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Sahara Travel Forum Topics specific to North Africa and the Sahara down to the 17th parallel (excludes Morocco)
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Desert Travels - Motorcycle Journeys in the Sahara and West Africa!

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  #1  
Old 29 Aug 2001
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radio contact

Hello,
Could anyone tell me what they use for emergency contact in the Sahara?

I am planning a trip to Mauritania and Mali next year. Satellite phones seem quite expensive and I've heard that the cover may not be great.
What about a shortwave radio transimitter? Is there a channel for emergencies and does anyone listen?

Also, even if we do have a method of emergency contact, is it unrealistic to expect a rescue, even with a decent insurance policy?

Many thanks,
Len
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  #2  
Old 29 Aug 2001
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Hi Len

I am back from Mauritania and have always with me my satellite telephone in case of
emergency as I am used to driving my Land
110 on my own and only with my co-pilot to
the Sahara.

My satellite telephone is a Capsat mobile inmarsat mini-M terminal (made in Denmark by
Thrane & Thrane)and works very well without
any problems. Moreover, it is very easy to
operate.

Operating the Capsat telephone is much the same as making direct international telephone
calls from an ordinary telephone.

The necessary requirements to operate a satellite telephone is that :

a) The terminal is registered by a service provider(i.e payment arrangements. in my case, the provider is a French company named
TDCOM and I usually buy 400 units for a year
instead of having a year subscrition as I
only use it as an emergency phone.

b)The location where the telephone is located
is covered by a satellite and there is free
line of sight from the antenna of the terminals to the satellite.

c) I looked into the matter of the three satellite systems used in the world : IRIDIUM
GLOBALSTAR and INMARSAT. For me and after a
thorough survey, only INMARSAT came up to my
expactations as GLOBALSTAR has not a full coverage of Africa and IRIDIUM went bankrupt
a few months ago.

Moreover, I have my portable phone with a
worlwide subscrition (G.S.M. network) which
works pretty well in Morocco and in some parts of Mauritania as Nouadhibou and Nouakchott.

I am very doubtful about using a V.H.F. radio
in Africa but perhaps it works well.

Hope you can make up your mind with my information and do not hesitate if you need
some more details.

By the way, next year, I plan to go back in
April to Mauritania and Mali.

Good luck

Jean-Paul

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  #3  
Old 29 Aug 2001
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Hi Jean Paul
Thanks for your invaluable information re satellite telephones;
Where do I buy one ?
What do they cost ?
How much does a telephone call cost?
Kitmax
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  #4  
Old 31 Aug 2001
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Hi KITMAX

I BOUGHT THE INMARSAT MINI-M portable unit
for 2454 euros plus an extra battery for
68.60 euros and on the top of it add up
19.60% V.A.T. the 23rd of march 2000 to a
French company named TD COM whose address is:

3, avenue des Erables
94440 - SANTENY
Tel : 33 (0)1 45 10 07 77
Fax : 33 (0)1 43 86 06 60
Web site : www.tdcom.com

You'll find hereunder the prepaid minute call
updated february 01.

For 100 minutes : 2.80 US $ (1 minute)
" 200 " " : 2.65 " " "
" 500 " " : 2.50 " " "
" 1000 " " : 2.40 " " "
" 5000 " " : 2.10 " " "

If you own a company, you can deduct the
sales tax and amortize the unit over one
year.

As far I know, It should be less expensive
to buy it in U.K.

Good luck

Jean-Paul

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  #5  
Old 1 Sep 2001
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Thanks very much Jean-Paul.
This info will be really useful.
Len
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  #6  
Old 2 Sep 2001
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Thanks for info - gon' shoppin'for a new telephone...
Look forward to chatting on our sat-tels!
All best from kitmax Kit
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  #7  
Old 3 Sep 2001
GWJ GWJ is offline
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You might want to try online auctions on eBay, on occasion they have very good value used Mini-M systems on offer. I have recently bought a factory refurbished NEC Planet-1 for under $500 - it's slightly bulkier than the current Thrane or Nera models, and it's no longer manufactured, but it works perfectly, and Comsat offers full customer service support.

