UUPlus—E-mail Server

The UUPlus software and server substantially reduce the time it takes to send and receive e-mail via cell or satellite phone. At $35/month it’s not cheap but it saves a fortune in download time and makes good sense if you have a fairly high volume of e-mails.

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

21 comments… add one
  • Tony Price Jan 23, 2011, 1:27 am

    UUPlus is a fantastic service which I and several of my techy friends have found invaluable. I used it for six months while sailing in Fiji and managed to run my business on it. Not only does it compress emails, it also does not resend email threads but simply appends them at each end as they already have them. Also they use a Iridium phone number so you get your data connection minutes at half normal price. Service via email request was incredible and very friendly. It works just as well via a cellular connection or other slow internet connection. Highly recommended.

  • Hans Feb 4, 2012, 9:56 am

    When I bought my Iridium sat phone last spring (2011) it came with a software for E-Mail handling that is called “onsatmail personal”. Or rather, I had to download it from their site http://www.onsatmail.com and it was, and still is, free. I’m pretty sure that it is UUplus, as several files that are contained in the package are named so. And it works just as John and Tony describe UUplus. Do you still pay 35$/month, John ?

    • John Feb 4, 2012, 10:57 am

      Hi Hans,

      I think that when you actually come to use the software you have downloaded that you will find that although the software is free (just as it is on the UUPlus site) that to make it work really efficiently you will need to subscribe to the UUplus service at $35.00/month. The reason is that what makes UUplus so efficient is that it compresses the files both ways: when sent to you and when you send. So the server must unpack (decompress) the file that you send, and vice versa.

      Let us know if that’s wrong.

      • Hans Feb 6, 2012, 12:42 pm

        Hi John,
        apparently it is wrong in that it works just the same way when it comes to handling the mail, compressing and decompressing it both ways etc. There may be a difference in support and in getting bug fixes and the very latest software version. Otherwise it is the identical software.
        I will send you the E-mails that I exchanged with UUplus in a personal message.

        • John Feb 6, 2012, 1:33 pm

          Hi Hans,

          Interesting. The only thing I can guess is that your Irdium provider is bundling the UUplus service into your monthly or per/minute charges. What do you pay per minute for Irdium time and do you pay a monthly service charge? If the price is good, perhaps we should change to your provider, since it would save us the UUplus charges.

          One way or another, the guys at UUplus, must be getting paid since writing software and maintaining the UUplus server is their full time job, they can’t be doing it for free, unless they have given up eating!

  • Hans Feb 6, 2012, 2:40 pm

    Of course that’s true, but deals can be different. Since I came to buy my iridium later than you bought yours, it could be that things had changed over time.
    I just had no idea how many prepaid minutes I would need and I like simple to handle solutions, I decided to sign a postpaid contract in the spring of 2011. The contract cost me $ 22,-/month when paid for 12 month in advance (otherwise it would have been $27,-/m.), after one year I can finish the contract with a notice of one month. The minute is $1,40. All US Dollars.

    If your iridium minutes are much cheaper you could well have the better deal.


    • Hans Feb 6, 2012, 2:53 pm

      Oh, and one more thing: I could have gone with prepaid bundles and without any contract and still have the UUplus software.
      In hindsight that would have been cheaper for me, I used only 286 minutes during my 3-month-trip.
      In fact I got the impression that the onsatmail-UUplus software can be downloaded by anyone for free. A friend of mine downloaded it just to see how it works and he doesn’t even own a satphone and certainly has no iridium contract. It is a bit confusing.

      • John Feb 6, 2012, 7:58 pm

        Hi Hans,

        I think I know the answer to that confusion: When you download UUPlus it is initially usable for free, so you can test and see if you like it. But after a while, I think 30 days, you get the bill.

        The key issue in all of this is that the guys at UUPlus do an incredible job both in software development and support. One of those companies its just a pleasure to do business with.

    • John Feb 6, 2012, 7:55 pm

      Hi Hans,

      The email you sent tells the tale. Your Irdium provider bought a bunch of UUPlus user codes and is bundling them with the Irdium minutes that they are selling you. I have not done a comparison of Irdium costs for some time, but it sounds to me like you have a really good deal, particularly when taking into account that you are getting the UUPlus service bundled in. We will definitely look at your provider when we next need Irdium minutes.

      • Max Feb 8, 2012, 10:08 am

        I have heard only good things about UUPlus. Which provider is bundling UUPlus with Iridium minutes ?

