The other day I was on the internet Christmas shopping for a crash helmet for my teen age son. He’s recently gotten involved in an activity that makes wearing a helmet the prudent thing to do. Although Florida does not have a helmet law...our family does.
The first thing that jumps out at you is the tremendous variety of options that are available. Crash helmets come in all variety of shapes and sizes with an endless choice of styles, decorations, color schemes, ventilation options, face protectors, bluetooth options and so on. Prices range for $40.00 to $400.00, and more! I also learned that there is a complicated and comprehensive system that rates crash helmets on their ability to withstand impact. What a concept!
Maybe he could just be extra careful?!!
So I found myself thinking…how much should I spend on a product that probably will never be used? Occasionally we do read about motorcycle accidents, but not all that often. He’s a pretty cautious kid, usually exhibits pretty good judgment.
I also knew style was important to him. He’s a kid so it’s all about being cool. The last thing he was concerned about was how it would stand up in the event of an accident and (God forbid) a severe blow to his head. Then it dawned on me again as it has so often previously. One of the reasons that kids (especially boys) have parents is to protect them from themselves, to exercise mature judgment in the absence of their own.
The answer is obvious, isn’t it? You buy the safest most well-constructed and highest safety rated helmet that you can afford! If it happens to look really cool that’s a bonus, but it’s not the priority. Granted, he probably will never need it but what if he does? Is saving a few hundred dollars going to matter? Like I said, the answer is obvious!
We all do it
As I write this article I’m thinking to myself how obvious this thought process is and yet, I also know from personal experience how often we overlook or ignore the obvious. We all do it. It’s human nature. What’s important and what is not? Where can we do without and where can we not?
When the sh** hits the fan
My family is also concerned about preparedness, as I know you are as well. I cannot recall purchasing an item as a part of my preparedness regimen when I didn’t have that same conversation with myself that I had with the crash helmet. What’s important and what is not? Where can I cut and where should I not? You talk about buying things that you hope you’ll never use. Spend some time on SurvivalBlog.com or any of a number of similar websites perusing the variety of products and services that they support. Do you really think you’ll need a solar stove to bake bread in the back yard? Should we really spend a couple of hundred dollars on seeds so that we can grow our own vegetables when we can get all that we need at the grocery store? You know the answer.
Hello out there!!
Perhaps you have already recognized the need for being able to communicate beyond shouting distance in the event cell and landline service cease operating. Ruling out smoke signals and semaphore, there are only a couple of realistic options. Ham radio and satellite come to mind immediately.
There’s a lot of information available on Ham. It’s a valuable technology to be sure and I encourage you to investigate it thoroughly. But it’s also expensive, cumbersome, has a very steep learning curve and can potentially put your security at risk. Handheld satellite technology, while not inexpensive, costs much less than Ham and also offers the added benefits of portability, privacy and simplicity, just to name a few.
When there are no options.
Granted, it’s a tough decision, to spend several hundred dollars or more on something for which you almost certainly will have no use…unless you have no options. You have no options, the key to everything that is “preparedness”. You have no options.
We’re no different from each other. Our landlines and cell phones are more than dependable. Whenever we want to speak with someone we simply call them. We have options.
But what if we don’t one day? Given some of the scenarios with which we concern ourselves, it’s very possible.
Consider waking up one day to landlines and cell phones not working. You may have experienced it before. I have. We’re in the hurricane belt so we’re subject to electricity and telephone outages from time to time. The difference is…we know it’s just a matter of days, maybe a week or two, before the power company has the electricity working and the phone company has restored phone service. Will that also hold when the SHTF?.
The 6 o'clock news…UGH!
If you’re like me watching or listening to the news usually makes me angry. You may also have friends who no longer pay attention to the news for very reason. Maybe you have yourself. I’ve tried, but I can’t. Knowledge is still power, even if the knowledge makes me angry.
- I can’t imagine being unable to communicate beyond shouting distance.
- I can’t imagine having no knowledge of what is going on in the world beyond what I can see from my front porch.
- I can’t imagine not being able to contact loved ones and like-minded friends when the time comes.