There is one on sale currently http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI...tem=1270024536 form the same dealer I've bought mine from. If any questions, contact me on ma_pto@euroweb.hu

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  #8  
Old 4 Sep 2001
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You may want to consider an EPIRB, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. These are required on commercial ships and airplanes, and are much cheaper to buy than satellite phones.

This site has some more info: http://www.epirb.de/

My wife worked for the Int. Red Cross some years ago, BTW, and all their cars were equipped with a short-wave radio with prefixed channels. Perhaps you can contact the Int. Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or the International Comittee of the Red Cross, to find out more about their setup.
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  #9  
Old 10 Sep 2001
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I agree that overall sat phones are the way to go for emergency or even normal comms in the desert.
I address the utility of the beacon thing in the book - it's nor much use for our type of independent travels with no emergency back up.
Re new sat phones, Thuraya is the one to go for in the Sahara, You can find all the blurb at ...com.
In the UK Next Destination are dealing with them via dealers.
They're only just out last month - 700 quid to buy the small GSM adaptable (ie put your normal home mobile SIM card in when yoiu want) handset, and much less per minute (84c?) than INMARSAT sat phones ($4.50?) because they only use 1 satellite and only cover N half of Africa up to Arabia and west Asia - not the world like INMAR..

I plan to rent one or maybe buy one for my upcoming tours - last year it would have sure saved some aggro.

see you

Chris S


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Author of Sahara Overland and the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook, among other things

http://www.sahara-overland.com


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  #10  
Old 10 Sep 2001
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The zero monthly fee Inmarsat Mini-M package from Comsat is $3.95 / minute. Thanks for the Thuraya info ! (I just bought a Mini-M ... )
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  #11  
Old 10 Sep 2001
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Chris,

Sounds interesting. Do you know how to contact Next Destination Limited?


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  #12  
Old 29 Sep 2001
REX REX is offline
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To clear up some confusion about iridium. We had a 9500 before they stopped civilian use. And now we have a 9505. Iridium LLC that now runs the system has a long term contract with the US military and got the network for a bargin that they will not need to stop service again. The US military used the system the whole time! They were never going to crash the satellites! Cost is about US$1500 for the phone w/accessories and calls are US$1.15 - US$2.15 per minute depending on how many minutes you pre-pay. (It is not good to get bills when you travel). Look up www.Iridium.com.

E-Mail if you need to.

[This message has been edited by REX (edited 28 September 2001).]
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  #13  
Old 1 Oct 2001
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Recently I came across a company that sells/rents sat phones at reasonable prices:

Expedition Kit
London
Tel. 0207 610 0700


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  #14  
Old 2 Oct 2001
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E-mails by satellite?
If I invest in a Satellite telephone, can I swap e-mails and upload information onto my website whilst on the move?
This would be the only reason for me getting one - and disturbing the tranquility of the desert. (I shall turn off the ringer as soon as I leave Dover!)
Do I need extra software, if so what?
Who provides an international dial-up service?
Most ISP's seem to work only in their country of origin, including, oddly enough, BTelecom. I don't want to switch to 'AOL' as they bar me from using my e-mail programme 'Outlook Express'.
Kitmax http://www.kitmax.com
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  #15  
Old 3 Oct 2001
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With the Inmarsat Mini-M's you have full fax/data transfer functions, you simply call the # of your home ISP to log in - however you need to have a connected laptop, the phone itself has no such capability.

With a maximum 2400bps data link speed you might think twice about doing that though at $2.5-4 a minute, especially uploading photos - that's several minutes for a 100k photo.

Unless you're working for UN/CNN/Reuters or other organization with a fat expense account, then probably it's not for you.
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