Harrowing Experience - ZigZagging Satellites!

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Ray D

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Boise, Idaho
I?m recovering, now. I?ll be OK.

I have been looking for a means for emergency communication, if needed, while traveling. (Discussed on several previous threads.) Finally decided to take a look at satellite phones.

Found GlobalStar on-line and read what I could. Wasn?t sure about what their service entailed, nor about their phone?s capabilities. (They did have pricing and a fairly decent explanation of services.) Found a local dealer with several locations and went to the closest one. (3 miles.)

http://www.globalstarusa.com/en/

Young, blond clerk ask me if she could help me.

I said, ?Yes. I?m interested in GlobalStar.?

She: ?That?s a satellite phone!?

Me: ?Yes.?

?What do you want it for?? She had me stumped, for a minute. ???

?I want to be able to make a call from anywhere.?

?Where, in particular??

?Where ever I am. I travel.?  ???

?Where do you travel?? I?m almost at a loss for words, but this might be pertinent. (Think Ray.)

?I travel in the United States.? Hoped that would do it. Buying a satellite phone might be just too difficult for an old man. How would I operate it, if I can?t even articulate what I want it for?

?You can?t afford it! They?re very expensive!?

:mad: GASP! SPUTTER! (I had taken a shower this morning. I shaved, and my hair was combed. I was wearing blue slacks and a brown plaid shirt with a coat. I had shoes on. I was sober. I - - - -.)  :mad:

?Ummm. I went to the GlobalStar website and saw their prices and a description of their services. I need a little more information.?  ::) I was trying hard.

?The phone alone is over $700!?

?I have $700!?  :p I was starting to get ticked!

?Yeah, well then their service is $700 or more, each year!?

?I?ll write a check!?  :mad: GRRRRR!

- Fast Forward -

?Well, OK. Problem is, if you travel in Idaho, you can?t use them!?

?HUH??  ???

?It?s the mountains! You see, if you get into a valley, and the mountains are up on all sides, (She makes hand gestures to assist in understanding mountains and valleys.) Then the phone doesn?t work. It?s because the satellites are zigzagging around and you can?t stay hooked up. They zig and they zag, back and forth, and most of the time they are not above you.? (She helps me out with zigzagging hand motions, showing little satellites scurrying around, on the other side of the mountains.)

?Zigzagging satellites? Do you mean the satellites actually move back and forth??  ??? (I was sure she meant something else! This would be a heck of deal, for military use! Wonder if they know about zigzagging satellites! I - - - - .)

?Yeah! They just whizz around, up there, back and forth! The phones have an awful time, finding them! You didn?t know that, did you??  ;D

?No! I didn?t know that! I can?t use the phone. Thank you.? I departed!  :mad:

Anybody know about GlobalStar satellite phone service. Anybody use it? Is it a good option for communication, particularly for emergency communications, in areas that don?t have cell service?

They do, according to their web-site, have an ?emergency service plan? that costs a few hundred per year and the phone IS a little more than $700. Not sure about the zigzagging satellites. I think they are included in the plan, at that price.

Ray D  ;D
 

edjunior

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Wow, well, I don't know anything about Globalstar phones, but that is one of the funniest things I've heard in a while.  I think I'd go to the next dealer.  Looking on their website, I don't see Idaho, nor any other part of the US "Not available", or even in a fringe area.  And the little I know about satellites, they don't zig zag.  There may be some that are not in geostationary orbit, but even with that, there are always satellites passing overhead that will pick up the signal.  There could certainly be terrain problems (this is stated on their website as well), such as in the mountains or in the trees (just like all the people complaining about some of the heavily treed campsites).  But really, wow.  You did say the salesman was blond.....
 

John From Detroit

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Davison Michigan
I think the sales clerk needs replacement.  May I suggest a different dealer.

One option by the way is satellite internet, I use Hughesnet.  I have a neighbor where I'm parked just now using Starband.

From what I can tell, nothing to really suggest one over the other except......

Motosat:  Motosat is a Hughesnet Value Added Reseller, so it costs you a few dollars more per month (About 10 bucks normally) but Motosat offers a fully automatic rooftop MOUNT called a Datastorm.

Push a button, and a minute or two later you are on line.

Add SKYPE and you have a decent emergency phone

I've used it that way

Overall cost is higher (Systems start at around 1300-1400 if memory serves, service 50-70/month for the net plus SKYPE but there is nearly no place in the USA you can not get a connection.

I use a Tripod mount in case the rig is parked under a tree.
 

Ray D

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Yep, she was blond. But, she got "blond" in every sense of the word, out of a bottle. Beats me how she got that job. Best "unsales" person I've met in a while.

