see SailGrib in the Google Play store here.
SailGrib Weather Routing calculates the fastest sailing route to your destination with a powerful method based on the isochrones method. An isochrone is a curve representing the points that a sailboat can reach in a given time. This curve depends primarily on the forecasted wind and currents plus the boat speed for that wind. The boat speed is derived from polar curves that represent the speed of the boat for a given wind speed and angle. We optimize the route calculating all the effects of the current on your boat as long as a current GRIB file is loaded.
All the calculations are done directly on your device, so you don’t need to consume any satellite airtime to get your sailing route.
SailGrib WR Features
Once you get your GRIB files into SailGrib WR, you can create the route to your destination on a map as well as by adding waypoints along your route.
- Set parameters by hand or automatically to specifically calibrate your passage.
- Specify upwind and downwind speed limits for low and strong winds
- Specify a minimum upwind angle for comfort while cruising
- Specify a night efficiency loss
- For cruisers, use mixed routing: decide when to start the engine and specify your motoring speed.
- Create a KML file and a GPX file of the best route
- Create an Excel file of your roadbook
- Choose to display best route courses, isochrones, isochrone segments on the map
- Go through time and overlay the boat with the weather forecast.
You can see the SailGrib WR app in the Google Play store here.
With satellite broadband terminals like Iridium Pilot, Inmarsat FleetBroadband, and VSAT Mini-V3, satellite internet access is possible - and affordable! - while at sea. But satellite being satellite, it’s not like you’re paying $50 a month for unlimited broadband. Satellite is still pricey enough that you probably don’t want to go buck wild with your satellite airtime plan.
And while you may be imminently aware of how much each MB costs, what happens if you invite a guest for the weekend? Or if you have crew or passengers onboard? You don’t want them opening up Skype, downloading Windows updates, or watching YouTube on your satellite airtime tab.
With that in mind, here are 7 ways to share your marine satellite internet (or simply use it yourself) without breaking the bank.
Password Protect Your WiFi
This one seems so simple that you’d be surprised how many people simply don’t password-protect their WiFi routers. If you’re using RedPort Optimizer you can easily set a password on the router. This way you won’t have that sketchy sailor in the slip next to you using up your airtime without you wanting, and it also allows you to selectively choose who can access your internet. This is the first step to sharing your marine satellite internet - make sure you’re in charge of who you’re sharing with by password-protecting your satellite WiFi.
Use Prepaid Voice Calling Cards When Available
This is the only way to completely separate out your family/guests/friends/crew airtime consumption from your own airtime bill. Prepaid voice calling cards allow people to purchase their own airtime. Your guests can pick up your satellite phone, enter in their PIN-code for their prepaid minutes and then go to town - on their bill, not yours.
The catch here is that these types of PIN-codes for prepaid calling only exist with the Iridium Pilot. Iridium Pilot GoChat Cards are used with Iridium Pilot (you must have an active postpaid Iridium OpenPort plan in place in order for your guests or crew to use GoChat cards).
Have Guests or Crew Sign up for Their Own XGate Account
It’s very simple to purchase individual XGate satellite email accounts. You can direct your guests or crew to pick out the subscription length that works before them and then they simply have to WiFi connect to your satellite broadband unit (you will need an Optimizer or Optimizer Crew for this). This doesn’t remove you completely from paying for their airtime usage, since all the email they do will consume your satellite airtime. But since XGate compresses email up to 95% of its original size, this is a very low-risk way for your to share your satellite internet and not run too much of a risk of high airtime bills because of their consumption. (That being said, make sure to ask your crew/guests not to send or receive gigantic attachments. XGate's BigMail will catch a lot of these, but a tech savvy crewmember or guest could get around these controls).
Use Optimizer Crew to Limit Access to the Internet (PIN-codes)
Optimizer Crew is like the Optimizer, but beefed up and full of features the regular Optimizer doesn’t provide. One of the great features of Optimizer Crew is the ability to create free PIN-codes (or access codes) that you can then give or sell to guests or crew. A PIN-code might, for example, limit your guest to 5 MB of data usage until they’re kicked off the network. This way you can control how much access your guests or crew have to the internet while allowing them the freedom to do whatever they want with those 5 MB (although you can set filters on the router itself - say, by blocking all access to YouTube, for example).