- I can’t imagine thinking to myself…”I sure am glad I saved a few hundred dollars instead of …”
Don’t misunderstand, I would never advocate spending more than one can afford. To be sure, reducing debt and increasing savings is an essential cornerstone of preparing. What I do advocate that we research our purchases carefully so that we can make prudent and informed decisions prioritizing where to spend and where to save and, in so doing we anticipate as best we can, what life could be like if and when it all comes apart.
I think there are plenty of areas to cut expenses. I just don’t think crash helmets and satellite phones are two of them.
Perhaps as many as 10,000 people have perished with hundreds of thousands more displaced from their homes in the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Haiyan. Named “Yolanda” by the Filipino authorities, the typhoon is considered by many to be one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, storms in recorded history causing certainly one of the worst natural disasters in history.
Yolanda struck the eastern coastal provinces of Leyte and Samar on November 8, 2013, a day certain to be remembered as one of the worst days in the history of the Philippines.
Initially slow to get started due to looting concerns and the lack of infrastructure in place to support it, aid has since ramped up to a furious pace as troops and supplies continue to flood to the area from all over the world.
Always a significant challenge in any such natural disaster is providing the communications required in order to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid to thedevastated areas. Also, one cannot underestimate the need for the desperate victims of Yolanda to be able to communicate with their families both within the country as well as throughout the world.
Telecoms Sand Frontieres (TSF), working in conjunctions with the United Nations, has provided two teams equipped with BGAN satellite technology and handheld Isatphone Pro satellite phones by Inmarsat to coordinate relief efforts throughout the island chain.
Anticipating the extent of the disaster, Inmarsat was able to get the equipment to the islands before the typhoon struck. This proved significant in expediting the search and rescue efforts by the Minister of Home Affairs and facilitating victim communications with loved ones thought the world. One cannot underestimate the importance of just being able to tell loved one that you are ALIVE!
“We were able to set up three telecom centers for relief co-ordination before the influx of humanitarian aid arrived in the aftermath of Haiyan,” said a TSF spokesman.
Once again, Inmarsat stands at the forefront of disaster rescue and relief efforts worldwide. Thanks to BGAN satellite and the Isatphone Pro, a horrible situation is made just a little less horrible.
Satellite Communications Technology
Complicated or… not so much?
One of the most often asked questions that we get from prospective portable satellite internet and voice customers concerns the skill level required to operate the communications terminal itself. Because the technology behind the construction, launching and operation of the satellites themselves is so incredibly complex the natural tendency is for people to assume that it also takes a high level skill in order to operate the satellite telephone itself.
Nothing could be further from the truth
While it is true that there are some satellite terminals on the market that do have a steep technical learning curve, the very popular MSAT G2, does not. Arguably perhaps the most underrated workhorse communications terminal available today the MSAT G2 is truly “plug and play”. There may be technical “installation” expertise required for installing the G2 in a vehicle or on a sea going vessel but there is no expertise required for assembling the terminal for “operational” status. Within 15 minutes of delivery you can have your MSAT G2 assembled, powered up and READY TO COMMISSION. It just doesn’t get any easier than that.
What does “READY TO COMMISSION” mean?
Your MSAT Service Provider, perhaps (but not always) the same person you purchased the terminal from, will need to register your portable satellite radio onto the MSAT satellite network. As a result of the registration process he will have some numbers that will need to be programmed into the satellite terminal handset. He can either provide you the numbers and commissioning instructions to do this yourself or, more commonly, he will walk you through the process over the phone.
How complicated it the “COMMISSIONING” process?
Would you believe 5 steps and 5 minutes? That’s all there is to it!
We do this ALL THE TIME for our customers. With your cell phone in one hand (or sitting on a table in “speaker mode”) and the G2 handset in the other hand your MSAT Service Provider will take you through the 5 steps, step by step, culminating in “commission pass” appearing on the handset LED display. Congratulation, you’re operational, child’s play compared the effort it took to learn how to operate the REMOTE for your new flat screen TV!
Yes, but how difficult is it to learn to OPERATE the telephone?