Yeah, it was funny. However, I didn't start laughing until I was about a mile away! Then, I realized how funny that was. In the store, I was exasperated to the max!

John: I thought about satellite internet and Skype. I know you are quite satisfied with it. I may go that way. However, getting set up for RVing has just about thousand-dollared me to death! I thought I could save a few thousand by starting out with the phone, and getting the rest down the road, a bit, when I have more stashed away. That said, the satellite internet idea is looking better, every day.

Anybody know about GlobalStar?

Ray D
 

ArdraF

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Ray,

I don't know a thing about GlobalStar, but I LOVED your story from afar.  Thanks for a great laugh!

ArdraF
 

kbfeip

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Discovery Bay, CA
I provide Lockheed Martin corp. with custom actuators for satellite manufacturing fixtures.

I'm gonna run right down there and insure that I'm written into the specification on their new "Zig Zagging" line of product!  :-\
 

Will

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Mississippi
If someone on the biodiesel forums posted a thread titled "ZigZagging Satellites" Everyone would automatically assume the guy was sniffing too much methanol.

Thanks for the laugh.
 

Phil

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Ray D said:
?It?s the mountains! You see, if you get into a valley, and the mountains are up on all sides, (She makes hand gestures to assist in understanding mountains and valleys.) Then the phone doesn?t work. It?s because the satellites are zigzagging around and you can?t stay hooked up. They zig and they zag, back and forth, and most of the time they are not above you.? (She helps me out with zigzagging hand motions, showing little satellites scurrying around, on the other side of the mountains.)

?Zigzagging satellites? Do you mean the satellites actually move back and forth??  ??? (I was sure she meant something else! This would be a heck of deal, for military use! Wonder if they know about zigzagging satellites! I - - - - .)

?Yeah! They just whizz around, up there, back and forth! The phones have an awful time, finding them! You didn?t know that, did you??  ;D

?No! I didn?t know that! I can?t use the phone. Thank you.? I departed!  :mad:

Ray,

It's really too bad that you got so caught up in her Zigzagging satellites that you didn't find out what she was trying to tell you.  The sats are not geostationary so the earth rotates under the sat orbit.  This is not much of a problem if you have a clear view of the sky where one of their sats happens to be when you want to make a call.  In Utah where we used our sat phone, it is easy to get into a canyon where there is limited coverage.  It's not the spot that's limited, but the time of day at that particular spot.  Sometimes you have to wait for another sat to fly by to make the call.

The sats do orbit in a straight line and the earth rotation is constant but, the coverage for any particular spot on earth is not constant.  Zigzagging is not the best way to describe it but, she probably heard many complaints from users and was just trying to make you understand the problems with that service.  Maybe a male service rep would have just lied to you and told you that the phone works everywhere all the time. 

I would love to hear what she says about your conversation with her.  :)

PhilB




 

Ray D

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Boise, Idaho
Phil said, "I would love to hear what she says about your conversation with her."

I'd like to listen to that story, myself.  ;D I already know that I didn't impress her with my appearance or intelligence.

Phil said, "In Utah where we used our sat phone,"

"used." That's past tense. Did you discontinue the service? What can you tell me about the usefulness of the service? Did it do what you intended, when you first got it? Was it too much to pay for too small benefit? What question should I be asking and what is the answer to it?

What are they good for? Who would you recommend consider that kind of service?

what company did/do you use?

Thanks.

Ray D
 

Phil

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Ray D said:
"used." That's past tense. Did you discontinue the service? What can you tell me about the usefulness of the service? Did it do what you intended, when you first got it? Was it too much to pay for too small benefit? What question should I be asking and what is the answer to it?

It is a department phone and I retired.  It's use is for emergency service when no other phone is available.  Service is related to how high your priority is.  FEMA, Pipeline Safety, and Homeland Security have high priority service.  If bandwidth gets scarce, lower priority people can't use it much.  We had high priority so, service was not an issue.  Communication is very high on the security scale so, cost was not an issue.  They were great phones during the Katrina storm when most land based repeaters were knocked out of service.

If you are patrolling a pipeline out in the sticks, waiting a few minutes until a sat gets into view is not much of a problem especially if there is no other service available.  If you want to use it to replace your cell phone, I think you will be very unsatisfied.  If you really need an emergency phone, it's great.  If you like to take a boat far offshore, the sat phone might be better than your radio.

Phil
 

Ray D

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Phil, thanks. That's really helpful. Tells more than you said.