Use Optimizer Crew to Throttle Their Bandwidth
When you create PIN-codes on Optimizer Crew you not only set a data limit (5 MB, 10 MB, etc) you can throttle the bandwidth, too. This means that the internet will go slower for them, which will limit what they can do over it (perhaps completely eliminating their ability to use data-hungry services such as Skype, for example). This also assures that you’ll have bandwidth available for your needs.
Use Optimizer Crew to Implement Ship-wide Compression
One of the add-on services for Optimizer Crew is ship-wide compression. This means that anyone accessing the internet to do anything will benefit from RedPort compression that will speed up connections (and decrease airtime costs) by a factor of 3 to 5.
Using VoIP (When Applicable)
For large-scale installations like Inmarsat FleetBroadband 500s on an “all you can eat” plan, or large VSAT installations, using RedPort VoIP services can significantly drive down airtime costs for voice calls. Typical VoIP protocols use 50 kb per minute. RedPort VoIP services uses 6 kb per minute. In terms of data consumption, this means that typical VoIP protocols give you 2 minutes of talk time per MB, whereas RedPort VoIP services get you 20 minutes of talk time per MB.
We Can Help
If you need some advice about how to best save your airtime dollars while sharing your satellite broadband internet at sea, please don't hesitate to get in contact with us. From single cruisers to cruise ships - we have the experience and know-how to advise you on the best, and most affordable, option for your particular needs.
Satellite connectivity is great if you’re offshore and wanting to chat with friends back home - but when satellite communications really shine is in emergency situations where there are no other options available.
This is why emergency response and preparedness are a large part of the satellite communications industry - and for good reason. If phone lines go down in an emergency, how else are rescue teams able to communicate with headquarters or each other?
With winter fast upon us, here are the top satellite phones and airtime plans for emergency responders.
BGAN units are often used in team headquarters or war-zones for dependable broadband satellite internet and good voice quality. BGAN units range in price from around $2,000 to $27,000 and are designed for use in land-mobile situations.
Depends on the unit. For smaller BGAN units (Explorer 701, Hughes 9202, etc) the unit itself is portable inside a handy carrying case, although you need to factor in the attached handset in order to make calls. Imagine carrying around a clunky iPad and hooking a physical telephone handset to it - this is sort of what the experience of using a BGAN is like.
By far the most expensive, but the only option that allows for broadband satellite internet, as well.
BGAN has affordable postpaid plans (starting at around $55 a month with a 12 month contract) and really excellent prepaid options. We especially love the 2-year validity periods on BGAN prepaid airtime.
Learn more about BGAN.
4) Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro
The IsatPhone Pro is a popular satellite handset with affordable ongoing airtime options. It’s portable, it’s inexpensive, and it typically has good voice quality. Being one of the least expensive satellite handsets has its downsides though - it’s not well-suited for doing data and may not be as long-lived as some of the other options (ie: budget for repairs and replacements).
Portable with good battery life.
One of the least expensive handsets (currently around $585)
IsatPhone has affordable postpaid plans starting at around $40 a month. IsatPhone Pro also has prepaid options available, but because of tight validity periods for low minute purchases, it’s not great for emergency relief purposes. We typically see users go with postpaid plans so they don’t have to worry about running out of minutes when an emergency happens.
Learn more about IsatPhone Pro.
3) BYOD Devices (Globalstar Sat-Fi, Iridium GO!, RedPort Aurora)
We put BYOD ("Bring Your Own Device") at number three because this category of devices is so new there hasn’t yet been a big uptake from any part of the market. That being said, the Globalstar Sat-Fi, Iridium GO!, and the RedPort Aurora can be fantastic tools for emergency response teams and we’re already seeing the beginnings of them being put into action in the real world. All three of these devices allow you to make satellite phone calls with a cellphone, which means that multiple users can connect through the device to make satellite phone calls without actually need to carry a satellite phone on their person. These units also support a PBX with between 5-8 users which means that users can call each other as long as they’re all connected to the WiFi.
