January 21, 2016

Determining which [remote location] communications devices to choose ...

We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

Some of those topics may be relevant here, so once in a while we will repost on our blog for reference.

The following may be one of those cases. To accommodate our non-boating blog readers, sometimes we add some {additional information and links} to the original forum post. (below)

It is worth noting since we are discussing electronic and emergency devices, this post may likely have a relatively short shelf-life... [2-5 years?]

Link to original forum post [18-Jan-2016]

Re: SSB or SatPhone?

Originally Posted by SJFK View Post
Could I ask the community about what comms system they rely on? We are soon going to set off on our cruising adventures and we have had a lot of conflicting advice about what to get on board. I have worked with HF comms before and quite a few people have said that SSB did not provide them with the reliability and quickness of contact that their sat phone system did. So do I go fitted for SatPhone only with a good airtime package , or should I get a SSB receiver fitted as well, or should I go the whole hog which is very expensive, and get Satphone and SSB transceiver with a pastor modem? We intend spending a few months in the Caribbean before making our way to New Zealand in due course.
I would welcome the collective wisdom to help me, I hope, come to a practical decision.

Many thanks


Your answer(s) will depend upon who [people, companies, agencies, etc.] and what [e.g., weather forecasts, blog posts, etc.] you want/need to communicate with, your ranking of importance [e.g., frequency of use] of voice, eMail, and SMS, whether the communication is one-to-one, or one-to-many, and of those methods, rank whether one-way and/or two-way communication is required.

Once you work out that matrix reflecting your needs, you will gain more clarity about what technology/ies might best suit your requirements.

[For another perspective to the matrix approach, look at West Marine's article on this topic.]

Our communications analysis revealed two-way eMail was the most important function for our day-to-day needs, followed by voice [mainly for emergencies] and SMS [mainly for notification of voice mail or email received.]

Next you will rank the order of importance of the technologies- based upon your above matrix- so you can rank their order of use in your day-to-day life aboard.

e.g., Our preferred order of use is Cell/WiFi, Sat phone [both using UUplus email for weather files and two-way email communications] Voice/SMS via Sat phone, SSB. Obviously that order can change depending upon what the need of the moment is... e.g., in southern climes where SSB nets are prevalent, SSB may be used more on a daily basis, and therefore slide up the order of use scale...

What do we use? Our penchant for higher latitude destinations drove us to an Iridium sat phone when cell and WiFi are not available. [This was before the release of IP Sat hot-spot devices like the Iridium Go... More on this in the blog post referenced below...]

We spend $400/yr on a discounted sat rate plan that limits us to Alaska and Canada- which suits our present needs. We rely on using UUplus email service with the phone, and it more than pays for itself with sat phone minutes saved through its efficiencies. With a passive, external mushroom antenna, we rarely are without a usable signal for long- even when transiting mountainous terrain [which is most of the time...]

If you are interested, you can read more about our satellite communication device selection process in this blog post - which also has links to other related forum posts...

If you go with two-way HF radio {High-Frequency or HAM Radio}, given your cruising itinerary, be sure to go with a properly installed and operating DSC {Digital Selective Calling} capable HF radio [e.g., ICOM M802 is likely the most common] so you can readily contact emergency service agencies, and fellow cruisers using the Global MMSI numbers. [VHF and HF/Marine SSB]

We also have the ICOM M802 with Pactor modem and set it up for full time, non-emergency DSC so other friends [outside of VHF range...] who set their radios up similarly can 'hail' us. [We use the non-emergency DSC 'hailing' set-up and procedures outlined in this book.] {Of course, it is also set up for DSC use during emergency communications as well...}

If we had to choose between Sat phone and SSB, the sat phone would be the easy choice for us. However, we recognize everyone's needs are different [as will become evident once you work through your communications decision matrix, above.]

In hopes this helps you focus on what is important to you...




Related blog posts about Communications

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