This might take another 5 minutes. Actually, you will have probably learned to operate the terminal via the COMMISSIONING process. If you can operate a cell phone you can operate the G2 as they have virtually identical dialing and answering protocols. Squeeze the PTT microphone, wait ½ second and begin talking. When you’ve finished talking release the PTT mike and listen for a response. You just learned how to operate the Dispatch Radio function. (For more on Dispatch Radio…link.)
Remember, by definition satellite telephones including the iSatPhone Pro are engineered for installation and use in remote locations; off shore vessels, over the road trucks, remote terrestrial outposts, just to name a few applications. Customers typically do not have ready access to technical support from these locations. While the vessel captain or the over the road driver has his own highly defined skill set, that skill set most probably does NOT include the use of satellite technology. The MSAT G2 does an excellent job of providing current generation satellite technology in a straight forward easy to understand operational protocol.
When it’s all said and done.
Looking to send data over your satellite phone but don’t know where to begin? Problem solved…and for less than the cost of dinner for 4 with a bottle of wine in a nice restaurant!
Iridium, Inmarsat, Globalstar, Thuraya, or Lightsquared, regardless of which constellation or which portable satellite internet device you’re using, with XGATE together with the Optimizer you’ll be:
sending and receiving emails
updating your Facebook page
downloading weather data (receive GRIB files)
redit card processing
transfering files - manually and automated.
web browsing and web caching with XWEB
sending videos and images
Compatible with nearly every known operating system available in the market today, the Optimizer powered by RedPort, will keep you in touch with the people that matter the most, be they family, friends or business associates. Not much larger than a deck of cards, the Optimizer interfaces with virtually every data capable satellite radio on the planet including the BGAN satellite, MSAT G2 and IsatPhone Pro, just to mention a few.
XGATE is state-of-the-art data compression software. The Optimizer is a router that creates the ultimate firewall and WiFi hotspot. Together they provide the perfect combination of airtime saving efficiency, virus protection, while easily accessing the services that you need.
That file that may have taken 10 MB’s to transfer now may take 2. What may have taken 60 minutes to transfer now may take 3. On average, XGAT uses only 5% of the data of a standard email program. That means that you will save up to 95% of airtime costs compared to using your satellite email without XGATE. That’s a HUGE savings!
Choose one of 22 available languages. Use an “included” email address or the same old familiar email address that you use with Outlook or Apple Mail. There are even options that allow you to set the SEND and RECEIVE addresses so others see whatever email address you would like them to see.
XGATE BigMail gives you a heads up when someone sends you an extra-large file, giving you the option to elect to download it now or wait until you are on another connection. XGATE gives you the files that you need when you need them, saving the video of Fido for later. XGATE servers scan every email for viruses and spam, blocking them before they go over your satellite system, saving you money in airtime costs and keeping your device clean.
XWEB works with XGATE to let you browse the Internet, with 3 to 5 times average acceleration, unheard of before in satellite technology. In fact, when was the last time you even considered browsing the internet over your BGAN satellite, IsatPhone Pro or MSAT G2? I thought so!
So, to summarize, the Satellite Optimizer with XGATE provides:
- The services that you want…Email, Internet, Weather, Social Media, Blogging and GPS Tracking
- The way that you want them…Easy, Affordable and Reliable
- The Devices that you use…Computers, Tablets, and Smart Phones using Apple iOS and Google Android
- The satellite networks that you need…Iridium, Inmarsat, Globalstar, Thuraya and Lightsquared.
Wessex Water, a British utility company equips its rapid deployment emergency response teams with BGAN satellite by Inmarsat. The company currently provides water and sewage services to nearly 1.3m people across the south-west of England. Company Managers decided to upgrade their communications systems to support a rapid response in remote areas where cell phone service is spotty, non-existent or unreliable.
Inmarsat partner Hughes, which supports a solution offering automatic rollover from 3G to satellite utilizing the very portable, very cost effective, light weight and ruggedized 9450 Vehicular BGAN satellite terminal. The 9450 allows utility company crews to stream live video from the scene of incidents, keeping communication channels open when cellular coverage is not available and synchronizing communications between mobile units and the command center.