        • Hans Feb 8, 2012, 3:37 pm

          Well, I get billed by http://www.astconnections.com but they don’t seem to have anything to do with UUplus. I believe this because when I bought my satphone and had my contract with AST, I downloaded UUplus, which came under the name onsatmail personal, but is identical with UUplus personal. The thing is, I wasn’t asked for anything when installing the software, no contract number, nothing. I just downloaded it and use from then on. A friend of mine did the same and he didn’t have a contract, he just secured his onsatmail-e-mail adress (moc.liamtasno@emantaob) for future use and his use of onsatmail is not restricted or limited in time. What I want to say is that you can use onsatmail/UUplus completely independent of wether you buy any airtime or sign a contract. It apparently comes down to the same software for free .

  • John Feb 9, 2012, 10:18 am

    Hi Hans,

    I got curious and wrote to John and Jeremy who own and run UUPlus. The reasons for this aberration are complex and a bit delicate and it is not my place to reveal them. John or Jeremy may, or may not, decide to post here.

    One thing I can say is that this situation is very unlikely to continue for long and anyone using it, that is not using a service that is paying UUPlus, is risking having their UUPlus service cut off, possibly without warning. (That’s a guess from me, not a threat from UUPlus.)

    Bottom line, John and Jeremy work incredibly hard to run a valuable service. Their support is truly incredible. I don’t think that Jeremy ever sleeps! They deserve to get paid for what they do and so I urge everyone who uses UUPlus to subscribe to their service—it’s just the right thing to do.

    • Hans Feb 10, 2012, 6:04 am

      I agree completely, maybe I shouldn’t have poked around, but once gotten curiuos …

  • Henning Apr 11, 2015, 7:34 am

    I have only just noticed this older post but think that I have something to add. We have used the “Onsatmail”-branded version of UUPlus for our 13-month sabbatical from Hamburg, Germany to the Canaries, Azores and back.

    The same software?
    UUPlus and Onsatmail are identical except for the branding with UUPlus being the original version. Neither one is better or more current than the other and Onsatmail is not illegal or immoral. The (legal) provider of Onsatmail is the UK company AST Communications http://www.satcomms.com (the address http://www.astconnections.com mentioned above now redirects to this address) which is a full service satellite communications dealer (hardware, support services and airtime minutes for all types of satellite technology). As an added service to their customers, AST has apparently licensed the UUPlus mail service from UUPlus and is “reselling” it by bundling the service at no extra cost with their paying customers for satellite airtime. If your prepaid card runs out or your postpaid plan ends, so does your access to Onsatmail, as I can confirm in my own case. I can still start up the software and read the old mail but can no longer connect to the server.
    In the planning stages of our trip, I had noticed UUPlus and sort of decided on it. A while later I read about AST and Onsatmail in a sailing blog. I found that AST’s airtime prices were not significantly above the competition for a 500 minute iridium prepaid card and, with the Onsatmail service included for free, they were significantly ahead. In today’s world AST is something of an old fashioned business (as in no web shop and aggravation with charging my non-UK credit card) but you have ready access to humans and they are knowledgeable. I ended up also buying an iridium 9555 and an Intellidock docking station from them which turned out a good deal for me as they were willing to ship it to Guernsey, saving us 20% VAT (sales tax).
    I am not affiliated with AST other than being a customer. An ex-customer, so to speak, as we are back on land now. If we find another year to go cruising I’ll probably be in contact with them again.
    Should they ever drop the Onsatmail service, I will probably get it from UUPlus by paying for a monthly service.
    The technical provider of Onsatmail, as far as I can tell, is UUPlus.

    Free software?
    No moral dilemma here. While download is free at the pages http://www.uuplus.com and http://www.onsatmail.com, during installation you are asked for account details. These you need to get from either UUPlus or AST and the account must have been set up at the server end. There is also a technical and administrative period of a day or two after installation and before full availability of the service (before you can receive mail).

    Good software?
    I would say that it is well-crafted, pretty old fashioned (maybe even very old fashioned), highly efficient software. It is the opposite of bloatware (a tiny download for example). There are no ads and the user interface is completely home-built, not relying on any modern UI libraries.
    There is a steep learning curve (maybe even very steep). Think of it as the exact opposite of today’s typical app for an Ipad with the attributes of an Ipad app being slick, polished, easy to use and not needing a manual.
    It only works on Windows.
    It has a valuable feature (probably even very valuable) in that you are able to get any file you want from the internet, like a weather chart, while you are at sea. The file doesn’t have to be listed at saildocs or any service. It can be absolutely any file you want. If I were at sea and suddenly developed a strong interest in the “Free Content” image at the top of this page, and if I had noted its URL before departing (https://www.morganscloud.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Buttons_free.gif), then I could just order it ad-hoc using UUPlus alone and it would only take a single satellite connection to both order it and download the email with the file attached, meaning you will save at least 2 airtime minutes for the second call.
    The important thing is that it can be absolutely any file (like the latest entry of your childrens blog) and, other than having noted its URL, nothing has to be prearranged and it is completely ad-hoc. You can order a new file each day or receive the same one until you turn it off. Just be aware that it has to be a *file*, not a *page* – it is pretty uncommon these days for a web page to consist of only a single file. In UUPlus you can build a list of files and test them ahead of time, which you can then select (order) while on the satellite link.
    I have not seen this feature anywhere else.
    Another important feature (probably very important) found only in some competing products, is that you can use the service via your local internet connection while in port or in range of some land-based wifi and then switch to satellite when you have left. You can therefore use your email and play around with the file-service feature for months while in port or at anchor at zero connection cost. Consider this capability when selecting satellite email as it would have made a big difference in my case, likely more than offsetting any savings of a no-cost email option directly by iridium, immarsat or others. Many solutions don’t have it.

