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  #1  
Old 24 Nov 2006
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iridium or thuraya sat phones

anyone have any advice on sat phones.
Specificly looking for one to cover africa which doesnt cost the earth to buy or run.
Have looked at the iridium 9505a on an africa only 3 mth sim but this runs into about £1000 with 3000units of credit.

rental would be an option but again the costs tend to be so high i might as well buy one.

what does everyone think. i really only want this as an emergency backup. or am i being too over cautious?


Smokinrider.
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  #2  
Old 24 Nov 2006
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Lightbulb info sat phone

If you want a good deal on a THURAYA phone
Contact : Zubair at Mavisat
Say a hello from me (no nothing in it for me!!)
It's where I got mine from.
Good people, good prices.
Though, if something did go badly wrong, how would the recipient of a call feel if you're thousands of miles away and they are helpless ? ouch!!
But to keep in touch with a doctor and /or a mechanic could prove very useful.
Only you can decide-
Thuraya phone about £480 ish + Super Sim and however how mnay units you buy PAYG.

www.mavisat.com
They are in reading
Cheers
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  #3  
Old 25 Nov 2006
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thuraya

Smokinrider:
A couple of months ago I posted this on a similar thread.
I've noticed Thuraya changed some of their services and they offer a new model. It seams it's more easy now to have an account and upgrade your limits by sms or online.

BTW:Because of this new model the older ones are popingup at ebay and such for reasonable prices. If you prefer new, the prices are low in Africa and unit-upgrades are easy to uptain in the major capitals (atleast in Nouackhcott).

regards
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  #4  
Old 3 Dec 2006
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Talking a phone?

Quote:
Originally Posted by smokinrider
what does everyone think. i really only want this as an emergency backup. or am i being too over cautious?

Smokinrider.
adventure biker: "Hi, I am a biker and I just broke my leg in a crash. Could you send a ambulance, or the flying doctor-service?......"

911 opperator: "ofcourse sir, where are you exactly?"

adventure biker: "Well, I am behind the second dune on the left of the little old hut which is facing the tree under the sun...."

Hi Smokinrider,

Even though it might give you a sence of security... and even if the battery's did not leak inside... and even if the keyboard was not vibrated to smitereens.... and even if.... Well, I don,t think you would get much help in a reasonable amount of time.

And.... how much miles will you actually do in totaly desolated places?

To give you a example.... My worst nightmere was having a bike-breakdown (unfixable) in the middle of the dessert or the middle of the amazone-jungle.

Ofcourse, both actually hapened. How about that for "living the dream"

The first time it was my stupidety. I wanted to "ride the dune's" without all my lugage.... so I left everything in my hotel and set out into the thar-desert in India.... to have a flat tire about 20 km from the nearest town (or road for that matter).
No water, no food, and.... my tire-repair-kit in my hotel (Yes, I am STUPPID).
So what happened next? A feature-movie-crew came by and picked me up. They were shooting in the desert and saw my bike. I was a great day.

Two years later my chain (brand-new) broke after 600 Km.... in the midle of the amazone-jungle (nightmere number two).
It was broken in three pieces and ripped the teeth from the sprocket.
What hapened next?
A few hours later a car came by. The guy towed (yes towed) me and the bike to the next settlement (150 km) where we spent the night, left the bike and went for the next town (an other 200 km) where I bought enaugh stuff to fix the bike in a way that it could actually ride (I had to file new teeth on the sprocket) with 60 km/hour. I then rode the 1200 (!) km (those were long day's) to the big citty where I got things properly (well, sort of) fixed.

What I mean to say (apart from amuzing you with my adventures) is that shit happens... and it happens in the most rotten places.... but there is always some one who passes by an hour, or a day later.
So think carefully if you really need the phone, the battery's, the battery-charger etc, etc.......

Hope this helps
Maarten

ps. Ever thought of a "epirb" (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) ? They are cheap, small and shock and waterproof. Easy to fix on the bike (to bad if you take a strawl and fall down a ravine (this actually happened)) and no subscribtion.

Last edited by mmaarten; 3 Dec 2006 at 11:05. Reason: my bad spelling
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  #5  
Old 3 Dec 2006
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surviving the dream

mmaarten:
Taking a satphone isn't that bad. It's just one of those devices which can help you to "live your dream".
I totally agree, you cannot expect to simply dial 911 and instantly your worries are gone. You cannot repair a flat tyre with it and it doesn't supply you with water or spareparts, but along with good planning and preparation it can help you surviving a hazardious situation. BTW you also cannot expect to drive off into the desert, get a flat tyre and be rescued by a movie-crew (yes , you were lucky).
See it as just one of those modern wonders; a device like a gps is much more convienient than a compas although you could skip both and navigate on the sun and the stars, you can make fire by rubbing wood but I prefer a lighter.
If you do take a satphone collect some contacts (the campsite you left yesterday, the local HUBBmember who offered you a 2 days further on the road) and be preparred to wait a few days untill help arrive.

