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Inmarsat or Iridium?

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Poll Question: Which would be a better satellite phone choice, Inmarsat or Iridium?
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StephenH View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote StephenH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Inmarsat or Iridium?
    Posted: 16 Mar 2020 at 7:33am
It is the places between the campgrounds and businesses that I am concerned about. We will be traveling a lot in those spaces between.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Olddawgsrule Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2020 at 7:50am
Have you thought about going Amateur Radio? Ham license is free (test costs $15). Plenty of repeaters where your traveling..

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Post Options Post Options   Quote StephenH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2020 at 8:04am
I've thought of it. Can a US Ham license be used in Canada and are repeaters available there also? We will be in western Canada for longer distances than we will be in Alaska.

Edit: I answered my own question about US/Canadian operation. There is an automatic bilateral agreement. My Legion post hosts a TALARC (The American Legion Amateur Radio Club) chapter. I'll talk with them. The problem would be in finding a testing site that isn't shut down due to Covid-19 and in getting ready to take the test. Add to that, finding suitable equipment.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Olddawgsrule Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2020 at 8:24am
Originally posted by StephenH

I've thought of it. Can a US Ham license be used in Canada and are repeaters available there also? We will be in western Canada for longer distances than we will be in Alaska.

License reciprocates (minor differences). There's another group RAC (Radio Amateurs of Canada) that may be worth joining for the trip. They'll get you access to repeater locations (membership helps $25).

  1. I am an amateur radio operator visiting Canada from another country. While in Canada can I use my call sign from my home country?

    As per the document RIC-9: Call sign policy and special event prefixes, you may use the call sign assigned by your country’s administration in Canada, but you must bring your amateur radio operator’s certificate/licence and have obtained a CEPT certificate from your home administration. If your country is not part of the CEPTagreement you must obtain a letter of authority from the Amateur Radio Service Centre (ARSC). Visiting amateurs must include the prefix of the geographical location, and the area of operation with the identification of their station. Therefore, an amateur from the United Kingdom with the call sign G**** who will be operating in Winnipeg, Manitoba, would append the prefix “Portable VE4” or “/VE4” to their home call sign, and transmit “Winnipeg” at least once during each communication.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote cosmo751 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2020 at 8:38am
Have been a commercial user of Inmarsat, Iridium and GlobalStar. We continue to use Iridium. You will likely want Iridium but know this:

  All three have significant issues with usability depending on where you are and more to the point the operational characteristics of the systems. Unless you know and accept what to expect you are unlikely to be 100% happy with any of them. Here is issue # 1 - All three can be subject to geographic blocking, i.e. mountains, canyons, buildings, etc. If your "bird" isn't well above the horizon  WHEN YOU TRY TO USE IT, you will have no service for some period of time if at all. Yes, they (most of them) move and quite quickly.

  Here's your test plan : Rent an Iridium system for a month and see if you like it. Try it if you can where you think you will be travelling. Low financial risk and very informational.  Note: Per minute rates tend to be pretty high for rentals, as are the monthlies. Don't buy one unless you really love it.

Ken -

  And no, I don't want to discuss ( ad infinitum no doubt) anyone else's personal opinions about this. If you haven't been there personally you have no valid opinion to support. Specifically the " yeah, but "XX" said.. "blah blah blah type. I'm sure we all know how that works.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote GlueGuy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2020 at 9:52am
Originally posted by StephenH

We've been across the western US with plenty of cellular dead zones, even along Interstate highways. There are reasons I would like to be able to stay in touch. Elderly parents are one. Our house security system is self-monitored and although I could add someone in, I would still want to be notified if something tripped the alarm. One break-in in our lives is enough. Also, we would want to be able to call for assistance if we were to have a breakdown. It is taking a chance on cell service being there or waiting for someone to come along to take a message to some place where help could be summoned.

@GlueGuy: Please define DAS. I'm not familiar with that acronym. Also, we are on Google Fi. I'm not sure if AT&T towers would be accessible to us.

I completely understand the issue of maintaining an ability to connect. No question.

A DAS is a "Distributed Antenna System". Out here in the west, we have a lot of narrow canyons where cell service cannot reach. In the midwest and on the eastern seaboard, you can spread out cell towers and cover a pretty large area. It doesn't work out here because of the terrain.

However, building a cell tower is a pretty expensive enterprise. If they were to build a cell tower everywhere it was needed, the cost of the cell service would go through the roof. What they came up with is a DAS, where you can "stretch" an existing cell tower into a long string (typically along roads), where they attach antennas back to some convenient cell tower. We now have several corridors that are serviced with a DAS, which brings cell service to areas where it could never happen before. What you will see is what looks like telephone poles every half mile or so along a roadway with one, two, or three antennas on it. It's not a cell tower, just an extension of a cell tower that might be many miles away.

Curiously, the DASes near us here are actually shared by ATT and Verizon. They use the same antennas to provide service for both of them. The DAS itself is run by a 3rd party, and they lease access to whichever cell service.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote offgrid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2020 at 10:06am
Spotty cell service is by no means limited to the West. Cell coverage generally doesn’t exist in the deep valleys of the Appalachians either. I find that my cell booster and directional antenna help but there has to be a signal to boost. Down in the hollows there’s not.

Re Inmarsat vs iridium, do you really need voice? If limited text capability will do there are many (relatively) inexpensive communicators and data plans available nowadays.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote StephenH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2020 at 7:18pm
I was looking at the Garmin communicators also. I did a little more reading and the Garmin units use the Iridium satellites. That may be the way I will go as it looks like overall, it will fill the need of being able to be contacted or to send a message if needed. Plus, the purchase cost is much less. I'll have to investigate service costs though.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote offgrid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Mar 2020 at 6:46am
Originally posted by StephenH

I was looking at the Garmin communicators also. I did a little more reading and the Garmin units use the Iridium satellites. That may be the way I will go as it looks like overall, it will fill the need of being able to be contacted or to send a message if needed. Plus, the purchase cost is much less. I'll have to investigate service costs though.



They're still pretty pricey but at least you can get one of the small handheld communicators to double as a gps mapper with topos for hiking. Of course you can do that with your phone too but battery life becomes a big issue,

The other functionality that I would want to look at is weather reporting. I don’t really have that much need to txt to folks while camping but there have been many times while hiking when I wished for an accurate local weather forecast.

Looks like there are month to month services in the $20-$30 range if you can get by with limited texting.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Woodmiester Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Mar 2020 at 7:57am
You will be without cell service most of the time once you reach Canada and Eastern Alaska.  However, even though you are in the wilderness you are never completely alone.  You will find that people traveling this area are really great and helpful.  Nobody passes a stranded vehicle on the road.  

I have stopped several times to check on people and I know most other people in this area  do that also.

You will enjoy this trip immensely!  Don't over think the situation.  Actually, it is a great break from all the "communication frenzy" that we are accustomed to..................Just go and ENJOY!
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