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Author Topic: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?  (Read 1456 times)

garyb1st

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Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« on: March 03, 2018, 07:23:23 PM »
Is it necessary?  What are the options and cost?  We have Verizon cell coverage via either an old 3G Aircard or an Android phone.  Primary concern is connectivity in the case of mechanical breakdown or medical emergency.   We have a motorhome and toad so the likelihood of being stranded is minimal. 

For those of you who have made the trip recently, how good is cell coverage through BC, the Yukon and Alaska?  Does Verizon still have the best coverage? 

 
Gary B1st

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Back2PA

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2018, 09:04:36 PM »
This doesn’t answer your direction directly, however this info I dug up awhile back may be useful
Scott
2014 Montana High Country 343RL (38')
2011 F-250 Super Duty LB 10K gross
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Roy M

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2018, 09:24:27 PM »
That is a pretty expensive lifeline unless you plan to travel in remote areas. There will be lots of traffic on main routes during summer, people in the north won't leave a traveler stranded.

SargeW

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2018, 10:20:10 PM »
Gary, we went to Alaska in 2012 and had the same concerns. I blogged the whole trip here on the forum, and the first entry explains in detail about how we handled the issue. 

Here is a link to the blog. http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php/topic,54670.0.html
Marty--
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Arch Hoagland

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2018, 12:08:16 AM »
Keep in mind even if your phone shows no coverage you can dial 911 and have a good chance of it being answered.

The reason is that are are many private carriers in remote locations who have their own cellphone systems....logging, mining, etc. They are all required to answer 911 calls.

The same is true across the U.S.  all carriers are required to answer 911 even if you aren't a subscriber of theirs.

I discovered this when I was out of my cellphone carriers range.
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Larry N.

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2018, 08:34:23 AM »
Quote
The same is true across the U.S.  all carriers are required to answer 911 even if you aren't a subscriber of theirs.

Which is great, as far as it goes. But in an Alaskan trip you're likely to be out of range of all cell towers part of the time, so that capability will only be there part of the time. And does Canada have that same rule?

Still, if it were me, I'd not get the satellite phone. Lot's of expense for little benefit, and there's always some sort of traffic in all but the most remote areas, even if it's not frequent.
Larry and Mary Ann N.
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Wheeldog

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2018, 09:53:33 AM »
I have lived in Alaska for 40 years and travel the Alcan down to AZ in the winter quite a bit. Several trips have been by myself. My wife has Verizon, but doesn't have a package so she can use it in Canada and Mexico. I have AT&T and it works in the towns and maybe a few miles on either side.

I have never got a satellite phone. You have 2 vehicles so I wouldn't worry about it. You will find if you are broke down people will stop and see if you need help. Had a flat on a trailer a couple years ago outside of Ft Nelson. A guy stopped and gave me a ride to the tire shop. I always stop if I see someone broke down.

Since I travel quite a bit by myself I carry a SPOT tracker. It works off satellite. That way my family and friends can keep track of me. It has an emergency button brings in emergency services.   I can send emails that let folks know I am ok when I stop. I hear Garmin has a similar product, but I don't know much about it.

https://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=100
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garyb1st

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2018, 10:14:01 AM »
Great information.  Thanks for the replies.  Scott, I've bookmarked a number of sites from your link.  Now I just need to spend some time and sort through them.  Sarge, I'm looking forward to reading your FACTS.  Wheeldog, I'm inclined to do the minimal.  You're right, having two vehicles is an insurance policy. 

As mentioned, I'm primarily concerned about emergency service.  We have a tendency to wander off the beaten track from time to time and while it's nice to know we aren't the only ones that might be in remote areas, I'd like to have a way to reach out if it became necessary.   

I guess from a cost perspective, it probably makes sense to have some minimal protection on an ongoing basis since as mentioned, we have a tendency to stray.   
Gary B1st

2005 Pace Arrow 35G
2016 Jeep Wrangler


Poverty exists not because we cannot feed the poor, but because we cannot satisfy the rich.

garyb1st

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2018, 10:53:02 AM »
Sarge, I just started reading your second post.   It begins, Thanks guys! It's nice to know that someone is reading it!   Then I looked at the number of reads.  62,599.  So I'm thinking New York Times Best Seller list.   ;)
Gary B1st

2005 Pace Arrow 35G
2016 Jeep Wrangler


Poverty exists not because we cannot feed the poor, but because we cannot satisfy the rich.

