There 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.
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?
That would depend on your email volume. But generally for a single passage of that length it would probably come about the same. More in the next post.
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.
Hum, that’s not the way I read it. What they say is:
Yes, they are saying Go! will work with Next satellites (as will all Iridium Phones as I understand it) but there is no commitment to higher speed.
And yes, I think a lot of people may be very upset, just like so many where when they bought the GO! thinking that they were going to get online.
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… Read more »
Good overview, thanks.
I have to say that I find it rather sad that people need to remain tethered to their phones to be happy at sea.
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…)
Not at all, but I stand by the “just” since it’s a heck of a deal for what you are getting. Also, if you installed a full SSB/ PACTOR system from scratch you spent way more than a GO! and several years of unlimited data. And I would argue that you got way less functionality for more money.
In addition, not only is your comparison to Mick and Bee’s annual budget not, in my opinion, relevant to this post, it also misses they point that most users will not need to pay for unlimited data on an annual basis. Rather they will only need it when making an ocean passage. With this usage pattern the additional capital costs for a really good SSB/PACTOR installation will pay for at least 5-10 years of GO! unlimited data!
As I always say, if you want SSB as a hobby, fine, but a little basic arithmetic clearly shows that Irdium is in almost every case way more cost effective and is also easier to install and operate.
See this chapter for the analysis: https://www.morganscloud.com/2014/07/04/ssb-or-iridium/
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
For those trying to make the decision between SSB and Iridium, we have a in-depth analysis here that will help: https://www.morganscloud.com/2014/07/04/ssb-or-iridium/
Please DO NOT reopen this discussion here. We have already done that debate to death on the above linked chapter. If you have something to ADD to that, please do it on that post.
This post is about Irdium GO.
And is in response to several members that specifically asked me to write it. It was both difficult to write and time-consuming—I have over 30 hours in this and part II (lots or research). Those who use it as a springboard to advance a different and already well covered agenda should be aware that they may end up with an extremely cranky editor/author on their hands, particularly since I’m in the middle of doing our taxes!
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
I really don’t see how you read this article as anything else than about GO!. To me the title “Iridium GO! Review” should have made things clear.
All I said was this is not the place to duplicate stuff that has been said many times before. And I stick by that. I simply don’t have the time or mind share to duplicate debate that has already been done to death before. I’m already working far harder at this than I’m comfortable with—over 60 hours a week at the moment as I finish many behind the scenes projects and keep up with writing and comments.
Not only that, time so wasted makes it less likely that I will be able to properly address the needs of members who ask for help, rather than beat an old drum.
The bottom line is that when a comment is made that is logically flawed in my extremely well researched and long considered opinion, I must take the time to once more point out those flaws, so that those new to the issue are not misled. (I put a huge amount of time into logically comparing the costs of all of the options, both capital and ongoing.) I take that responsibility very seriously.
If a new member had brought up this old chestnut I would not be irritated and simply would have pointed them at the appropriate post, but you and Bill know that we have already covered this area to death, so I’m frankly more than a little irritated and further, I think I’m justified.
Now, back to my taxes.
I will check in regularly to help those who may have questions on what I wrote and listen to those who may add value (like the first three comments) to what I wrote.
Let me close by reminding everyone that this is not a forum and that it might be a good time to read or re-read our comment guidelines.
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.
I think that’s a really smart way to come at it.
One thing, I hope you are right that subscription cost will stay the same or come down, however, I fear that since Iridium really does not have any price competition at faster speeds, that costs for said faster speeds may actually go up to more closely match those of Inmarsat broadband, much more expensive.
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.
Great news that UUPlus will support GO!. Thank you. I will write to Jeremy to get his latest on this and include it in Part II.
Also, interesting on the relative speed issue.
We need connectivity for various reasons. Not cheap up front. Inmarsat fleet broadband. Any views. Or discussion welcome. I am not super tech savvy.
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So, what’s your feeling about the Delorme SE Explorer? It runs on the Iridium Satellite network?
