“The Bike Just Stopped For No Apparent Reason. I Don’t Speak Russian and He Didn’t Speak English. Suddenly That $495 Sat Phone Looked Incredibly Cheap, Even at Twice the Price”
Your worst nightmare. You’re stuck in a place that’s a long way from anywhere and you need to speak to someone urgently.
You hope it never happens but… riding a motorcycle to countries of different cultures is an incredible experience. It teaches us a lot about ourselves, and is something that more and more people are putting on their ‘bucket list’. It’s a great ideal, but it needs to be tempered with the reality of long distance, international motorcycle touring. Things will and do go wrong. Fact of life.
Technological change is happening in every possible part of our lives. More functions, lower prices. Satellite communications is no exception. Motorcyclists who spend considerable time on the road less traveled by need dependable motorcycle communication systems. Price and portability was once a huge barrier, but these days devices like the Isatphone Pro and the Iridium 9555 have changed all that. Quite simply given how much prices have dropped it would be madness to venture out on a long distance motorcycle tour without your own satelite phone.
Sat Phone Technology
For those who are not familiar with sat phones, they are similar to cell phones. They are small portable devices people use for talking to each other without a landline. However, they are different from cell phones, in that they do not need cell towers, which usually must be located close by, or within about 3 to 5 miles. Cell phones work by sending calls to cell towers, which then route the calls to nearby telephone grids. Satellite phones, on the other hand, send signals to satellites located 25,000 miles away. Once a call hits the nearest satellite, it bounces back to a ground receiver, called a gateway. Pretty amazing stuff.
Since satellite systems are so technologically complex and the call is sent so far, sat phones have traditionally been larger and more expensive than cell phones. For the same reason, the service is also more expensive. However, motorcyclists often travel great distances and to remote areas where there is no cell service, so the satellite phone is a motorcycle communication system that’s almost a must have.
Comparison of Two Popular Satellite Phones
When shopping for sat phones, the size, weight, and price of these telephones vary considerably, so it pays to compare specifications. Two key players in the market are the IsatPhone Pro and the Iridium 9555. So let’s do a comparison of these two sat phones to help you decide which phone fits your needs.
Let’s start with the the IsatPhone Pro
- particularly known for its voice clarity
- smaller than most other brands, at 6.7 inches by 2.1 inches by 1.5 inches
- lighter than many, at 9.8 ounces, including the battery
- screen is easy to read, and it incorporates monitors for the volume, as well as battery and signal strength
- long-length battery includes 8 hours of talk time and 100 hours of standby time.
- helpful feature for motorcyclists is the weather-resistant keypad, which is illuminated for easy viewing in the dark
- built-in address book and a timer to help monitor costs, as well as a calendar, a calculator, and a keypad lock
- resistant to dust, water, and shock
- includes a built-in speakerphone, a mini-USB data port, and an antenna that is stowed internally
- purchase price of $495.00.
At under $500, the Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro is less expensive than most brands, and works on one of the leading worldwide satellite telephone services. The only exceptions to the service are Iran, North Korea, and Cuba. In Myanmar, China, and India, it is necessary to obtain a permit to own and operate a satellite telephone.
Activation of the Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro is free. There are two service plan options
- Basic Plan at $14.95 per month, and
- Basic 60 at $49.95 per month, which includes 60 minutes airtime.
To work out which is the best plan for you, take into consideration that outgoing calls to mobile phones and landlines anywhere in the world priced are priced at $.85 to $.95 per minute. For phone calls to other sat phones, prices vary, up to a maximum of $5.90 per minute.
The Iridium 9555 has
- battery that provides 4 hours talk time and 30 hours standby time
- weight is similar to the Isatphone Pro at 9.4 ounces
- size comes in at 5.6 inches by 2.2 inches by 1.18 inches.
- mini USB port, speakerphone, antenna
- resistant to shock, water, and dust
- includes a timer, locking keypad, address book, and screen meters for monitoring the battery, volume, and signal
- also offers call history
- purchase price of $1199.00.
Iridium Satellite Service has an activation fee of $50.00.
There are two plans to choose from.
- IRIDREGA plan is $41.05 per month, plus $10.00 per month for voice mail access. Incoming calls and email messages are free, and outgoing SMS messages cost $.75 per message. Outgoing calls and data are $1.50 per minute, or $.99 per minute to Iridium phones.
- IRIDPRF1A, which costs $44.95 per month and includes free voice mail access. Outgoing calls cost $1.39 per minute, or $.99 per minute to Iridium phones. Data service and tech support are free for both services.
Best Sat Phone for Traveling Motorcyclists
This is where you have to do your sums. Be realistic when it comes to usage. If you intend to run your business while out on the road (God knows why, but I’ve seen it happen) then your needs will be different to the odd call. When comparing satellite phones and services, the Isatphone Pro is less than half the price of the Iridium 9555. The satellite phone service is also cheaper with the IsatPhone Pro. The size and weight are similar, as are the features. So it comes down to expected usage.
One helpful item motorcyclists will appreciate in the Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro, in addition to its cost, compact size, and light weight, is the keypad. The large, easy to read numbers make it much easier for motorcyclists to place sat phone calls without removing their gloves.
For my money, I’d go with the IsatPhone Pro which is an invaluable asset on any motorcycle tour because you have global access to dependable, cost-effective telephone service in a lightweight phone, with long talk and standby times.
One other really great feature is the folks at home can plot your progress and location on Google Map displays by virtue of the GPS feature on the phones. You can’t hide anywhere these days, can you? The beauty of this feature is that you do not need to grapple with blogging.
Don’t want to buy a sat phone? Then why not look into hiring one.
CLICK HERE for more information on both buying and hiring sat phones – either to IsatPhone Pro or the Iridium 9555.
If you thought this IsatPhone Pro and Iridium 9555 comparison helped you in some way, please give us the thumbs up on your favorite social media spot.