SargeW

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2018, 11:49:57 AM »
Sarge, I just started reading your second post.   It begins, Thanks guys! It's nice to know that someone is reading it!   Then I looked at the number of reads.  62,599.  So I'm thinking New York Times Best Seller list.   ;)

Now that's just funny right there! But it is amazing, as I haven't looked at the topic in a while. When I went back to look at it, I was amazed at the number of views. It inspires me to do another one on the western travel trip this year.
Marty--
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garyb1st

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2018, 12:45:23 PM »
Sarge, just finished reading your Alaskan trip journal.  Great job both in terms of routing and campgrounds, and more importantly, the detailed explanations of the minor inconveniences you experienced and how you addressed them.  I need to update my checklist.  Pex fittings and cardboard.  Who would have thought?   ;)  It raises a number of issues I hadn't thought of previously.  One in particular has to do with things like Pex fittings.  I plan on creating a thread to address my concerns. 

Gary
Gary B1st

2005 Pace Arrow 35G
2016 Jeep Wrangler


Poverty exists not because we cannot feed the poor, but because we cannot satisfy the rich.

SargeW

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2018, 09:27:09 PM »
They are simple items, but if you don't have one it can be problematic.  Most items that you would normally carry are sufficient. 
Marty--
2017 Tiffin Allegro Bus 40SP
Cummins ISL 450 HP/Powerglide chassis
2018 JLU Jeep Sahara
Visit our new travel blog! http://www.mytripjournal.com/rvnchick2018
Support your local Police Officer, Fire Fighter and Military!

captaindomon

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2018, 07:28:51 PM »
Get one of these. We have just returned from a trip to the Caribbean, and it works great. Works on a better satellite network than the Spot (Iridium has global coverage, and they are investing $6 Billion with a big “B” in the next constellation, launching now). Plans start at $11/month, includes global emergency support and rescue coordination, and you can also use it for two-way text messaging. These things are awesome.

https://www.amazon.com/Garmin-010-01735-10-Inreach-Explorer/dp/B01MY03CZP/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1520987167&sr=8-3&keywords=InReach


garyb1st

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2018, 09:53:58 PM »
We've tentatively narrowed it down to either the Garmin or the Delorme Inreach.  Not sure if they're essentially the same.   IIRC the Garmin is somewhat less than the Delorme. 
Gary B1st

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Poverty exists not because we cannot feed the poor, but because we cannot satisfy the rich.

Kevin Means

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2018, 10:17:37 PM »
Hi Gary. I always carry a Garmin In-Reach satellite texting device with me when I'm Jeeping in the middle of nowhere, or when I'm working with aircrews in far-away lands. I've been in some pretty isolated places, where neither radios nor cell phones would work.

The In-Reach device allows me to send and receive text messages via the Iridium satellite network. I can text directly from the device itself, or from my cell phone, which connects to the In-Reach via blue tooth. It will send an automatic SOS message to rescue services that monitor the system 24 hours a day, or I can simply send and receive normal text messages to/from anyone - from anywhere in the world.

I pay $25.00 a year for a plan that allows me to switch the service on and off at anytime, without penalty. There are a vareity of plans, from unlimited texting on down. I got the device for emergencies, but I've also texted back and forth with Cyndi from the middle of nowhere. I think my plan costs $15.00 per month for 20 texts - something like that. If I go over my alotted texts, I think they charge me 20 cents per texts. It's very reasonable IMO.

When it's turned off, it'll go several months before the battery runs down, and if I leave it on, it'll go for weeks on a single charge. When I send someone a text, they not only get the text message, they also get a GPS map display of where I was when I sent the message. It's very cool, and it's a lot cheaper than a sat-phone.

I think the device itself cost me about $300.00 a year or so ago, and I'm very happy with it. I love its ability to send and receive text messages. It's not just a one-way communicator that only sends pre-programmed messages.

Kev
« Last Edit: March 13, 2018, 10:28:04 PM by Kevin Means »
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garyb1st

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2018, 01:56:41 AM »
Thanks for the info Kevin.  That's exactly what we're looking for.   

Hope you are well and fully recovered from your recent surgery.

Gary

 
Gary B1st

2005 Pace Arrow 35G
2016 Jeep Wrangler


Poverty exists not because we cannot feed the poor, but because we cannot satisfy the rich.

Back2PA

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #16 on: March 14, 2018, 08:27:18 AM »
The In-Reach device allows me to send and receive text messages via the Iridium satellite network. I can text directly from the device itself, or from my cell phone, which connects to the In-Reach via blue tooth. It will send an automatic SOS message to rescue services that monitor the system 24 hours a day, or I can simply send and receive normal text messages to/from anyone - from anywhere in the world.


Kevin,


From what I recall when I was looking into satellite com devices some could text but had significant limitations- number of characters, type of device that could send to the sat device, etc. Don’t remember the specifics but remember thinking it would take too much explaining to someone who might want to contact me.


Questions:


When you say regular text, is there a character limitation?
Is there a phone number assigned to the unit that senders use to text to you?
If you send from your phone does it still show the device number as the “from” number?
If you text from your phone does the incoming return to your phone or the device?
Is there any charge for someone to send to you?
Scott
2014 Montana High Country 343RL (38')
2011 F-250 Super Duty LB 10K gross
Eezrv TPMS
Fulltimer

Kevin Means

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #17 on: March 14, 2018, 02:06:40 PM »
Hi Scott. I had to dig out the owners manual and get online to answer your questions.  :D The device allows you to pre-program canned messages that you can send out quickly without a lot of button-pushing ("I've arrived" "I'm safe" etc.) but it makes no mention of any character limits for those "quick texts."

