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Author Topic: Satellite phone rentals  (Read 2402 times)

Sun2Retire

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Satellite phone rentals
« on: August 18, 2016, 10:41:57 AM »
I searched the forum on this topic and couldn't find anything from the last year so thought I'd renew the thread.

As we look forward to more traveling there are times when we've found ourselves without any cell or wifi available - not weak, zero. Strictly for occasional critical/emergency communications we've kicked around the idea of renting a satellite phone for both voice and text.

Don't know a thing about them. Seems to be several systems (iridium etc), I assume some are better than others. I've also run across cradles that somehow allow your iPhone to work on satellite. Plus there are hot spots vs. phones, assume these would be data intensive so expensive.

Can anyone give me a primer on this along with hardware suggestions/experiences, both good and bad? Rate plans, coverage, possible data usage, providers, anything else. Thx
Scott
2005 Newmar Dutch Star 3810, Spartan, Cat C7 350
Eezrv TPMS, VMSpc, 800W Solar
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Tom

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2016, 10:56:36 AM »
I don't know anything about them either, but have occasionally thought it would be nice to have. Google turned up this.
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donn

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2016, 11:45:49 AM »
Depending on your cell carrier.  Generally Verizon has service everywhere we travel.  For those rare occasions I guess I will just do without.

SeilerBird

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2016, 11:49:19 AM »
I carry two phones with me. One is on MetroPCS and the other is on Tracfone. Metro is $30 per month and Trac is $6. I am rarely without a carrier.
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Sun2Retire

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2016, 12:15:29 PM »
Yup, we use Verizon too, and rarely without service. But sometimes we are and communication is necessary
Scott
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Jeff in Ferndale Wa

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2016, 12:53:44 PM »
Depending on your cell carrier.  Generally Verizon has service everywhere we travel.  For those rare occasions I guess I will just do without.

There are lots of places Verizon does not have coverage, especially in the mountains.
And if you travel in Alaska, generally there is service only around a few major cities..

I have a SPOT tracker for those occasional where there is no cell service. The first generation tracker, and the service that allows me to manually send tracking info and ok texts. Basic service is 150.00/year
You buy the device, then subscribe to the service that suits you.
You can have people follow you on a web site, you can set it to send an "all is well" message to select people, and it has an emergency service.

http://www.findmespot.com/en/

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NY_Dutch

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2016, 01:15:03 PM »
Since adding a MaxAmp RV cell signal amplifier/repeater from Maximum Signal to our communications arsenal, we haven't found anyplace that we haven't had at least an adequate Verizon signal with good data speeds, although sometimes our T-Mobile signal has still been less than optimal at times. We've been to several locations where we used to get no signal at all, or a very poor unreliable signal at best, and all have worked reliably now with our Verizon phones and Jetpacks. I'm sure there's still some remote dead areas where even the Max won't help, but we haven't found one to date, including a number of "white" areas in the Adirondacks on the coverage maps.
Dutch
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Tom

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2016, 01:48:15 PM »
We have had Verizon for a number of years, but there are places I drive to fishing in the mountains of WY & ID where there's zero signal. If I have car problems, it could be 20-30 miles walk back to civilization.
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Jeff in Ferndale Wa

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2016, 02:33:49 PM »
I searched the forum on this topic and couldn't find anything from the last year so thought I'd renew the thread.

As we look forward to more traveling there are times when we've found ourselves without any cell or wifi available - not weak, zero. Strictly for occasional critical/emergency communications we've kicked around the idea of renting a satellite phone for both voice and text.

Don't know a thing about them. Seems to be several systems (iridium etc), I assume some are better than others. I've also run across cradles that somehow allow your iPhone to work on satellite. Plus there are hot spots vs. phones, assume these would be data intensive so expensive.