I think those kinds of devices have value for campers, hikers, etc, but for a voyaging/cruising boat I just can’t see their value:
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,
Hi Geir ove,
I guess we will have to agree to disagree on that one. Two reasons I’m not a fan of that solution:
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.
Hi Geir ove,
Hum, I still can’t see that getting a few, or even many, SMS messages is anywhere near as good as getting a regular graphic representation of the weather systems around you, as well as the strong wind belt. I guess the SMS option might work for a easy tradewind passage, but in the mid latitudes and above, I want to really understand what’s going on. Here’s an example of that process that would be impossible with SMS:https://www.morganscloud.com/2011/11/17/weather-system-gribs/
In summary, in weather and passage planning a picture really is worth a 1000 words.
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®ion=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
Great article, I read and really enjoyed it last evening. Reminds me of We The Navigators, a fascinating read on the same subject.
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.
Some great tips, thank you, although I still don’t feel that the GO! is a viable substitute for a proper float-free EPIRB.
I too tried PredictWind, but in the end found that the free Saildocs data (GFS) was just as good, or maybe a bit better, when offshore. More here:https://www.morganscloud.com/2016/02/05/five-tips-for-choosing-weather-information-to-believe-and-pay-for/
I also found the PredictWind GRIB viewer both buggy and a bit unfinished when compared to Viewfax.
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 🙂
I totally hear you on the benefits of sticking with the devil you know. After all, that way we get to do more cruising and less messing with technology.
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.
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)
Thanks. i will test them when we sail of this year.
Thanks for the links. The Iridium GO! also provides spot forecasts. But that’s my whole point. I know that many cruisers are only looking at the weather in their immediate vicinity, but in my opinion, and as I have written repeatedly, thinking about weather that way is fundamentally un-seamanlike. Sure, it may work fine for a while and maybe for one or two passages, but sooner or later not being aware of systems outside of the ones immediate area will end badly. (Hurricanes are just one example.) I feel a post coming on.
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.
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.
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.
It was Atlantic Radio Telephone that I talked to too, except by telephone, and I got about the same answer. However, what I concluded was a little different, as you can see in the post above. Bottom line, over the years in the high tech business I learned the hard way that when technology companies use guarded and ambiguous language when discussing future features, and particularly when they refuse to discuss price, disappointment is more likely than not.
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.
Yes, I think we will definitely get some speed increase. My guess is that while Iridium will claim 3G speeds by cranking in a huge allowance for data compression (as they do now), the actual true usable top speed will be a lot slower than 3G. I’m also going to guess that pricing will be on tiered scale and that the fastest speeds will be out of reach for most of us. We shall see.
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!
Yes, I believe that Globalstar can be a very good option if your operating area is within their footprint. I have not covered that option simply because it’s not global—kind of like the World Series—and I have never used a Globalstar phone.
Good point on the Liferaft potential of a handset. I did mention that in my comparison of SSB and GO!, and in my guide to using Iridium, but did not make the specific comparison to the GO!, as you did.
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?
I’m pretty sure I’m right in saying that all they are doing is multiplexing several Iridium 2400 b/sec chanels and then adding a huge allowance for data compression to get the advertised speeds.
I say this because as far as I know Iridium have not yet launched the Iridium NEXT satellites and therefore any Iridium service is intrinsically limited to the very slow speed of the old satellites.
If I’m right about that, this would be a really bad time to drop big bucks on this unit, particularly since there is no indication that it will be able to use the higher speeds of the new satellites.
Also calling Pilot new is more than a bit of stretch since it was released in 2012! And that makes me almost certain that it’s old tech that will get obsoleted by the next generation of satellites.
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.
That’s interesting, although, I agree with you, a hand set is still a better bet. Particularly since I would never, ever want to rely on a safety feature that is neither documented or testable.
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,
Our’s is just a standard category 1 float free ERIPB mounted on the radar stand aft.
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.
As a general rule I only opine on gear that I have actually used in the realworld for an extensive period of time since that is the only way I can know for sure that there is not some terrible gotcha that will make the piece of gear in question either unusable, or a lot less functional than it should be. (These gotchas are surprisingly common with marine electronic gear, for example when the GO! originally came out it was so buggy, and the software available so bad, that it was basically unusable.)
