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  #1  
Old 09-05-2006
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SSB vs Sat Phone

Going cruising and would like opinions on SSB vs Sat Phone.
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We just added SSB because SAT Phones are expensive! To get weather, emails and to talk as long as needed to a live, warm body about conditions would cost a lot.

Bob Davis
Texas Two Step
St.Croix U.S. Virgin Island
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Old 09-05-2006
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SSB and Sat phones both extend communications range to hundreds, if not thousands of miles. However, there are a couple of major differences.

Satphones are far more costly over the long run, as the air time is costly, as are the data services. Also, the equipment may be less usable, as the higher speed, B-terminal type phones need to have the antenna stabiliized and pointed at the satellites. However, coverage may be a bit better with a Satphone, and a bit less subject to interference, than SSB, which relies on long-distance atmospheric propagation and is very subject to interference. The smaller, omnidirectional phones like the Iridium have less effective coverage from my experience, with a greater tendency to drop calls. However, the fact that the antenna on them does not need to be aimed may make using one simpler thatn more traditional satellite phones, which would require a stabilized antenna. The power usage is certainly lower on the Iridium style phones that it would be for a more capable B-term Inmarsat phone.

However, SSB can be less useful, as the types of communication allowed are more limited and the privacy is far more limited than that of a satellite phone connection. Also, the need for a SSB-to-landline patch can be a problem when communicating with non-SSB users.

If I had to choose one for long-term use, I would probably pick SSB over satellite phone because of the lower long-term costs. Both services offer data, weather, e-mail, but the fees for the per-megabyte usage of Sat phones is a deal breaker for me.
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Old 09-05-2006
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Once again...I must disagree.
Globalstar sat phones are quite economical...with rates around 25 cents a minute which is far less than cell phones in the islands. There is NO per megabyte fee and you can get your e-mail & weather in a couple of minutes. I would note that Chris Parker gets all his weather forecasting data through his G-star phone before he gets on the SSB each morning!! They are ideal for emergencies as well and are not subject to dismasting like SSB is. After Hurricane Ivan in Grenada...our Globalstar phone was the ONLY source of communication available not only for us but for dozens of others. You may have to wait 10 minutes for a signal sometimes but if you need to talk and get e-mail and weather in the US and Caribe...it is an excellent choice. It is not such a good choice elsewhere so planned cruising grounds need to be considered.
I also have an SSB with Pactor modem and sailmail service. The entire rig with modem installed set me back about $4k and the sailmail service runs $250 a year for just e-mail. I got my weather and security updates and chats on this and also found it very worthwhile but it was subject to propogation issues, limited to 10 minutes of sailmail/day, and when the mast came down it was useless.
In summary, if I had to choose ONE system for the Caribe it would be Globalstar and this time I'd invest in the deck antenna so I could always GET calls down below. If I planned on extended cruising outside the Caribe I'd go for the SSB system or Ham rig.
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Old 09-05-2006
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The choice should not just be Marine SSB vs Sat Phone, but you should compare Ham communications as well. With the new license requirements, getting a ham license is not very hard. And the e-mail is FREE. Plus lots of nets of cruising boats in different parts of the world. Plus the Maritime Mobile Service net with really good world wide coverage. Choose the right equipment and you get both Ham and Marine SSB in one package.
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We purchased our Iridium in the Caribbean in 2003, used it very little through the Pacific on account of annoying voice delay, and cut off calls. Received a call from my mother once who was later billed just shy of US$10.00 per minute for calling us. We spent about $1600 on the phone plus monthly billing for about a year and used it not more than 20 minutes during that time. I was just able to sell it this year in Malaysia. We've rarely had times when we couldn't get email in and out with the SSB and Sailmail, and the 10 minutes per day are really all we need. Unfortunately, I believe that the trend will be away from the SSB and toward Satellite because as human beings, we demonstrate a remarkable capacity to want to pay for something.
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Faith...that is why I only supported Globalstar and ONLY for the Caribe where they have good deals. Unless the deals elsewhere get a lot better the SSB/Ham rig will remain the long distance communication tool of preference...Except maybe as wifi gets better we'll all be Skyping in the harbors!

GC... As I understand it, you cannot send e-mail over Ham Bands with commercial content (i.e. for business needs) and the code requirement still has o been overturned. When I was out, I was able to listen in on the Ham Bands but used the SSB bands to communicate. Never felt I was missing much but a lot of folks seem enamoured of the "chats"...kinda like us bulletin board addicts!
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Cam-

I was speaking in terms of global coverage. In specific locations, the options you have may vary quite a bit, as may the costs. If you're relatively close to land most of the time, then you might even be able to get away with a GSM phone and a cellular signal amplifier antenna setup.
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SD... I understood that. G-star and Iridium however ARE global sat phone systems and don't charge by the bit. Costs vary considerably for airtime however but nothing like the mini-satB costs. Again...just trying to give options to the original question. There is no question that outside of the caribe, the SSB is the cheapest but the emergency usefulness of the satphone cannot be overlooked either.
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sat phone vs ssb

We have 2 sat phones and a ssb on board.
the fixed mount mini-m Sat phone is 100% rock solid and we pay a pay per minute only on our phone. we use it when we must have an immediate answer or in an emergency. we also have a Iridium phone which we pay a monthly charge. we use this for the life raft--if you are in a life raft --phone home.

I get the most use out of the ssb with a pactor modem. Being a ham i can send e-mails all day for free plus download free weather charts.

The globalstar phone does not have worldwide coverage--so check the coverage chart - it is very cheap.
depending on coverage i would go with global star if you are sailing where they cover
fair winds,
eric
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