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Auzzee 12-10-2012 04:58 AM

Satellite Phones
I have been researching satellite phones and have decided that iridium is the only way to go for true world coverage. Others are cheaper but the signal is iffy, and prone to disappear once a couple of hundred miles offshore.

In trying to understand prepaid airtime plans, i have discovered that a prepaid minute does not necessarily mean a period of 60 seconds, as in some cases a real minute of talk can cost up to three and a half prepaid minutes.

Like most cruisers heading offshore, I am on a budget and wonder if I can afford a satellite phone as a virtual luxury item. If I buy a package of 500 minutes ($675 <>) with an expiry of 12 months, how close to talking for 500 minutes can I come if I avoid using the phone for anything other than voice communications and SMS.

If I then add emails to the list (text only, no big photo/graphic files) how does it affect the cost per minute?

The way I see it is that if I use it for 10 minutes each week for yakking to mates and family, 500 minutes should last me almost a year.

Is this realistic? What are your experiences?

delatbabel 12-10-2012 10:53 AM

I put up a post of some comparative prices for various satellite vs HF (winmor and pactor) options. The satellite options are getting more cost effective over time. I will dig it up in a day or so and get back to you.

Auzzee 12-10-2012 11:22 AM

Cheers Del, I have SSB, VHF and weatherfax and would like to be able to stay in phone contact. I appreciate any info you can offer.

BJSmith 12-11-2012 03:01 AM

I have used my Iridium 3405A for 8 years now and use the same prepaid 12 month 500 hours SIM card program you are discussing. Never experienced any problems whatsoever. Great clear reception on every call. You can get free texting on it. Just keep 10 hours or so in the bank for dire emergencies. On each last month on the cards I made more calls to the family and friends than I ever wanted to. I do use a Sony digital allband receiver to monitor Ham and SSB nets.

BJSmith 12-12-2012 03:35 AM

Sorry I had a brain fade, the Iridium satellite phone I have is a Motorola model 9505A. Cruizheimers is setting in!

Auzzee 12-12-2012 04:02 AM


Originally Posted by BJSmith (Post 36660)
Sorry I had a brain fade, the Iridium satellite phone I have is a Motorola model 9505A. Cruizheimers is setting

That'll be the radiation:eek:

BJSmith 12-13-2012 09:23 AM

Hmmmm yes possibly...perhaps I should purchase the 3 month SIM card....Bwhahahahah!!!

Francis 02-04-2013 02:21 AM

Sorry for being late in that post... I have been using the Motorola 9505 with Sratosnet as operator. I am now looking at an alternative!!!The cost (1.4USD a mn) would be reasonable if there was a way to actually monitor elapsed time which is not the case. On a straight phone call, although cumbersome, one can keep a log and check the accuracy. On email it is a different story. The handshaking that can last for several minutes is charged so indeed the cost per mn has a multiplying factor. If the 500 mn are not used they are lost. Last year I had about 200 minutes remaining and was offered to keep them for the modest sum of 50 USD per month!!!
Besides, I had no satellites coverage for several hours in many occasion. I am now considering sailmail but also interested with any other satellites system.
By the way rumor has it that Iridium satellites fleet is aging fast with no clear plan for replacement but that needs to be verified.
Fair Winds,

Istioploos 02-08-2013 08:14 PM

On a long non coastal trip I rent an Iridium phone for couple of months. I have found that this is the most cost effective way to have coverage in the middle of an ocean.

Auzzee 02-11-2013 05:38 PM

I have bought an Iridium 9505 satellite phone from specialised satphone dealer in the US. The phone is second hand and has logged just 35 minutes of use, having come from a desk drawer in an emergency services agency in the US. The item has been certified and is guaranteed defect free for 12 months.

I have bought the phone with 500 prepaid minutes with a 12 month validity. There are no further fees and charges of any sort; no monthly charges, no plans no nuttin!

Cost of the phone and minutes and overnight delivery to my hotel in Phoenix is $1017.


Francis 04-03-2013 04:20 PM

Iridium service provider?
  1. Hi Auzzee,
It sound like an excellent bargain indeed. What service provider did you find for the 500 minutes. Mine was charging USD 1.4 per minute. Feel free to PM if you prefer.
I believe there is only one operator which is Stratosnet. The SIM card is deactivated 3 months after credit expiry. It cost USD 300 to reactivate. Did you get a similar deal?

Fair Winds,

Auzzee 04-03-2013 07:55 PM

Hi Francis,
I bought the whole deal from a company called Cytech Communications. Their details are:
email:, ph (703) 659-9805 (ext 709). Web address is

I found them very agreeable and easy to deal with and they provided by far the best prepaid service I was able to find.

delatbabel 04-04-2013 10:20 AM

Thanks for the info. Has anyone used their iridium service for data (e.g. sailmail)?

lang 04-06-2013 02:26 PM

Inmarsat for me.
I purchased the isatphone pro last month. Together with 50 mins for Us$870. Got it here in Singapore, no hassle with shipping. Will add minutes when I use up these bundled minutes.

We are leaving port anytime now. Bound Japan. Will post if it works well or not.

My intended use was for emergency call and blogging . I set up a SMS system to do text only blog entries. So once a day, I send a SMS to my family, who then runs the program up goes a new post and google map tracking. It works, but require some effort from my family. Hopefully I can make a app version that is fully automatic soon. Yes, it's free incoming SMS, and for the sender too. So my family can keep me posted on the weather or news.

JohnT 04-06-2013 04:52 PM

Lang, just make sure that your iSatphone Pro has the latest firmware loaded as the older firmware will make the phone unusable in June.


Kadycruiser 04-07-2013 11:30 PM

any one with Greek Island cruising experience?

Francis 04-09-2013 05:55 AM

Thanks David,

I appreciate the info and will contact cytech.

Fair Winds,

Auzzee 04-09-2013 03:53 PM

I'm envious Lang. Japan, next to Australia, is my favourite country in the world.

For those still looking for the satphone and worried about time balance on prepaid, the system I am on (see above) provides me with a voice alert before each call connection, which announces the total number of minutes left available.

Auzzee 06-21-2013 03:43 AM

Just wondering how you went with the Isatphone.

lang 06-21-2013 06:17 AM

Isatphone did okay.
The Isatphone did okay, not marvellous but good enough.

The few things that I didnt like
- When sailing on a tilt and rolling around, it was difficult to have the phone facing the satellite. So we lose reception regularly.
- Not quite sure I receive all the SMSes that were sent to me.
- It could have additional features like sending me a GRIB file and allowing me to download that to my puter or ipad through the Bluetooth interface.
- The Bluetooth is only for the headset and does not work with anything else.

The things that I did like
- Pretty sure all the SMSes that I sent were received.
- It was available if I had to make emergency phone calls. Pretty sure it would work, but fortunately I didnt need to try.

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