One aspect of a satphone almost never mentioned is the possibility that the people backhome can contact you when there is an emergency situation on their side of the globe. Although I can imagine you just want to escape from all this backhome, for them it's quite reassuring (and easier to coop with your travels) if they can send you a sms the moment they desporate want to get in touch with you.

About epirb
I looked into those 2 years ago and decided to go for a thuraya satphone.
An EPIRB is a maritiem device, since a short while you can find them for land use too called PLB. Those are registrated devices, the name, lenght and type of vessel are signed to a code this beacon will send in case of an emergency. These devices are not very cheap and because of the registration difficult to find secondhand, if you can find one you have to make a new registration otherwise the beacon will send a wrong i.d., an oiltanker in the middle of the sahara or a yaght in a rainforrest ?
And one of the main reasons to choose a satphone, you have to get your license (in the netherlands called Marcom-A) to own and or registrar a EPIRB.
A EPIRB beacon will send your coordinates to a rescue party, a thuraya can double as a gps (altough very basic) and can send your coordinates via sms to whoever you want and offcourse you can speak to them.

regards
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  #6  
Old 4 Dec 2006
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Before you decide on any satphone check if the provider covers the area where you intend to travel. As far as I know Thuraya & Iridium do NOT cover the whole globe, Motorola does.

Having a look at their respective websites, you can check the maps regarding their coverage.

Hans
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  #7  
Old 4 Dec 2006
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Eh? Motorola was Iridium

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vaufi
As far as I know Thuraya & Iridium do NOT cover the whole globe, Motorola does.
Hans
Hi, Thuraya certainly can't cover the world, it uses a single, geostationary satellite with a backup one next to it.

Motorola created and launched Iridium before GSM became convenient and cheap. They had this idea that it would be good to talk wherever you may be.
It's a series of dozens of satellites that orbit faster and cover the world (as long as there are no trees or you're not in a ravine)

Last I heard, Boeing had bought the Iridium system and were selling lots of phones to the US military, so at least it's not going to shut down soon (there was a danger of that a while ago) The deal involved Motorola getting exclusive rights to phone manufacture.

Call quality: the handover system between Iridium satellites leaves a lot to be desired, in open land you can expect to catch a signal, make your call and be cut off about 12 minutes later as the satellite disappears over the horizon. There will already be another in view but they don't seem to communicate with each other. I found this REALLY annoying for data calls and during the long Christmas family call.

As Thuraya is based on one, bigger, satellite, call quality and continuity is much better.
Iridium know this and (when I was looking) offered quite competitive airtime rates on the African continent to try and keep up with the Thuraya market.
It actually turned out cheaper to use my Iridium than one of the many teleboutiques in Mali and parts of BF.

Why have one?
Maarten and Sophie-Bart have covered this very well, and if it weren't for my parents (and in-laws) we wouldn't have bothered. The emergency situation wouldn't necessarily arise on the trip, but at home, with a mum that goes bonkers and calls the brit embassy in Mali telling them to look for a white camper!
We always hid our gadgets near borders, and it took us 5 days playing around between Mali and Mori before I got the phone out again; that was too much for her.
In my case it was more important to be able to call and say everything's fine. Even if you're lying, which I did ;-)

Smokinchap, you chose. I chose Irirdium because I thought we would be leaving the Thuraya coverage zone, which we will, one day...

Luke
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  #8  
Old 4 Dec 2006
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Star-Traxx

As an alternative to phones and pirb's, you could look at this.

https://star-traxx.com/

John
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  #9  
Old 4 Dec 2006
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Wink I am a lonely orfen

I stand corrected. I never thought about the family back home.... for the simple reason that I don't have one. (makes travel very easy).