Can anyone give me a primer on this along with hardware suggestions/experiences, both good and bad? Rate plans, coverage, possible data usage, providers, anything else. Thx

A lot of the fishing boats I work with have gone to Globalstar satellite phones.
The service is excellent, and they say it is very affordable.
I've talked to several guys and often the clarity is as good as any land line.
They offer seasonal plans.
The web site says you can get a free phone,but I didn't go any further to look at the cost of plans offered

http://www.globalstar.com/freephone2016-b/lander.php?utm_source=google&utm_medium=Search_Sat_Phone&utm_term=globalstar%20qualcomm&utm_campaign=FreePhone2016&gclid=CjwKEAjwudW9BRDcrd30kovf8GkSJAB3hTxFIL909a5zdtS1GpTfbTCjJ-8KyisQprRrstYEyYGZlhoC_-7w_wcB
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OBX

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2016, 02:57:49 PM »
I hike and mountain bike in New England and other places.  Like most of you I've driven all around the country.  It doesn't take much or you don't have to go far to be out of range of cell service.  Sometimes you may have "bars" but only for emergency 911.   I like the idea of satellite phones, especially in the more remote areas.  Every state and province has remote areas.

JDOnTheGo

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2016, 04:31:57 PM »
Hi Scott, I understand exactly!  Out here in the middle of the west, only takes being in small hole/ravine to be out of contact (even with my elevated antenna, amplifier, etc.).  I looked into Sat phones some time ago and my general conclusion was that it would cost $1,000 for a phone. For service, you can purchase a sim card that has X number of minutes on it (i.e. 60, 120, 180) and then have a long time to use that (don't recall what the time span was) OR purchase a monthly service plan like a cell phone.  Here is an example of the latter.   https://satellitephonestore.com/services/iridiumServices

Afraid I've never used nor purchased anything so can't provide any good information.  Sorry....

Edit: Yes, data rates are incredibly expensive, way out of my price range.  I don't recall exactly but I think it was in the $10/Mb range.

Edit #2:  Removed references to Iridium Go! as the reviews I found make it sound far from great (and not very useful for my needs).
« Last Edit: August 18, 2016, 04:49:42 PM by JFNM »
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voyaginator

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2016, 05:05:55 PM »
Did some research a few months ago, and depending on your needs, especially going in very remote places the Iridium Go may be the least expensive. It is popular for sailboat cruisers. The Go is a satellite phone that can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot,
Here is a breakdown of costs:
$799 sat. phone:
http://www.globalmarinenet.com/product/iridium-go/

$50 - activation

$519 (24 months)
http://www.globalmarinenet.com/product/xgate/

$124/month GO!Unlimited
(no more 12 month sign-in required)
http://www.globalmarinenet.com/product/iridium-go-postpaid-airtime-go-unlimited/

$46 - TS9-to-TNC connector
http://www.globalmarinenet.com/product/iridium-go-external-antenna-adapter/

$250 - antenna
http://www.globalmarinenet.com/product/iridium-fixed-mast-antenna/

$150 - cable
http://www.globalmarinenet.com/product/satellite-antenna-cable-tnc-m-10m/

So, it is not cheap, and no high-speed connectivity. However, you can check email in remote locations with absolutely no Wi-Fi or cell coverage.


Sun2Retire

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2016, 08:13:37 PM »
Thanks for everyone's input. Further research is obviously in order. Basically need the ability to make very occasional extended phone calls plus send and receive texts. Data would be great but not required and apparently cost prohibitive anyway.

Currently at Jalama Beach, a very cool place I reserved 6 months ago. I knew going in there was no cell service and that wifi was "spotty" but figured I could make it work. Turns out spotty meant non existent for a couple days during which communication became required, which in turn required several 8+ mile trips back in to cell coverage. Hence my question.
Scott
2005 Newmar Dutch Star 3810, Spartan, Cat C7 350
Eezrv TPMS, VMSpc, 800W Solar
2002 Dodge RAM 1500 Quad Cab
Stowmaster towbar & Brakemaster

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2016, 08:30:39 PM »
Satellite phones still need line-of-sight to the satellite, don't they?  They don't work when under trees, inside buildings, in parking garages, etc.  Probably not even in the car. Data speeds are really slow as well - mostly 9600 bits. Yes, that's 96 hundred, not gigabits.   There are various solid reasons for having one, but don't throw away your cell phone just yet.

http://www.bluecosmo.com/satellite-phone-faqs

http://www.southgatearc.org/news/april2006/satellite_phones.htm
« Last Edit: August 18, 2016, 08:33:24 PM by Gary RV Roamer »
Gary
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Sun2Retire

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2016, 08:40:45 PM »
Satellite phones still need line-of-sight to the satellite, don't they?  They don't work when under trees, inside buildings, in parking garages, etc.  Probably not even in the car. Data speeds are really slow as well - mostly 9600 bits. Yes, that's 96 hundred, not gigabits.   There are various solid reasons for having one, but don't throw away your cell phone just yet.