Once the Earthmate app has been downloaded to a phone or tablet, and the device has been paired with it, the InReach can accesses contacts lists and you can send text messages directly from the phone or tablet. Once again, the owners manual makes no mention of any character limits when using a phone or tablet, and I never experienced any limits. (Although I usually don't send long texts.) I also went to Garmin's website and didn't see any mention of character limits, and none of the reviews I read had complaints about character limits.

When you initially setup the device, you have to get online to create an account. When you select a service plan, it prompts you for a 15 digit IMEI number and a 5 digit authorization code. That's how it knows who the device belongs to. I don't know if the recipient's phone displays a phone number when they get a message. The person(s) you're texting have to have the free Earthmate app installed on their phone if they want to see where you were when you sent the text.

If you've paired the device to your phone, you will see the message on your phone. It is programmed to check for incoming messages every 20 minutes, so texting isn't as fast as it often is with cell phones, but you can reduce the frequency of how often it checks for messages in the device's Settings.

There is no charge to anyone who receives, or sends messages from/to you, but the text messages they send to you count against your service plan, and you get charged extra if you go over your allotted message limits. I think it's .20 cents extra for every text you send or receive over your plan's limit.

The device is basically water proof (IP 67) it has an internal GPS compass and barometer, and you can manually input known elevations and barometric pressures for increased accuracy. It's got a map display, and while it's pretty small, it would be better than nothing if you were lost and/or in distress.

I bought it primarily for emergency communications, and to let my family know I've arrived somewhere and I'm OK. I also wanted them to be able to reach me if they needed to. It works great for that. The UI is a bit clunky and takes a little getting used to, but you pick it up soon enough. It's much easier to do all the texting through your phone. I hope I answered all your questions.

Kev
2011 Winnebago Tour 42QD
Towing a Jeep Rubicon Unlimited LJ
RVI Brake 2, Minder TM-66 TPMS, 960 watts of solar
(Can't wait to spend more time RVing)
Lakeside, California

Back2PA

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2018, 02:49:38 PM »
Thx Kev. No immediate need but perhaps down the road. If the need arises still leaning toward the cheapest phone option to allow full communication if necessary, but its not cheap
Scott
2014 Montana High Country 343RL (38')
2011 F-250 Super Duty LB 10K gross
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Kevin Means

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2018, 02:38:57 PM »
An update: I just talked to Garmin, because I wanted to update my service plan. While talking to them, I asked if there were any character limits when texting. The guy said there is a 160 character limit per text message, so yes - there are character limits. However, IMO, that's plenty of characters for texting.

He also told me that when you set your device up, you can go online and create three preset messages that you can word anyway you want. You can send those messages to as many people as you want, as often as you want, with no penalties. They do NOT count against your message limits for whatever service plan you have. If someone responds, however, their response will count against your message limits.

Kev
2011 Winnebago Tour 42QD
Towing a Jeep Rubicon Unlimited LJ
RVI Brake 2, Minder TM-66 TPMS, 960 watts of solar
(Can't wait to spend more time RVing)
Lakeside, California

captaindomon

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #20 on: March 15, 2018, 04:14:14 PM »

Is there a phone number assigned to the unit that senders use to text to you?
If you send from your phone does it still show the device number as the “from” number?
If you text from your phone does the incoming return to your phone or the device?


FYI, the answers to these are: When you send someone a text, it comes from a different number. It's not a number assigned to your inreach. But if they respond to the text message, it gets back to your inreach. I think they do this based on the subject of the email having a code or something, is what I'm guessing. They can't send messages directly to that number, because it's not a dedicated number you have, but if they RESPOND to your message back to that number, it works.

If they want to contact you directly without responding, you can turn on a website address they can do that through. So I turned that on (form of share.garmin.com/<anything you want here>), and then I printed a bunch of cards, and gave those to family and friends so they can go to that website, see where I have been and where I am currently at (if I have that turned on, it's pretty configurable), and send me messages if they want to. You can choose to password protect the site if you want to, etc.

captaindomon

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Re: Satellite phone for Alaskan trip?
« Reply #21 on: March 15, 2018, 04:15:50 PM »
We've tentatively narrowed it down to either the Garmin or the Delorme Inreach.  Not sure if they're essentially the same.   IIRC the Garmin is somewhat less than the Delorme.

The answer to this is that Garmin purchased the entire Delorme company. They've rebranded the devices, put them in a new housing with a new button layout, etc (most people like the new Garmin branded devices a bit better, but the basic functionality is pretty much the same).