Iridium GO! Review—6 Myths Busted and a Purchase Recommendation

iridium-go-hotspotThere have been few pieces of new gear, electronic or otherwise, that have created more buzz in the offshore cruising community than the Iridium GO!—a combination of satellite phone (sort of) and internet hot spot (well, not really).

And there have also been few pieces of gear that have been surrounded with as many myths about its capabilities as the GO!.

In this chapter I will bust the myths and analyze the benefits of buying an Iridium GO!. And in Part II I will share some tips to make using both the GO! and Iridium handsets easier and more cost effective.

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Taras

Nice article!
I would like also a comparison of pricing using Iridium handset.
Let’s say, for occasional use while doing 14-20 day offshore voyage, to get a weather data in GRIB, what would be a cost comparison?

Patrick Genovese

Hi John,

According to a press release from Iridium, the Iridium go is “Iridium NEXT” ready and should be capable of higher data rates on the new Iridium satellites. If that has changed then there are quite a few people out there who are going to be very annoyed.

Regards
Patrick

Barry

I’ve been meaning to make a comment regarding the Ssb/Iridium post but have been slammed at work. After reading Johns post on the GO i’d like to make a few comments.

I agree with a lot John has to say.

After using the Go extensively it is NOT a replacement for a portable handheld sat phone. That became very clear to me on our IO transit.

Using it as phone; it really isn’t a phone, it is a proprietary VIOP connection and IMO isn’t a good as using a dedicated hand set. Does it work? Yup, and we used it, but saying that I am looking for a used Iridium handset to have on-board. Adding an extra piece of gear (smartphone) puts too many variable sin place for me to relies on it as a critical piece of communications gear. When things go pear shaped and your headed to raft I don’t want o be asking my self if the smart phone fully charged, is it in a waterproof case?

I did find I found the battery life on the GO was sub-par. I always kept a spare battery charged.

Maybe the marketing is bad, maybe people don’t read the spec sheet but they dont claim it to be satellite internet and Iridium is pretty clear about that.

What it is does provide IMO is good email and weather data connection in remote environments. Just on a cost basis. It is so much cheaper than using your Iridium phone to access and download weather/ emails. This would epically hold true for people on long passages. We auctally had a long discussion on this one evening on passage. There is no doubt in my mind if it is used often the numbers work out on the data packages. If your use is 4 weeks in the summer and a few weekend trips, stick to the satphone and prepaid minutes.

The big plus I noticed using the GO was morale. Morale you ask?

In todays day and age people expect communication, we’ve become wired for it. The GO lets people send receive texts for free. Friends can text for free. Iridium mail let s you have several individual accounts with one iridium number. Everyone on the boat can have their own email ( and everyone has an ipad these days ). Having spent a good deal of my life working austere environments I have noticed that when people can connect outside the environment they are in they tend to be happier and more productive. I have witnessed the same on long passages with crew having access to the outside using the GO. It may sound simple but the psychology behind it is sound.

Ive turned my GO subscription off for the moment. With the boat in Se Asia there as all ways a cell signal for weather and you are never really that far from shore.

Will I keep my GO? Yes. I feel it has a real use in pasagemaking and in operating in remote places with the need for data and weather communications.

I do think that the GO is just the beginning for “Sat-fi” centric devices and over the next 3-5 years we as offshore and expedition sailors will see mindbogglingly advances in the technology, price and user-ability of this technology. There is no doubt IMO this is the future for communications and weather.

BK

Bill Balme

Your comment “just $125 per month” didn’t look like tongue in cheek… Wow! That’s 10% of the annual costs of running Mick and Bee’s boat – subject of your last article!

I’m pleased to be going the SSB route with DSC capability…

(Sorry John, I probably shouldn’t have posted this here – and I wont be surprised if you move this comment off to the round file…)