http://www.bluecosmo.com/satellite-phone-faqs

http://www.southgatearc.org/news/april2006/satellite_phones.htm

All correct. And once I get a cell booster and external antenna installed I imagine cell (Verizon) will cover us 95+% of the time. But not here for example. It's kinda like when the doctor says, "there's a 95% chance you'll be fine" to which I reply, "I'd like to talk about that 5% doctor"
Scott
2005 Newmar Dutch Star 3810, Spartan, Cat C7 350
Eezrv TPMS, VMSpc, 800W Solar
2002 Dodge RAM 1500 Quad Cab
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VallAndMo

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2016, 06:17:41 AM »
Howdy,

We have rented numerous satellite phones in the past for our SW desert trips. We have tried iSatPhone (Inmarsat "network") and Iridium.

iSatPhone sucked due to its use of a single geostationary satellite (no coverage if you have a mountain, or even a little hill on the way, for example, and as the sat sits rather low in the south sky, it was very frequent to have things in the way).

Iridium, on the other hand, rocked: coverage almost anywhere (even inside a canyon) due to a large constellation of low-earth-orbit sats constantly flying overhead. And with an external, very small antenna magnetically  attached to the RV roof, it had no problems working inside the motorhome.

That said, both were rather expensive (the iSatPhone a little less so, but as I said it sucked big time, so very bad cost-benefit, absolutely unrecommended). What we have used in our last few trips is a Delorme Inreach for messaging, so if someone needs to contact us when we're in the middle of nowhere, we get paged and can reply back with a short message, and if necessary drive back to the nearest spot with cellphone coverage for extended discussions, email, etc. This scheme has worked very well for us, and allowed for a cost reduction from hundreds to tens of dollars per month.

If anyone needs more details please contact us, it will be a pleasure to help.

Cheers,
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   Vall and Mo.

Tom

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2016, 07:09:39 AM »
Thanks for sharing your experience Val and Mo. It sounds like Iridium would work for most places I'd need it. My use would be mainly for the ability to make a 'help' voice call, and a way to be contacted in an emergency. An insurance policy, albeit a little expensive.
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VallAndMo

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2016, 08:04:56 AM »
Hi Tom,

Thanks for sharing your experience Val and Mo.

Our pleasure, and thank *you* for your service in keeping this wonderful forum up for all of us.

Quote
It sounds like Iridium would work for most places I'd need it. My use would be mainly for the ability to make a 'help' voice call, and a way to be contacted in an emergency. An insurance policy, albeit a little expensive.

This is exactly our use case: we love camping in really out-of-the-way places, and our main concern is having an emergency (medical or otherwise) and needing to call help; the messaging (which we mentioned in my previous reply) is also important, but secondary.

That said, this is why we moved to the Delorme InReach and stopped renting sat phones. The InReach:
1) Is basically an emergency/SOS device; the messaging (and other facilities) work very well, but are not its main focus. The device has a button (protected by a slide-like "safety lock") that you just slide and press and then their GEOS SOS center contacts the SAR nearest to you, passing your exact latitude/longitude (the device has a built-in GPS) and then coordinates it all with you over messages until you are rescued;
2) uses the same, highly reliable Iridium network as the Iridium sat phones;
3) and it's much, much less expensive, both to purchase the device and for the annual plan: we paid around $300 for the device (ours is the InReachSE model) plus $25 activation fee and $15 per month we used it, which was only during our travels. If we were to use it constantly, their annual plan would have been cheaper: $20 one-time activation and $12/month. The last time we researched an Iridium plan, it cost something like $800 for the device plus $50/month or $500/year *minimum* (could be cheaper now due to competition from the DeLorme and similar devices, but I don't know).

As we didn't really need voice, the InReach was a great option all around. Your milleage may vary...

Also, strictly for emergency use (ie, no messaging at all), we found that a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) device has *no* recurring costs (except from replacing its battery every 5 years), works very similar to the Inreach for SAR/SOS use (ie, undo a safety and press a button and wait for the cavalry to arrive), and costs about the same to purchase; the best model we found so far is this one: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B006JXY0CQ/

Our plan, for when we finally enter the full-time RV lifestyle, is to purchase a PLB and use it along with our current InReach; this way, *both* of us can carry a SOS/SAR device (as a wise man once said, "he who has two, has one -- he who has one, has none" -- redundancy is critical), with one of them having anywhere messaging available, for very reasonable costs.