I can imagine that in the Netherlands (also my home-land) a epirb needs a license..... (this is one of the reasons I left... rules, rules, rules)... but in the more developed parts of the world (like australia) you can buy a second-hand epirb on just about evey street-corner. (which kind of eliminates the need )

I know they are usually marine-use... but they (the people who I hope know about this stuff : US coastguard) told me that every airplane scan's this frequency and that satelite's also pick it up. (406/121.5 mhz).
They also told me to have a insurance in case I trigger it. Press the button and you have to pay the resque.
They had no direct awnser as to who would rescue me somewhere in the desert. It all depends on the country... but the same goes for a sat-phone I guess

Then again... you can't call mum on your epirb

Maarten
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  #10  
Old 6 Dec 2006
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T and T

Thrane and thrane units. They are the size of a small laptop. They double up as internet modem too. They have a cordless phone. Weigh next to nothing. Can be used for hours on end. Skype runs on em. Video skype. Skype out!! and i know sometimes they let u do pay as you go....I think the airtime is sold by bgan. check it out.
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  #11  
Old 6 Dec 2006
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But how much?

Lovely units.
When I enquired in 2003 (not with Thrane) the BGAN contract was in the 23€/month range with data charged at 10 dollars per megabyte regardless of direction(upload/download).
A Skype video call could set you back a bit.
I convoyed for a while with a friend who had wangled a sponsorship deal with a French supplier; the BGAN really is like broadband at home. You need a PC to use it though.
For some reason that I didn't understand it wouldn't cover southern Africa though. Perhaps they've fixed/improved that.

G'luck
Luke
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  #12  
Old 8 Dec 2006
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Bgan and T&T

Hey luke
They most certainly do cover ALL of Africa. I used it from London to Cape Town and had no problems. Although u have to point the receiver in different directions in Southern Hemisphere.

Skype uses minimal megs per call so the biggest cost is actually for ur Skype out initial outlay. I think 10 Euros lasted me 4 months of using Skype. But then i dont really like chatting that much.

U need a very small pc to run it and it can also connect via bluetooth to ur pc if u have the capiblities. So no cables!!! I would reccomend one of those mini PC laptops.. i forget the name.

I know they have loads of deals now of varying ammounts. They have packages of bytes used or time used. Also u can buy the unit or rent it.

It is a little larger to carry especially on a bike, but it saves time for hunting for internet cafes and so on in the long run. For 4x4 its a doddle!! I also beleive that they will have auto tracking units in the near future! internet while u drive cant wait. i think it would work wonders with google Earth......but the cost!

Good luck
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  #13  
Old 8 Dec 2006
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Excellent

I wondered why a communication system based on Inmarsat would have dark zones. Maybe you buy a coverage package. That could be the R in the RBGAN (Regional).
Just Googled it and I see that prepaid costs 12€/Mb from a French supplier. You don't want to download movies with that!
Also saw that a 50 Mb prepaid is only valid 3 months! What was the deal you got, how long did it last?

Seems you've got to hunt around and play one off against another.

Yep Skype's cheap, and really useful and at least your Skype credit doesn't expire.

IMHO it's really worth investigating for overlanders. OK Iridium does data, but only at 9600baud... You can hardly get anything done at that rate, and the call dropping is annoying.
Its only advantage is that it's relatively small and doesn't need a computer, if you're only going to use it for voice calls it could be enough (just).

Has anyone ever seen 2nd hand BGAN antennae up for grabs?

Surf; are you thinking of the Flybook and similar? or do you think it would work with a pocket PC (Imate Jasjar/SPV M5000)?

Happy trails
Luke
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  #14  
Old 8 Dec 2006
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Deals and wheels

Well Luke we asked for sponsorship. In return they branded our vehicles came on the some legs of our trip and also i managed to hook them up some contracts in Africa. But we had a cap which we did not even come close to passing. If u are clever on how u use your time it can go a very long way.

i know in SA we get a much better rate than that. Thats very expensive. But then skype uses minimal bytes to transfer data. I even video skyped.. shh dont tell them!

I would go for the JVC interlink. It also allows u to burn DVD... so for backing up photos on a trip! priceless. Especially for guys on bikes

Thuraya is the way to go but the coverage in Africa is poor. If u plan to come lower than Kenya get iridium or both? or one if u dont mind 7 min calls use iridium! We used iridium and believe me its a pain sometimes.

To set up bgan is 5 mins which is the time it takes to find a signal on sat phones any way.....

IMHO i would take mini laptop with T&T unit. Once its locked it stays locked...unless someone walks in front of it. They will end up having far fewer children if theyt stay there for long. Also the unit is cordless so u can work under ur vehicle or bike with no problems!!!

Many happy miles and if u need any help yell!

Keep surfing
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  #15  
Old 8 Dec 2006
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Sat

Oh the reason why the coverage was poor in 2003 was that the Satelites for sub saharn africa really kicked into full use last year around june. We had to reinstall software and reposition the receiver after that.
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