Bill

Dick Stevenson

Hi John and all,
It has been amply discussed on the AAC site in the past and people have marked their turf, but I would wish to remind people, in this discussion of pros & cons and limitations and expense of satcom, of SSB radio linked with Pactor. Of the three functions you flagged as essential, two (email and weather) can be fulfilled easily with SSB radio: ham (free after initial set up and licensing) and Sailmail ($250/year last I looked). There is definitely a learning curve, but in 14 years I have almost never been without email and weather products when in remote areas or anywhere offshore. And for ham, at least, there are few limits on the amount of email and weather products able to be accessed, either in quantity or variety. I have also used the SSB’s emergency capabilities for other vessels effectively, although strictly for emergency communication satphones trump SSB handily.
And these are merely the functional/mission supportive capacities of SSB radio. Much further discussion elsewhere on AAC’s site.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
You say this article is about Iridium GO. I read your article as about communication at sea (especially as it pertains to emergencies, emails and weather) where you introduce GO and its present and promised capabilities and compare and contrast GO to other methods/modalities such as EPIRBS and satcom handsets. The other modalities were introduced in the article. As such, mentioning SSB/Pactor is to my mind completely justified. You can disagree, but to dismiss mention of a modality that many reasonable and experienced sailors use for their weather and email jeopardizes AAC being seen as a location to discuss a wide range of possibilities and introduces a degree of rigidness that, to my mind, would be unfortunate
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Terje M

Thanks John,

After reading your Iridium Go Review – I find the product a no-go. My profession is IT / Software consultancy, I early looked at the product and never added it to on my wish list. A traditional hand-held Iridium Pro with an external Arial is still on my list. That will give me some flexibility and also a good backup.

I understand there are several new satellites getting into orbit over the next two years. This will normally generate some new products and improved services. Some might hope that the cost goes down, personally I think the hardware cost might go down slightly, but the subscription cost will more or less be the same. The benefit will be improved speed and new services. Broadband and/or satellite phone will then become one my shopping list. As technology moves on, this will be the last purchase before we go. Well, I predict that we will see some very interesting products within the next 36 months. Just in-time for our take-off, with a six months’ test period.

Without a desperate need for on-board communication, I am holding on to my money. Thanks again for a good product review.

Bill Wakefield

Thank you for the thorough and accurate review, John.
We bought our Iridium 9575 [Extreme] handset before the Go was available, and use it with UUplus.
Since then I’ve been watching the Go closely. Your treatise verifies my conclusions to date, and until we can benefit from the unlimited data plan, we are fine with what we have. [We are lucky enough to have a Canada/Alaska only plan that suites our current needs for the ‘reduced’ rate of US$1/min with roll forward minutes that age out in 3 years…]
You mentioned UUplus and I wanted to let you know, in case you weren’t already aware, that per Jeremy at UUplus, they are working on Go compatibility, and as of our email conversation late Nov-2015, added that capability in their [then] current beta release. [I don’t have a progress report since then…]
I realize with unlimited data, some of the advantages of UUplus are mitigated- especially when the additional cost is added to the unlimited data budget… [And- specifically regarding the Go- Jeremy made the point we should expect UUplus to be 30-50% slower on the Go vs. Iridium 9555 or 9575 phones. He explained this is because the Go is an IP device (i.e., uses PPP and TCP protocols) and, along with the associated IP overhead (i.e., hidden network traffic you mentioned…) the Go cannot take advantage of Iridium Rudics.]
I mention this because, since we already subscribe to UUplus services to optimize our sat phone data time, its use would extend to the Go should we ever decide to add one to our collection of things that must be kept powered, upgraded and dry…]
At this point, if we added a Go, we would still keep our active sat phone for back-up and emergencies.
I could also see us keeping our UUplus account and perhaps deactivating it when using a Go full time, but reactivating as a back-up with the sat phone should the Go fail.

Thanks again for all of your efforts.

Mark

We need connectivity for various reasons. Not cheap up front. Inmarsat fleet broadband. Any views. Or discussion welcome. I am not super tech savvy.
Hey everyone tell your mates about this site. Best value best spend I have. Thank you very much.
Bye

Michael Weiss

So, what’s your feeling about the Delorme SE Explorer? It runs on the Iridium Satellite network?

Geir ove

i have frends that are using the Delorme SE Explorer, and it work fine, they have a web page where i can se where they are, and i check the weather for them and send it al to them on sms to the Delorme SE Explorer. last time they sailed up from Brasil til Surinam, and now around 1 may the will sail from Carib over to Portugal, and i will check the weather, and send them advise.
when they 2 years ago sailed from Cap V and down to Brasil we did the same but then i sendt them sms on the iridium sat phone , but they got the Delorme SE Explorer for the return trip.
And reading al this about the GO, i have made up my mind , not to get a GO, and i will get a Delorme SE Explorer and have freds back home checking the weather for me when crossing the atlantic.
the Delorme SE Explorer, also have a SOS, so i like it and it has a nice running price, freedom plan,