    My general advice:
    Do not unpack the equipment and install the software on the evening before departure. Do this weeks ahead. With any kind of service, plan on calling support at least once. Plan 6 to 12 hours of initial setup, spread over a couple of days.
    Then, in the case of UUPlus or Onsatmail, if you are willing to spend another 18 to 24 hours of getting aquainted, you will unlock every feature and be able to keep your important link up even in case of computer problems.
    I fully agree that that’s a lot of time but I think that if you don’t invest it ahead of time, you are in for some aggravation, loss of service and wasted airtime minutes. As far as I can see, the only way around this is to use an Inmarsat high bandwidth service (with a dome antenna), use your regular mail method and to hell with efficiency.

    • John Apr 11, 2015, 8:36 am

      Hi Henning,

      Excellent review, thank you very much. As a long time UUPlus user I agree with everything you say.

      Glad to hear that the guys that run UUpPlus are getting properly compensated for their labours. They really do raise the art of support to new highs.

  • Gavin French Jan 25, 2016, 12:17 pm

    I see you discussing UUplus for email provider. I also see that you are big fans of saildocs and sailmail recommending supporting them if using saildocs for weather info even if not using sailmail. I’m curious why you don’t use sailmail for email through your satellite phone connection rather then UUplus? Still in infancy of exploring this stuff after recently attending your high lat course. It seems to me the new software viewfax/airmail would work as email provider using satellite phone??


    • John Jan 26, 2016, 10:19 am

      Hi Gavin,

      Both Sailmail and UUplus are good options and we have used both. The big benefit of UUPlus is the support, these guys will provide all the personal support required by email or phone to get things working perfectly—there is no personal support available for sailmail. UUplus also has features that sailmail does not, including great spam filtering and the ability to POP other email accounts.

      On the other hand, UUPlus does not support the Irdium GO!, which sailmail does, very elegantly.

      So, on a GO! it’s sailmail all the way. On an Irdium handset, I would still tend to lean toward UUplus, but either will work well.

  • Geir ove Apr 4, 2017, 2:45 pm

    We use it to, works very ll, and we had super support when setting it al up and testing. We are now in carib, and will soon cross the atlantic again back home to cold north.

    • John Apr 5, 2017, 8:18 am

      Hi Geir ove,

      Thanks for confirmation on UUPlus. Those guys don’t do slick marketing, so I think sometimes they don’t get their due.

  • Bill Attwood Apr 4, 2017, 3:23 pm

    Hi Henning,
    I was interested in your way of saving MwSt on items shipped to Guernsey. My enquiries of UK firms haven´t been too successful. I believe that there is a risk when one returns to the EU, as items will then be deemed to be imported and the MwSt will be due. Agreed that it would require the customs to come aboard and check. Did you have any such problems? I guess if one was caught, it could lead to a degree of unpleasantness.
    Yours aye,

  • Henning Apr 5, 2017, 5:38 am


    I didn’t have “problems” but am not qualified to completely answer your question. I have asked myself this question a number of times in the past, for example, when I brought jeans and small consumer electronics with me from visits to the US. I guess it depends. When you run out of toothpaste while outside the EU then you don’t have to clear the new toothpaste through customs and pay duty and VAT on it when returning, I think. The same if you replace your worn-out jeans. But if you bring 10 new pairs?
    When you buy a new yacht while outside and bring it with you on return, you obviously have to clear (plus go through many other hassles). If your car broke down wile outside and you have a new starter motor installed, do you need to clear that on reentry? My feeling is no or else you would also have to clear the half tank of gas that you bought outside the EU. But I don’t know.
    I once wrote a letter to German customs with a question on the percentage of duty for rope clutches and it took them 6 months to answer.
    When I lived and worked in the US for 18 months many years back, on returning, I could bring anything as part of my household goods that I had owned for more than 6 months, including a car if it had been registered and insured.
    And what with immaterial goods such as the 500 prepaid iridium minutes?

    It is my general understanding that you are allowed

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