I don't plan to replace my cell, in any case. I'm paranoid about being where I need service and can't get it. It's down to whether or not I am going to limit my travel, which in Idaho would be a shame. Most of Idaho is without cell service, including a lot of places I would like to go. Don't want to limit us to cities. We enjoy the country side, more.

Add up the cost of getting to this point, so far, and the price of a year of emergency service, on GlobalStar is about another 0.5%. If that were a tax, one would consider it quite small.

I don't want to waste money, but trying hard to reduce limitations, too. Just another complication. May go with John's idea, and get satellite internet and Skype. Costs more, but includes internet. May be less complicated.

And, the internet satellites don't Zigzag!

Ray D
 

Jeff

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Ray:

We travel extensively in the West and use Verizon as our cell provider. After too many days without or with marginal cell coverage I installed a Wilson cellular booster and a trucker/RV antenna on the coach and have really improved our coverage.

When we were driving through Idaho and Montana last summer Sue could carry on uninterrupted conversations that would not been possible before the booster.

This will not give you 100% coverage but will dramatically the coverage you have now.
 

Ray D

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Boise, Idaho
Jeff: Thanks for the suggestion. We have Nextel and use the radio feature extensively. Great long range ?Walkie Talkie.? However, I am getting aggravated with them to the point of checking out other companies. Verizon is on the top of the list. I?ll check into the booster and the RV antenna. If you have a helpful link or two, I would appreciate that. Otherwise, I?ll look it up. Thanks, again.

Update:

I went to the same dealer, but a different store. (This time, 5 miles.) Big difference! I think I learned a lot. Since Phil is the only person who has responded with satellite phone info, I will fill in some blanks. That would be for private use, as opposed to government use.

First, it?s spendy but affordable, depending upon personal judgement. The only contracts this store is selling, at the present time, is for emergency communication purposes. That program is $450 per year ($40 per month on one year contract.) Minutes are $1.49 and none are included. They also rent them by the day, @ $50.00 plus minutes, no contract.

They only sell the phone one way. That is with all accessories, including the military grade case. It?s $1,100.

They come in a military grade bomb proof case. It?s also water proof. Case is included in the price. Interesting, rescuers have been known to toss the case and phone off a cliff, into a canyon, so a victim can use it to talk to them. He sez the phone does fine, after being tossed down a cliff, after an aircraft crash, or a bombing in a Humvee!

At the present time, their customers are mostly sportsmen, hunters mostly but fishermen and white water rafters, too. Also have a few who carry them for emergency medical service reasons.

They expect to begin selling other contracts later in the year. The delay in other contracts? They recently had ?several satellites knocked out of service,? and service is spotty and short in duration. They are scheduled to launch 4 more satellites later this year and service will improve.

He didn?t say who or what knocked out those satellites. I suppose it could have been the Chinese or the solar flares, or who knows. Anyway, there are fewer satellites whizzing around up there.

Service is spotty and some waiting for service may be required.

In a canyon, you may wait quite a while or be unable to use the phone. Calls may last a minute or less, so you should be prepared to deliver a coherent message with location, with as few words, as possible. GPS coordinates are best, and the phone has GPS. However, the GPS system, on board, is not terribly reliable. He didn?t say why. Best to read it out, and quickly. Also, he said that in a canyon, if one can climb out, it makes for better service, or even just climb higher

If you can see 60% of the sky, then service is all but assured. Still spotty and may be some wait, but it should be no more than minutes. Calls will last as long as a minute to 4 or 5 minutes. If another satellite happens along, it will pick up the call and extend it. If you lose the signal, you can likely pick it up, again, in minutes.

Trees are not a problem, unless one is in a dense forest. Satellite goes by a tree, or trees in a lightly wooded area so fast, it doesn?t loose data.

He emphasized that the satellite phone is a terrible substitute for a cell phone, if cell service is available.

Not sure whether I think that?s worthwhile, or not. At least it?s more info than I had.

Ray D
 

Rex

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Ray, the Wilson antenna works well with the cell phone, PROVIDED you have an antenna jack on your cell phone.  From what I have seen and heard, most of the newer phones don't have the required jack.

Wilson also makes a booster that works wirelessly for use with cell phones that don't have the antenna jack.  The unit required depends again on which cell phone you have and which cell service provider.  Basically the booster sets up a repeater station in your RV.  I don't remember the exact price but think it was between $350 and $450 for the booster. 

Check out the following site:

http://www.alternativewireless.com/cellular-antennas/wilson-antennas/wilson_cellular_amplifiers/

While the booster will extend your range for cell service, you still may be better off with the system John suggested.  At least with satellite and the correct equipment, you can always get service in the Continental US except under trees that is.