Geir ove

the skipper is taking the responsibility for routing, he is juste being told from land what to expect.
And the SMS, you can get many of them, turn into a long letter if you like.
and what we have seen, is that the weather is never in real time, what the weather forecast say it is supposed to be. but it gives you a good feeling. We are mostly looking for the Lowes and where they are moving. this is the cheap way
to do it.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John and all,
Your recent comment recommending that the skipper of a vessel do his own routing, in part to have a big picture image of what is around him is echoed scientifically in a fascinating article in the New York Times magazine (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/magazine/the-secrets-of-the-wave-pilots.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-0&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region).
In short it weaves an examination of an ancient Pacific Ocean Marshall Islands community’s historical/traditional method(s) of navigating with scientific studies of mapping/navigation and the brain. The ancient ways were absolutely interesting, but equally impressive was the documentation that of brain changes: when just going dot to dot such as when following rote GPS instructions such as one gets in a car, the brain atrophies, when working with the whole picture, the brain grows.
The above is but to give a taste and is accurate but simplistic to the point of distortion. The article is much richer, especially as it talks about the importance of our capacity to “picture” the world: a daily challenge for those who spend time on the water.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Bruce Savage

Hi John
Regarding the safety aspect of the GO!, your comments of relying on a third party organisation to relay an emergency are spot on. I chose to not use this service with my GO! For the same reasons. However, there is the option with the GO! to rather configure it to send an emergency sms message with position to 5 pre-configured mobile phone numbers. When in SOS mode I believe it sends this message every 5 minutes. I have 5 members of my family programmed in and I know that if they get this emergency SMS they will contact the relevant safety authorities and literally move heaven and earth to make sure this is acted on. They will do this immediately and there will be no delays which I believe can happen with EPIRB response.

Regarding the GPS position, you need to install the GO! Close to a window or hatch. We have an aluminium hull and side decks but composite Coachroof and the go is mounted on a bulkhead near a window. Position updates seem fine, as is also borne out by hourly position sent to our tracker page through the Predictwind service. That in itself is another really good safety feature. Of course if you take the GO! onto a life raft then sky access will not be an issue. As you may gather, we have the GO! constantly turned on when on passage as it remains plugged in to a 12 volt usb charger.

The GO is also our primary weather information device, using the Predictwind software for gribs, and routing which I use frequently when on passage. We have had very poor results with voice and havent used it much but we use the sms messaging and email a lot.

Bruce

Bruce Savage

Hi John
Absolutely agree on the EPIRB, of course we have one too and do regard that as our primary SOS device.
I also agree that the Predictwind software is buggy, and it’s not just the grib viewer. Once you get used to the annoying interface and learn a couple work-arounds it does the job well tho. To be honest I don’t know anything else but it’s the devil I know for now 🙂

Geir ove

ref: I guess the SMS option might work for a easy trade wind passage.
that is what we are doing, high north is to cold for us. we like it warm 🙂 where we live is cold enough for us.
The SMS service from friends how know what to look for is OK: and a cheep way of doing it, if i ever where to sil North then thats a different ballgame.

Bill Wakefield

Hi Geir,

I don’t own a DeLorme InReach or other SMS only device, but have read accounts from other cruisers who claim to have successfully received abbreviated weather forecasts using the following two services: [I have experience with neither; I’m just relaying credible 3rd party info in case you weren’t already aware, and are interested…]

Wx forecasts for DeLorme InReach only: [free] (http://wx2inreach.weebly.com/)

SpotCast Weather via OCENS: [fee based] (http://www.ocens.com/SpotCast-Weather-P526.aspx)

Safe voyaging.

Bill

Geir ove

Thanks. i will test them when we sail of this year.

Bill Wakefield

Hi John,

I agree with you wholeheartedly re: the inadequacy of spot forecasts- especially as they relate to weather analysis over a wide area.

I also would not advocate the adequacy of abbreviated or concatenated SMS messages for conveying sufficient data to perform routine weather analyses- especially in absence of WeFax and satellite imagery.

I often find myself yearning for more even with the broad range of detailed forecast products [text and images] we are spoiled by today, so I cannot imagine going back to something akin to METAR.

My goal providing the SMS service links was to demonstrate what is [purportedly] being used by others who only have SMS devices at their disposal.

Carry on!

Steve

We have been using the GO! for 9 months now and its out during all our passaging. We can attest to your review Jon and wanted to point out one other feature particularly for those that still use Sailmail/Airmail version 3.5 which supports interfacing with GO. With this combination, downloading weather and current forecasts from Sailmail is fast and easy. In fact, when downloading email/wx forecasts from Sailmail/Airmail with the GO, its error free uptime is near 100% and 5x faster for same size emails via GO Not sure this is an improved compression software that Sailmail uses over Iridium. But regardless, its a great combination out there in the oceans.

