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Communications Connecting - internet cafes, laptops, Palm devices, cell phones - how to connect, use, which one, and Bike to Bike and passenger intercoms.
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  #1  
Old 5 Nov 2002
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Sat Phone -- How important?

Ok, so how important do folks think it is to have a SAT phone these days? I'm doing 15 months in S. America starting this December. I'm really hoping to NOT spend the money, but my girlfriend is leaning on my to get the phone for emergencies.

Whaddya think?
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  #2  
Old 5 Nov 2002
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I would get it. They’re much cheaper now anyway. I hope you might not need it at all, but if you’re ever hurt or stranded somewhere, you’ll be glad you got one.

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  #3  
Old 6 Nov 2002
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I'm also thinking about this as I'll be travelling solo - and communication in a 'survival' situation is vital.

However I'm put off by..
1. Cost
2. I hate mobile phones and want to get away from it all.
3. It's another thing to carry
4. Will it work when you really need it?
5. In a survival situation will it get you help quickly enough?

I've not travelled to far off parts yet, so would be interested in what some 'old hands' have to say about these things.


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  #4  
Old 14 Nov 2002
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1. Cost
Get a used one and sell it afterwards.

2. I hate mobile phones and want to get away from it all.
You won't be using it to check on the cat back home, just in emergencies. And don't give your number out. It will actually be turned off when packed since it needs a clear view of the sky to operate.

3. It's another thing to carry
I'm afraid so.

4. Will it work when you really need it?
Most likely, and the service keeps getting better.

5. In a survival situation will it get you help quickly enough?
Depends on where you are and whom you called but at least somebody knows where you are and that you're in trouble.

As you see from my argumentative attitude , I think it’s important to carry one with you all the time.

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  #5  
Old 15 Nov 2002
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Location: Auckland & Wellington, New Zealand
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are you really suggesting you need a Satelite phone? and in South America???

There are really very few places so remote _in the world_ that dictate the need for a satelite phone. Places that spring to mind include warzones, and vast deserts. A sat phone may not do you much help in such places anyway - unless you want to get two or three of them, link a moviecam and send pictures back to your newsroom.

The reason that the satelite phone industry collapsed (the remnents of Iridium was rescued by the US military) was due to lack of demand. The lack of demand was because global travellers were 1: few and 2: much better off with globalised mobile phones - better off because mobile phones were much much cheaper and much much smaller.

to respond to a couple of the 5 points....
>1. Cost
>>Get a used one and sell it afterwards.
Good luck in selling it. probably be obsolescent...

>3. It's another thing to carry
>>I'm afraid so.
and it is huge...

>5. In a survival situation will it get you >help quickly enough?
the next vehicle will almost certainly help you when you are in a remote area - that is the law of remote areas. If you are kidnapped etc. then the sat phone won`t help as you will not be able to use it.

lastly: how many other motorbike travellers are using these things. a number very close to zero I think.
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  #6  
Old 16 Nov 2002
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Actually, there are much more places where you could use a satellite phone other than war zones and vast deserts.

In most third world countries there’s little mobile phone coverage on roads between cities. And not all cities have mobile coverage in the first place. Here in Egypt for example, and it’s one of the most developed in Africa, the oasis road that crosses Egypt from north to has not coverage whatsoever. And traffic is few and far between in the middle section. The oasis themselves have limited and unreliable coverage. The situation gets worse in less developed countries. Very few places in the world are well covered by mobile network and VHF like North America.

Venture a bit on dirt tracks and it’s unlikely that someone will follow your same route in a reasonable time to help. Venture off road and you’re completely on your own. In these situations I would prefer to have a way to communicate to the outside world incase of an emergency.

When you’re crossing several countries, making sure your mobile phone will work along your route is cumbersome and expensive at best. This is due to the different networks and payment methods used in each country. Contrary to manufacturers claims GSM isn’t truly global. There are currently 5 bands used around the world and most handsets only work on one band so it might not work where you plan to go. Do you plan on using the GSM roaming number feature? In most countries it’s much more expensive than making a satellite phone call. It’s much easier to reply on the sat phone if you only plan to use it in an emergency.

The satellite phone industry didn’t collapse. Only Iridium collapsed but later rescued as you mentioned. Like many new industries (the dot coms come to mind) they had unrealistic expectations when they started, but are now restructuring and most are recovering and dare I say, doing well in their recovery. Companies like Global Star, Thuraya, Inmarsat and now Iridium are lowering their costs and providing cheaper handsets and services. And the second hand market is there, just not so obvious to us travelers. Check in the oil companies’ circles and you’ll find some decent activity.

By the way, global travelers where never target customers for sat phone companies for the reasons you mentioned. The main target customers are oil companies and military/governments. That’s why you’ve never seen a Global Star as on this web site for instance.

>lastly: how many other motorbike travelers are using these things. a number very close to zero I think.
Well, in the last couple of years I’ve met about a dozen or so travelers who passed through Egypt on bikes and in cars. I’d say half of them had sat phones.

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OasisPhoto.com – Images from the Magical Sahara.
ShortWheelbase.com – Jeep preparations.
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  #7  
Old 16 Nov 2002
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i agree with y_kiwi. satelite phone and south america... why?

for general -non emergency- communication there are net cafes and telephone kiosks everywhere, and i mean everywhere.

if your 'emergency' is a mechanical problem: there are people everywhere in south america and some sort of vehicle will be found to take you/your bike to a mechanic/telephone...

if your 'emergency' is a serious accident where you are hurt... then the satelite phone won't be much use to you anyway. just hope that somebody appears who can take you to a hospital etc etc. (you calling your girlfriend/whoever in the usa is not really going to help you in this 'emergency').

south america is safe, there are people everywhere and apart from one or 2 places, somebody else will always be around. there is no 'wilderness' in south america, unless you want to get into the depths of the amazon, where a boat/machete rather than a bike should be the tools of your trade.

don't worry, go there and enjoy,
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