Good luck,

 

Ray D

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Boise, Idaho
Rex: John's system is looking better and better. I went to the Wilson site and checked out the cell accessories, including repeaters and antenna amplifiers. Starts getting complicated. Looks good, though, for extending cell service.

John, if you're around, anywhere: When you decide to set up your satellite internet system, how many pieces do you lug out to set it up and what do they weigh? Expand, a little. Thanks.

Ray D
 

Jeff

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Ray D said:
Rex: John's system is looking better and better. I went to the Wilson site and checked out the cell accessories, including repeaters and antenna amplifiers. Starts getting complicated. Looks good, though, for extending cell service.

John, if you're around, anywhere: When you decide to set up your satellite internet system, how many pieces do you lug out to set it up and what do they weigh? Expand, a little. Thanks.

Ray D

Ray:

Your original request was for emergency communications. We have both sat internet and cell phone and the cell is far and above better for communications.
 

Ray D

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Jeff: You're correct, of course. I'm trying to set up a means to emergency communications and I am starting from almost nothing. As I said, we have Nextel. They are great in large and medium metropolitan areas. In lesser populated areas they are between zip and nada. Doesn't pay them to set up the necessary towers. We use the walkie talkie feature extensively for personal communication. Fast, simple, effective. Keeps us with Nextel, so far.

We do well along I-84, all the way from Boise - east. Well west, too, but we don't go that way a lot. Almost any other company does better, coverage wise, in the mountains. Also, Nextel will do all kinds of things, free phones - extra minutes - free services - to get a new customer. We have a battle every year or two, to get them to do anything to keep a customer they already have.

Talking to friends, I find several other companies have better coverage in some or much of Idaho. So, I'm looking into that. Some companies service the smaller, outlying communities. I need to find out who does more. Then, I may switch companies and get an amplifying system to extend that reach. That, at least, seems to make sense to me.

I may, probably will, take another look at GlobalStar when they get some more satellites up. Seems a lot to pay, at this time, for not much more extensive - wide spread - service in our primary area. Idaho is 20 or 30 years back in time, compared to the rest of the country. Apparently, that applies to satellite service, as well.

But then, that is part of the reason I moved here, some 35 years ago. We do catch up to where the rest of the world has already been, eventually.

We are still getting "started" on RVing. So, we have time. I spent years plodding the central mountains, hunting and fly fishing, on foot. I love that life. I know that area like few do. I do eventually hope to get back there.

;D Want some irony? Used to hunt, now and then, out of a place called "Cold Meadows." in what is now the Frank Church Wilderness. We'd fly in in a bush plane. If something went badly wrong, and occasionally it did, we had emergency communications.

There was an old cabin there, with a radio and some automotive batteries. There was also a hand-crank generator. Yep, from way back in there, we could talk out if there was a need. Might be a while before anything could be done about it, but we could communicate.

Got snow-bound there, one year, out of season - for snow anyway. Stayed 8 days longer than planned. Did the "mountain man" man thing eating hand caught brookies and grouse, mostly. Had snow-bound game wardens for dinner guests, twice. They never did ask where we got the "chicken." Had a great time and we were able to let folks know we were fine.

Maybe I need some automotice batteries, a hand- cranked gen-set, and a military surplus radio. Does Onan make a hand-crank generator, these days? (sigh)

I'll let you know how it works out.

Ray D
 

Pierat

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Consumer Reports recently rated cell phone companies and phones. I think Verizon was on top of the list. We have had it for years and really like it.
 

John From Detroit

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Well Pierat.  considering some of the flack Consumer Reports has come under lately for their child seat ratings, and considering some of the ratings they have come out in the past.. Some of which were down right deadly in my not so humble opinion, and in at least one of those articles I happen to be an expert. 

I would not trust them to rate toilet paper any more, have not trusted them since about 1987 when they said the Atarti Super Turxxxxx ur, ST was superior to the far superior Amiga.  Questioned them prior to that but that ended it for me.

That said, Verizon does indeed have the greenest map (Coverage map, Green means "Local" or Verizon, service)

But I'd not say they are better when you are in a multiple market.  And there are things about Verizon I truly do not like.  Including some of the companies that went into the making of Verizon.

Short story:  I looked at a coffee cup a man was holding one day and ask him where he got it.  IT seems it came with the phone systems he maintained.... I said "You must be good!"  He ask why I said that, I told him who the parent company was for the company who's name was on the cup, how many phone systems I'd encountered of theirs which actually worked (And I should mention I've dealt with a number of their installations) and stated that since the system he maintained actually DID work.  He therefore must be good!.

That was one of the companies that makes up Verizon
 
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