“We’re proud to have been chosen by Wessex Water for this critically important service,” said Chris O’Dell, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Hughes Europe. “Wessex Water’s engineers previously faced an uncertain communications environment when responding to a major incident.”
Check out the new MSAT G2 Satellite Radio Promotional Video
On October 18th the island of Bohol in the Philippines was struck by an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale. Damage is catastrophic.
Communities on the island are devastated with more than 3 million people affected. There is severe damage to thousands of homes as well as roads and other infrastructure. Some 600,000 families continue to be without electricity due to the landslides triggered by the earthquake.
Some communities located in remote areas of the island are completely isolated due to damage to the communications infrastructure.
Equipped with Inmarsat BGAN terminals, Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) has dispatched a team of telecommunications experts to the island to help with communications related issues.
“We are aware of the need for telecommunications in disaster zones and are reaching out to the most remote areas of the island, to not only help co-ordinate the much needed humanitarian aid, but also to provide means of contact for the many families affected by this disaster,” said a TSF spokesman.
Team members of the emergency telecoms group are equipped with portable Satellite Internet devices via BGAN and Isatphone handheld satellite phones.
You’re in the market for a hand held satellite telephone? You have choices, not many, but choices nonetheless. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to stay within the same species of “fruit” when comparing your options… apples with apples, oranges with oranges, etc., easier said than done I know.
Your sales agent will ask you where you’re going to be traveling, where you will be using the phone? Tell him or her that you don’t know where you are going, that you want it to work everywhere, well, virtually everywhere. (In order for any satellite telephone to operate, hand held or not, the antenna has to have “clear line of sight” to the satellite. There will be places where this isn't realistic but more on that later.) By establishing that you want the phone to be able to work anywhere on the planet you have just eliminated a couple of “regional” satellite constellations, leaving you now with two choices, the Iridium 9575 and the IsatPhone Pro.
The Iridium 9575, which operates on the 15+ year old canopy of 66 low earth orbit (LEO) satellites and the IsatPhone Pro, which operates on the four (4) year old Inmarsat constellation consisting of three (3) geosynchronous high earth orbit (HEO) satellites.
You have the Iridium 9575 at a price point of $1,500.00 + or – and the Isatphone Pro at (generally) under $700.00. (Remember there’s always a premium on “sexy” and the 9575 is definitely sexier.)
You have the near schizophrenic rate structure policies of Iridium compared with the “not quite but almost as” schizophrenic Inmarsat rate plans. (I swear, you would think that neither of these companies had spoken with an actual customer in years.) You can take some comfort in knowing that virtually every satellite constellation is fixated on making their usage plans just as convoluted as they possibly can, and they’ve succeeded brilliantly! A good sales rep can help you navigate this mine field though.
Here's a look one at a time:
A canopy of 66 LEO satellites means that there should almost always be one overhead, making for easy connectivity. It also means that during the course of your conversation the earth is rotating out from under the bird that you’re using, necessitating “passing you off” to the next satellite moving into range. That can cause “dropped calls”, not always but it can. Latency, the time it takes for the listener to hear what you said after you stop talking, is negligible with LEO satellites.
The fact that at 15 + years old the satellites are nearing the end of their useful life, well, only you know your tolerance for gambling. For a couple of reasons, one being the shorter distance traveled to the satellite, the 9575 initializes quicker and will get you “on the phone” making calls faster. No Bluetooth compatibility with the 9575.
Once you lock on to one of Inmarsat’s (3) HEO geosynchronous satellites you will not need to be “passed off” to another bird, minimizing the chance of dropped calls. However, if you get your head between the antenna and the satellite you can drop the call anyway so just keep the antenna pointing straight up and you’ll be fine.
The fact that all (3) satellites are located high above the equator means that it might be more difficult to “see” the satellite, especially at extreme Northern and extreme Southern latitudes where the curvature of the earth can block the signal. (See “clear line of sight” comment earlier). This should be a non-issue from everywhere else on the planet.