Hope this helps!

Cheers,
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   Vall & Mo.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2016, 08:39:14 AM »
Cell service sucks where we are too (western NC, Smokey Mtns), but satellite doesn't work either. All trees and steep mountains. Even on the interstate through the valleys our satellite radio drops out, and cell service comes and goes erratically. Neither works much at all as you travel on feeder roads through the smaller valleys or up over the mountains. No satellite at our tree-covered campsite and only marginal cell service because the nearest tower is one mountain away.
Gary
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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2016, 08:45:12 AM »
Tom,
I would think the SPOT Trace would be ideal for you and anyone who ravels alone in isolated places. It's not real expensive yet provides both emergency commo (via text) and a way for others to find you if you were injured or stranded in the back country. And some "peace of mind" for Chris too.

http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=128&refer=FrontpageBanner
Gary
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Home: Ocala National Forest, FL

Tom

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #20 on: August 19, 2016, 09:35:35 AM »
Didn't mean to hijack Scott's topic  :-[ But I gleaned some helpful first-hand knowledge of sat phones and several alternatives; Definitely food for thought.

Being boaters, we're used to EPIRB emergency locator beacons and DSC (digital selective calling - for emergency use) on VHF marine radios. But neither are intended for the kind of use I have in mind. Having a boat sink at sea and the water-activated sat beacon go off, there's a 'known' cavalry that will come looking. Needing a tow truck or some such while fishing in the mountains really requires some dialog, either voice or text.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2016, 09:46:20 AM by Tom »
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Sun2Retire

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #21 on: August 19, 2016, 10:13:48 AM »
No hijack. Exactly the info I was looking for. Looks like Iridium if we do it. For our purposes, aside from the "rescue" aspect, also need voice and text capability for both family and business. Maybe I can find something on eBay to at least save on hardware.
Scott
2005 Newmar Dutch Star 3810, Spartan, Cat C7 350
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2002 Dodge RAM 1500 Quad Cab
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Sun2Retire

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2016, 10:24:38 AM »
VallandMo, where did you find the $50/mo plan? During my early research the plans I've found are closer to $140-200 (but that is for rental so perhaps that's the difference). I'm getting the feeling that buying is probably the most economical route, but can you turn the service on and off? (sorta like the RV Dish network plan)
Scott
2005 Newmar Dutch Star 3810, Spartan, Cat C7 350
Eezrv TPMS, VMSpc, 800W Solar
2002 Dodge RAM 1500 Quad Cab
Stowmaster towbar & Brakemaster

VallAndMo

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2016, 10:41:21 AM »
Hi Sun2Retire,

VallandMo, where did you find the $50/mo plan? During my early research the plans I've found are closer to $140-200 (but that is for rental so perhaps that's the difference).

Just dug it up from my records (good thing I try and write *everything* down): http://www.roadpost.com/Iridium-Satellite-Phone-Monthly-Plans-and-Airtime-P705C280.aspx
They were the cheaper option at the time, and (according to that URL) they are still practising the same price, but again please do check it all yourself, as there could well be other resellers with lower prices by now.

Also, I remember they offered annual options, but there aren't any listed in the above page anymore (or perhaps I saw it at another page, and didn't write *that* one down...  :-\ ). I also remember the annual options could be cheaper, depending on the number of minutes/messages/etc, so you might want to look that up too.

I'm getting the feeling that buying is probably the most economical route, but can you turn the service on and off? (sorta like the RV Dish network plan)


When I researched the matter extensively, I came to the conclusion that buying (and then getting a plan) was *way* less expensive than renting, by a factor-of-multiples difference (2 times or more, can't remember the right number now). That was in late 2014, so it could have changed; please examine the matter carefully as my info may well be out-of-date.

If you can, please post here again when you commit to your particular satellite SOS/communications solution; I for one would be very interested in hearing about the current status of the field.

Cheers,
--
   Vall.


« Last Edit: August 19, 2016, 10:58:50 AM by VallAndMo »

VallAndMo

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2016, 10:46:24 AM »
Hi Sun2Retire,

No hijack. Exactly the info I was looking for. Looks like Iridium if we do it. For our purposes, aside from the "rescue" aspect, also need voice and text capability for both family and business. Maybe I can find something on eBay to at least save on hardware.