Occasionally I break this rule when I have really solid information from people I trust who have used the piece of gear extensively in the realworld (not general crowd sourced information) but this is not the case with the Glow.
Given that, and the fact that you can’t find any good information on the Glow I would recommend a GO! or a handset as detailed in this series of posts.
Bottom line, being a pioneer is not generally a good idea. More on that here: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/10/25/want-to-get-out-cruising-dont-be-a-pioneer/
Also, I’m not a fan of devices like inReach either. I need to write a post on why, but the short version is that if you have a sat phone or GO! they don’t add anything, and I think they are a poor choice for emergency use. Much better to have a proper EPIRB and if you need a small alternative for the ditch kit and hiking go with a proper 406 MHz personal emergency locator beacon.
The point being that in an emergency I want the message to go directly to the official government rescue coordination centre that have control of the assets (ships and planes) that will come and get me, not some private company.
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.
That makes sense. One question for you: if you will have a sat phone as well as proper 406Mhz EPIRB and PLB, why would you consider adding an Garmin In Reach?
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.
That’s interesting, but, at least to me, it would not be a likely enough scenario with compelling enough benefits to justify the added expense and complication of yet another device.
These days, if you do end up in the liferaft and activate the EPIRB there will almost certainly be a plane or ship within VHF range in a matter of a few hours.
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.
I have a post coming on just this, but the short answer is that the sat phone functionality works fine without a view of the sky. All that is lost is the emergency function, which I have reservations about anyway.
Many thanks for that..
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.
That’s strange, mine works great. Do you have an external antenna? If not, that’s the problem. If so, you probably have a defective unit (GO! or antenna) or a bad cable.
And the fact that you were up north is not the problem. Iridium uses polar orbit satellites, so it gets more reliable as we go north, not less. (I have used it with great success up to 81 North.)
Also, InReach Explorer is not really a substitute for a GO! since, as far as I know, it’s just a texting device with some limited proprietary weather reception capability.
The GO!, on the other hand can be had with unlimited data and can be used for full on download of weather data as well as email etc: https://www.morganscloud.com/2017/09/12/strategic-weather-analysis-hardware-and-software/
Understand that I’m not saying the inReach is a bad unit, just that it’s not a substitute for a GO!
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.
It’s pretty standard advice that if you want a GO! to work reliably, particularly with large data files, an external antenna is the only way to go.
But once you add that antenna, the GO!, and all Iridium devices are pretty reliable for voice and data. Or at least that has been my experience over since 2001 when I got my first Irdium hand set.
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
No, as far as I know, nothing has yet changed with Iridium Go! As far as I can see it will take new hardware to take advantage of the Iridium Next capabilities. I just took a look at the Iridium site and the hardware on offer is still the same as has been available for at least 5 years.
Your question got me interested in what Iridium was doing, so I have done some research and will post on that in the near future.
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
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.
I hope you are right. That said, one thing I have learned in some 40 years in tech is there is a huge gap between testing technology successfully and a viable product that normal people can use. The second thing is never underestimate the tech businesses’ ability to over promise and under deliver—worse than boat yards!
And finally, over the 18 years I have used Iridium hardly one has passed without a promise that Iridium will be obsolete soon.
Summary I will not even think about retiring my GO! and handset until I’m holding a better working product in my hand.
And for others I recommend buying what you need now and ignoring all the hype about what might happen because most of it won’t, or at least not on time.
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…
If I was going to take a wild guess, that would be that we will all still be using Iridium in it’s present form for 3-5 more years, but then there will be some kind of a breakthrough.
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 ?
I recommend getting the proper Iridium antenna and cable pre made up. Antena or cable problems are too horrible to screw with.
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 ?
The only two things the GO! uses GPS for is its emergency button and sending your position to a tracking page. Both pretty useless functions. On the other hand, without the external antenna the GO! is unreliable for its core communication function.
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 🙂