Iridium GO! is a portable unit, the Sat-Fi and Aurora would need to be installed permanently in either a vehicle or building.
From $875 to $1,599 depending on the unit.
Lots of options with all of the carriers, but we tend to see most emergency responders using a basic postpaid plan so that they have minutes available at any time and don’t have to worry about adding minutes to prepaid cards.
FREE GUIDE: Learn more about BYOD devices with our free guide to the new generation of "Bring Your Own Device" satellite WiFi units.
Learn more about the Globalstar Sat-Fi.
Learn more about the RedPort Aurora.
Learn more about the Iridium GO!.
2) Globalstar GSP-1700
For emergency responders in the United States, the Globalstar GSP-1700 is a popular, reliable phone that offers inexpensive airtime rates, a very inexpensive handset ($499), and great voice quality. One of the major draws of the GSP-1700 is the fact that Globalstar assigns you a US phone number, making it easy for headquarters to make inexpensive calls to personnel in the field without running into problems calling an international satellite phone number.
Very portable. The GSP-1700 is like a clunky cellphone from the early 2000s - ie, by satellite standards very small and light.
Globalstar just introduced prepaid airtime and, potentially useful for emergency responders: shared prepaid airtime. But most of our customers needing satellite phones for emergency backup will go with one of Globalstar’s standard postpaid plans. These start at $39.99 a month.
Learn more about the Globalstar GSP-1700.
1) Iridium Extreme or Iridium 9555
Iridium handsets remain the most popular choice for emergency responders needing satellite connectivity. Why? They’re reliable, they work anywhere on the planet, and the handsets, while more expensive than other options, are extremely hardy.
Very portable, long battery life.
Starting at $1,195.
While Iridium offers prepaid options, you tend to run into the same problem as with IsatPhone prepaid - validity periods can trip you up. Most of our Iridium emergency responder customers go with postpaid. For $50 a month, you have the comfort of knowing you always have minutes at the drop of a hat.
Learn about the Iridium Extreme and the Iridium 9555.
Got questions? Need large volumes of equipment? Just aren’t sure where to start? Feel free to get in contact with us. We’re here to help.
The End of the IsatPhone Pro?
Indeed, the popular satellite handset from Inmarsat will be discontinued in the near future.
IsatPhone Pro satellite phones will continue to work with the Inmarsat satellite array, but they will stop being supported by Inmarsat after a brief phasing out period. This means that firmware fixes will stop arriving at some point in the near future.
The good news? You can still use your current IsatPhone Pro without worrying that Inmarsat will stop service to it.
The bad news? Firmware updates may be slow to come (or non-existant), which can make doing data sessions more difficult going forward.
What Can You Do?
Is there anything you need to do? If you already have an IsatPhone Pro you can hang tight. Your phone will continue to function and you can continue to purchase airtime for it. As time goes by, it may be more and more difficult to get the satellite phone to connect to new computer equipment and devices, but for phone calls you should be able to use the IsatPhone Pro for a long time yet.
If you're looking for a satellite phone and were thinking of the IsatPhone Pro, we would probably steer you away from purchasing one now. There are other handheld options out there.
Alternatives to the IsatPhone Pro Satellite Phone
The first alternative that comes to mind is the IsatPhone 2. This is the natural successor to the IsatPhone Pro and works very similarly. If you are looking for voice connectivity with relatively good airtime rates, this is a good option.
Second would be an Iridium handheld satellite phone like the Iridium 9555 or Iridium Extreme. If you don't mind a bit more peripheral setup, you could go with the Iridium GO! Iridium airtime tends to be a bit more expensive than Inmarsat IsatPhone airtime, but not exponentially so. Iridium also has worldwide coverage, so you don't run into some of the signal issues Inmarsat users have in the far north and south.
Third is a Globalstar handheld like the GSP-1700. This is the least-expensive handheld satellite phone option on the market (currently at less than $500) and Globalstar airtime is very inexpensive.
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