I opted for the InReach in our case because we could afford to work with just messages (IIRC, they could get sent to/received from normal SMS phones and/or email) and the matter would never be so urgent as to not being able to wait until we could move back to the nearest area with cellphone reception.

One thing to consider is that the $50 Iridium satphone plan I mentioned includes only 10 minutes and 10 messages, so you could end up paying a lot more in overages or extras if you end up using the Iridium phone extensively... another thing is that the Iridium satphones use a different international code (8816), and are therefore considered an international call for anyone to call you from the US, even if you (and he/she) are in the US... and I researched the matter and the tariffs for those calls (at least for calls originating from the Brazilian telephony carriers) were *insanely* expensive.

Cheers,
--
   Vall.



« Last Edit: August 19, 2016, 10:49:56 AM by VallAndMo »

VallAndMo

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #25 on: August 19, 2016, 10:57:07 AM »
Howdy Gary, Tom,

Tom,
I would think the SPOT Trace would be ideal for you and anyone who ravels alone in isolated places. It's not real expensive yet provides both emergency commo (via text) and a way for others to find you if you were injured or stranded in the back country. And some "peace of mind" for Chris too.
http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=128&refer=FrontpageBanner

SPOT is a major competitor to the DeLorme InReach (or perhaps it's the other way around, as the Delorme product came later to the market), and a less expensive one at that. At the time, I considered it seriously, but in the end we opted for the Delorme because (a) the SPOT uses the Globalstar network, which was much more sparse (ie, less satellites in orbit) so more subject to coverage issues, and (b) there were a number of reports of folks that activated the SOS but did *not* get any response back. That last one really disqualified them for us...

But again, that was about 2 years ago, and things might have changed, so I urge anyone to research as the matter stands now (and if possible, post the results here for all of us to learn).

Cheers,
--
   Vall.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #26 on: August 19, 2016, 11:19:04 AM »
Spot Trace isn't great for actual communications - it's designed primarily as an insurance policy. Something you hope NOT to use. You would probably want to have somebody you could text to have them arrange for the real help you need (tow truck, ambulance, etc). You get low functionality, but low cost as well. You pays your money & you takes your pick!  :)
Gary
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Gary Brinck
Summers: Black Mountain, NC
Home: Ocala National Forest, FL

VallAndMo

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STOP THE PRESSES! (Was: Re: Satellite phone rentals )
« Reply #27 on: August 19, 2016, 11:40:31 AM »
STOP THE PRESSES!

Sun2Retire, I was fiddling with Google and just got this: http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=123

So it seems that SPOT now offers not only their traditional tracking/SOS device, but also a full-blown phone, and with free calls to US and Canada, for purchase at only $550 MSRP. Amazing... and they also offer a $480/year plan for it: http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=122 So it becomes *way* cheaper (when you consider the free calls) than Iridium ever was.

I would still hesitate given they probably use the same GlobalStar network that was having coverage/reliabilty issues as recently as 2 years ago, but if someone wants to research the matter and find out whether they (meaning SPOT and/or GlobalStar teams) have cleared up their act, it could be a very interesting option for those needing voice...

Cheers,
--
   Vall.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2016, 11:42:09 AM by VallAndMo »

Sun2Retire

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #28 on: August 19, 2016, 12:45:43 PM »
Great info and sounds like it has potential. Will check it out
Scott
2005 Newmar Dutch Star 3810, Spartan, Cat C7 350
Eezrv TPMS, VMSpc, 800W Solar
2002 Dodge RAM 1500 Quad Cab
Stowmaster towbar & Brakemaster

Tom

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Re: Satellite phone rentals
« Reply #29 on: August 19, 2016, 04:15:27 PM »
The iridium rental I linked to earlier doesn't appear to require the purchase of a "plan". You can purchase pre-paid minutes ($1.16-$1.69/min depending on quantity), or not buy any and get billed for actual usage at $1.75/min. The latter would seem to be the way I'd want to go, given my intended minimal (emergency) usage, at least for the first year.

See here and scroll down the page for details.

FWIW I'd only need the phone for 3-4 months a year.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2016, 04:18:28 PM by Tom »
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