Patrick Genovese

On the issue of Data Rates speed with the Iridium Next satellites curiosity got the better of me so I got in touch with Atlantic Radio Telephone via their website chat facility. At least to the best of their knowledge it appears that faster data rates will indeed be available:

This is the chat transcript below:

Patrick : I have some queries regarding the Iridium GO
Michelle: Good morning!
Michelle: How may I help you?
Patrick : Will the Irirdium GO be capable of higher data rates once the Iridium NEXT satellites come on-line ?
Patrick : I plan to use it on a cruising boat
Michelle: Great question. I’d like to double check to make sure I give you correct information. Give me just a moment…
Michelle: Yes, you will be able to get higher rates.
Patrick : Any idea what the speeds should be and what it will cost ?
Michelle: I’m sorry I do not. However, I can have one of our salesmen contact you and provide you with that information if it is out.
Patrick : Thank you for the information.. Looking forward to receiving further info.
Michelle: You’re welcome! Have a great day!

A follow e-mail did ensue but only to say that pricing specifics are not yet available.

Regards
Patrick

Patrick Genovese

I can understand ART’s guarded statements, at the end of the day it is Iridium who is calling the shots. On the other hand it would be really short sighted of Iridium if they did not follow up on the faster data rates promise as it will surely back lash if they don’t deliver. It is also true that they are in a rarified market with almost a monopoly so they can probably afford to do what they want. Time will tell I guess.

Jim Kevern

I went down the “study satphone options” a couple years ago before deciding to rent a Globalstar phone for a particular passage. (went with Globalstar as their new satellites were up and they were trying to claw back business offering unlimited minutes). The geek in me was particularly intrigued with the dome like high speed (like 600,000 baud instead of 2400 on Iridium or 9600 on Globalstar). One aspect which I didn’t see mentioned here is that should the worst happen, you can take the handset with you into the liferaft. Can’t do that with the fixed installations and probably would have trouble doing that with a Go!

Larry Caillouet

I received an email touting a new sat comm device–the Iridium Pilot. http://www.mailasail.com/Communication/Iridium-Pilot Is it really an advance in marine communications, or just something old repackaged?

Larry Caillouet

Much thanks!

Bill Wakefield

Hi John,

I was recently re-visiting the GO! on behalf of some cruising friends currently on a passage.

With regard to requiring a smart phone for voice communications, I read [but have not separately verified…] that the GO! is capable of acting as a speaker phone, but only when the SOS function is activated.

[Translated from French:]
“What is not documented in the user manual is that the unit has integrated microphone and loudspeaker which are activated with the button « SOS», or from the icon « SOS» in the smartphone application. If the smartphone is no longer operational, discharged or flooded, then the Iridium GO! allows alone to communicate vocally with rescue services !”

While this would reduce the dependence on smart phones for voice comms in an emergency, I suspect we have all had the experience where a speaker phone was not very useful in a noisy environment. But still better than nothing?…

This doesn’t change my preference for using my Iridium phone [9575- using the GO! SIM if necessary] for emergency voice comms, but I thought this was worth mentioning.

Cheers! Bill

Chuck B

Hi John, lots of excellent info here & great discussion. You mention “a proper deck-mounted automatic float-free EPIRB.” I can guess what that might look like but I’d love to hear details about your particular setup. 🙂

Thank you & best wishes,

Chuck

Caitlin Schwarzman

I appreciate your thoughtful look at the Go! We are going cruising from California in January (Mexico, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Alaska) and are trying to decide what satellite communications configuration of equipment to buy. At first, we were going to get the ​Iridium Extreme Handset + a Desktop Dock. But then the savings that comes with the unlimited data plans drew us toward the newest gizmo, the RedPort Glow. We are leaning towards buying the Glow along with a Garmin InReach for the Ditch Kit.

But I haven’t found any reviews of the Glow–by experts or by users. I’m concerned about glitches in new technology and difficulty of use (I am not a techie by any stretch of the imagination). I’d look forward to any information you or others might have on the Glow.

Many thanks–

Caitlin Schwarzman

Thanks for your reminder about the pioneer issue. I should have mentioned in my post that any satellite phone we buy will be in addition to the EBIRB & PLB that we already have — for us, the EPIRB is the cake, and the rest is the icing.

