————— Last updated 1-July-2017 [by Bill] —————
We use an Iridium Extreme satellite phone [Model 9575] when we travel in regions where we cannot use our mobile phones and there is no WiFi available.
Following is some information about using this phone [some of which may apply to other phones...] which we share in advance with our guests [and fellow sat phone users...]
We include ways for testing some of the 9575 features, querying minutes remaining, and sources of important phone numbers we like to have on hand in case of need.
Since our satellite phone is just one of several ways of communicating with us, we maintain a comprehensive document detailing methods and procedures for contacting us.
We only share this document with select friends and family using Google Docs as the gatekeeper. [As outlined on our Computers, Devices, and Applications page...]
We also share our contact document via a link we add to the comments section on the NOAA registrations for our EPIRBs and PLBs so any SAR authorities can gain immediate access. [We do this in part because, for unknown reasons, the NOAA emergency beacon registration forms still do not accommodate satellite phone numbers- as of May-2017 anyway...]
Here is a sample version of our live Contacting Denali Rose document in case it is of interest.
Iridium 9575 Documentation:
The [222 page...] Iridium manual is not required reading, but perhaps worth having in your virtual library to help keep Murphy at bay...
The quick start guide may be worth a glance, however...
How to make a voice call:
First, a note for our guests about our current sat phone plan: We can call world wide. However our current [discounted] service plan only allows the phone to operate when physically located within Alaska or Canada, and when within ~20 miles offshore of those respective coastlines...Here is my quick start guide for making voice calls using our sat phone: [This is pretty much just like any cell phone...]
- Turn on phone
- The phone must have clear view of the sky
- Point top of antenna to the sky [The tip of the antenna tilts so you can point it straight up...]
- The phone may work acceptably well inside of fiberglass boat cabin if not connected to the external antenna
- Wait for green light [indicating it is on the network]
- A 3 bar minimum signal is preferred for a longer call duration [before dropping...]
- All sat phone calls drop eventually due to satellite orbits
- Enter the complete 11 digit phone number [just like dialing from a mobile or land phone]
- Country Code [1 for US and Canada]
- Area Code
- Phone Number
- Press Green key to initiate call
- Press Red key to end call
A note about dialing our sat phone: The 9575 can be programmed to accommodate standard international dialing protocols. We choose this so that in case of an emergency, no specialized dialing knowledge is required
Why is this important? You must dial 00 (zero zero) first when calling from a sat phone. The 9575 (and probably other sat phone models) does this internally via a setting if we so choose, eliminating the need to remember [and possibly forget under duress...] this requirement...
More about the Iridium 9575:
GPS: If you are not familiar with this model sat phone, it also has a built-in GPS (which only works well outdoors in clear view of sky- otherwise we have witnessed it off target by as much as 5-10 miles when used below decks...)
GPS Update July-2017: We now have a BEAM LiteDock Extreem dock for the 9575- which has a connector for an external GPS puck. We installed this external GPS receiver in the headliner under the fiberglass deck and it works well- reporting accurate positions via the phone. [Note re: GPS puck: The base is magnetic for mounting on an automobile roof; therefore it needs a small diameter (e.g., 6") rust resistant metal plate for a ground plane... Use a small non-stick baking pan or the like...]
SOS: It also has a programmable SOS button. You can program it to send your position and SOS message to any number you choose. We are using GEOS, which is free with our airtime plan. It is the same service used by SMS only Sat devices by DeLorme, Spot, etc.
The red panic [SOS] button will get the same response as activating a PLB for life or death only situations when using GEOS... [See how to test, below.]
Phone numbers we like to have on hand in printed and electronic form:
Along with our regular phone book of numbers, here are some additional phone numbers we like to keep waterproof print-outs of [as well as keeping fresh copies in our virtual library and programming into our mobile and sat phones]:
- Alaska SAR [Search and Rescue] phone numbers [Other US states are also available from this same valuable resource... International resources will be added as we have time...]
- USCG RCCs [Rescue Coordination Centers Nationwide]
- USCG RCCs Alaska:
- Reporting and Cancelling accidental EPIRB, PLB, ELT activations
- 911: You can also dial a central 911 emergency service from an Iridium 9575 sat phone... [but not all sat phones...]
- Free 24/7 Iridium phone support: From Iridium phone call 2222 or 6868
- Free Phone Test Call:  1-480-752-5105 [I believe this is Iridium only...]
- Use to confirm phone is operational and learn how to make a call
- If phone is working, you will hear a recorded call completion confirmation message
- Minutes remaining on sat phone account: Call or Text 2888
- IMPORTANT! All roll forward minutes are lost if you don't renew on time...
- Here is an example of an automated response from texting 2888 [analogous to texting *3282# on your mobile phone for a cell data usage report]:
You have 134 minutes. Your account will expire on Nov 06, 2016. [Renewal date... every 6 months] This account has no minutes expiring between now and Nov 6, 2016.