The IsatPhone Pro is Bluetooth compatible and GPS capable. Handhelds are often carried just for emergencies so I don’t have to tell you how important it could be to be able to text your GPS coordinates to someone should the need arise. You will experience a bit more latency than with the 9575 but nothing you won’t adapt to after a minute or two of conversation. Both phones offer really clear transmission quality.
We’ve already addressed the cost of owning these phones. Only you can speak to your budget. Generally speaking it will cost you less to maintain the IsatPhone Pro in an operable status while it collects dust sitting on the shelf in your home or office, where most handhelds hang out.
Just recently completed, The World Solar Challenge was held in the outback of Australia. The race began October 6th in Darwin and finished on October 13th near Adelaid.
Held every two years, this solar-powered electric terrestrial vehicle competition always faces the extreme challenges. This year was no different.
Challenged with providing real time sharing of vehicle performance information with their support teams for the purpose of maximizing vehicle performance, several of this year’s participants relied on BGAN satellite technology supported by the Inmarsat satellite constellation.
The Netherlands-based Team Twente, The University of Michigan and the team from Kogakuin University in Japan all reported exceptional results using BGAN Satellite technology to report such information as weather forecasting, road conditions and possible driving hazards to their support teams. The teams also were able to keep supporters and the media informed of their progress by using BGAN to post images and videos on social media sites.
Along with Inmarsat, other supporting sponsors were JSAT Mobile Communications and Add Value Technologies.
"Inmarsat is proud to support the solar car teams as they seek not only to excel in this year's World Solar Challenge but also to further global efforts to harness natural sources of energy," said Gerbrand Schalkwijk, Vice President, Inmarsat Energy.
In less than 20 years, the mobile satellite communications business has evolved from a niche market consisting of a very few very expensive options to today’s market, offering a wide variety of terminals supporting a near infinite range of functionality, spanning an equally confusing price point range. However, navigating the complexities of todays portable sat com market, doesn’t have to be difficult. All it requires is having a little knowledge of what technology is available, being realistic as to what constitutes your specific communications needs and setting egos aside.
This article considers a typical business with multiple remote locations, all operating within the North American footprint (more on that later). The locations could be vessels at sea, vehicles or fixed terrestrial installations. The MSAT G2 is available in all three configurations. What all the locations have in common is that they need both inter and intra company voice communications as well as some data capability and they have no access to cell phone or terrestrial PSTN telephone service. This business is a prime candidate for mobile satellite communications.
Available industry data shows that the majority of Voice and Data communications is typically inter-company, with Voice requirements being of primary concern in most cases. The G2 is the only sat com available on the market today that supports flat rate unlimited all you can eat, inter-company voice communications for one nominal monthly charge.
Known as Dispatch Radio or Push-to-Talk (PTT) this service functions similarly to a VHF radio but without the geographic limitations and static ridden transmissions. Voice transmissions over PTT are crystal clear, often more clear than talking on your cell phone.
Another feature unique to PTT is the ability to choose to communicate privatelywith just one location at a time or select the “broadcast” mode option and speak with all company locations simultaneously, conference calling if you will. Add the “Dial-In” feature (for literally pennies per month) and you can Dial Into a PTT transmission from any landline or cell phone and enjoy the same flat rate benefits as if you were calling from another MSAT G2.
Do you really need High Speed Data capability?
We all know the guy that just has to own the latest and the greatest, sexiest product on the market, even if he doesn’t need or use it. (Just check out the line at any Apple store the first day of a new iPhone release.) Leave your ego at the door when you’re shopping satellite technology or you’ll likely end up spending too much money purchasing too much terminal resulting in not using it as much as you should (or need to) because of the steep learning curve and cost of operation.
Interface the MSAT G2 with the very inexpensive (under $200.00) Optimizer and you’ll be sending and receiving emails and files all for a nominal rate per minute, usually under $1.00.
High Speed Data is available in satellite communications and when you need it you need it, we get that. Just expect to pay a heavy premium for it.
If your requirement is for satellite communcations and your business operates within an area bounded by Alaska to the North, Venezuela to the South, California to Nova Scotia, all US coastal waters including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean
Consider the MSAT G2, perhaps the most under-rated hard working mobile satellite terminal on the market today.