Caitlin Schwarzman

Ideally, I would like the option of two-way communication (at great distances than VHF would allow) from a life raft–if the sat phone we have is a Go! or Glow, we can’t take it in the event of an abandon ship. LMK if my thinking is flawed.

Garry P Crothers

John
Can you tell me about your installation of the GO.
It appears to me that it needs to have a clear view of the sky even when an external aerial is used. If it is installed down below and therefore shielded from the GPS constellation but with an external aerial for the Iridium constellation, can it still send/receive email? Obviously SOS functionality will be limited by the lack of position info.

Garry

Garry

Many thanks for that..

Jamie

John, hi, I have found the GO very difficult to use in the past with the drop out increasing dramatically, it may have been because I went up North to Iceland and the Barent sea. In the end I gave it up and use the Garmin Explorer SE.
I think it is worth noting that this could well be useful as an addition, it is very reliable, battery life is 10+ times that of the go. If you had to leave your boat you have text guarantee it informs you of text delivery, weather reports for where you are and any other location. You can see what’s happening upwind. The plan is cheap with very little cost to turn on and off when require.

William Newport

My wife and daughter are currently sailing from Bermuda to the Azores (arriving Monday) and have an iridium go with the latest firmware. We’ve been using a Garmin inreach also for texting which works brilliantly, simple/reliable/just works/3 day battery. The iridium go for them has been touch and go. If this is the service with the new satellites then I can’t imagine what it was like before.
They do not have an external antenna (someone elses boat) and they managed to get predict wind weather a couple of times but it’s touch and go. Voice calls are very frustrating, if you’re calling some one for help with this, expect to drown… We have an inmersat handset also, night and day with no external antenna.

Nick Gales

Hi John,
I’m setting up to head off from Hobart world cruising (particularly high latitude) on our 44ft aluminum yacht early next year. Ive read with interest your commentary on the Iridium Go! system and am wondering if things have improved on speed and ease of use since Iridium put its final 10 satellites into orbit in January this year?
Many thanks and all the best, Nick

Andre Langevin

By 2 years Iridium Go! will be obsolete… Can’t wait to have 128 Kbps everywhere and even faster (but i guess the cost will be proportionnal to speed and latency)

Test results from recent Low Earth Orbit internet satellite launches are starting to come in—and they’re impressive:
OneWeb, which launched six Airbus satellites in February, says tests show throughput speeds of over 400 megabits per second and latency of 40 milliseconds. Partnering with Intellian, developer of OneWeb user terminals, OneWeb streamed full high-definition video at 1080p resolution. The company tested for latency, speed, jitter, handover between satellites, and power control.

OneWeb said it achieved the following during its tests:

•Low latency, with an average of 32 milliseconds
•Seamless beam and satellite handovers
•Accurate antenna pointing and tracking
•Test speed rates of more than 400 Mbps

https://www.networkworld.com/article/3439140/space-internet-service-closer-to-becoming-reality.html

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-05/elon-musk-spacex-starlink-step-toward-internet-in-australia/11934158?pfmredir=sm§ion=business

https://www.keplercommunications.com/newsroom/press-releases/post/kepler-communications-to-launch-satellites-with-isl-and-gk-launch-services-on-a-soyuz-mid-next-year

The company’s LEO constellation will grow to become a space data relay system to serve other constellations with high-speed data backhaul capabilities. Today, Kepler is focused on building the install base for Global Data ServiceTM, its pole-to-pole wideband connectivity service for mobile and fixed applications. EverywhereIOTTM, Kepler’s affordable solution for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, will enter user trials in the coming months.

Andre Langevin

I agree… i want to purchase a GO! but i’m sure its lifespan will be less than 3 years. Today in 2020 the decision for GO! is evident and we’ll see in 2023 if the satellite internet business had delivered 🙂

At least competition will eventually bring the data price on the GO! further down…

Andre Langevin

Hey John I am currently shopping for a GO! Do you have a recommandation for a third party external antenna ? I guess even the small Sheakespeare would work ?

Andre Langevin

Hi John i just had a look at the Go! documentation and it is said that with an external antenna , there won’t be any GPS position displayed on the GO!. Is that correct ? I have plenty of GPS position display in the boat, but does the GO! need it ?

thanks

Andre Langevin

thanks John i’m shopping right now and at 999 US for a complete package including marine use (external antenna) its a real deal. I guess they are beginning to feel the Internet comming from the sky 🙂