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Old 06-06-2008, 10:24 AM   #1
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Satellite phones

Does anyone have experience renting a satellite phone? I would be thankful for any feedback whatsoever on this subject, or on the phones. Is one better than the other? I'm an artist, and will be doing a lot of painting in the boonies this summer in my new 4wd SMB.....mostly in and around the Utah mountains here, and elsewhere. I do not own a cell phone (yet), and am aware that they don't work in a lot of places. I plan to stay at least a week at a time in some areas. We are equipped to do this, (solar panel, etc.) and have had 25+ years experience with VW campers and boondocking. However, my family is concerned about being able to be connected in some way, especially in the event of an emergency situation. We are in our late 70's, so we agree that we should be able to have some kind of outside contact. I've read about SPOT, but this limits us to not having short conversations with family, (although that is not a necessity). We would only need to rent approx. 4-5 months out of the year. We would only need western coverage.....not world-wide. Maybe another way to go would be to buy the phone and buy limited minutes. I know it's expensive, but this compares to a lot of goodies I've put into my SMB! Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated!


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Old 06-06-2008, 02:17 PM   #2
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Sat phones are great, but service quality seems to vary significantly. If you search you will find some threads on this topic.

Do not use Globalstar if you intend to actually use the phone for communication purposes. I was a Globalstar customer for 3+ years and watched their service quality deteriorate to the point where the phone literally did not work. Their sat network has deteriorated so badly that the phone could not get/hold a signal. This darn near created a crisis situation for me during a February 08 blizzard when camping outside of Zion NP in Utah. Never again, and yes I am still POd.

But when the service works, they are a real pleasure to have around and a great comfort. All the research I've done lately suggests that Iridium is the most reliable service provider. I will be getting an Iridium phone and switching to their service in the next few weeks. Like you, I like the security of having a phone when I'm in the boondocks. FWIW, the ownership cost is about $1500 plus service plans, which can be minimal if you pay by the minute for emergency only use. That may be a better deal than renting if you will be using the phone for a long trip or trips.

Good luck.

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Old 06-06-2008, 03:33 PM   #3
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I've seen phones for rent from Craigslist.

It could be sketchy, but some people rent their phones that they don't use and you just pay for the minutes and small service fee. I accidentally read a posting on craigslist in San Diego here:

and considered renting it for some of those out of the way trips. Or Jage can buy one for the forum and then rent it out.

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Old 06-06-2008, 10:12 PM   #4
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Try Skycall Communications. They're in Salt Lake, and will rent you a phone at a good rate. I rented from them a few years ago, and was quite satisfied. (

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Old 06-07-2008, 09:08 AM   #5
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Check the cost of minutes for the rental sat phone. If you are going to use it only for emergencies, that won't be a problem. But you may not want to use it for longer conversations if the cost of minutes in high. You'll be surprised where you can get cell phone coverage and therefore might want to pick up a disposable phone or bite the bullet and purchase a cell phone and rent a sat phone.
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Old 06-08-2008, 10:27 AM   #6
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Thanks to you R, Joe, John, and Jack for your suggestions. I'll go to Skycall Communications this week and hopefully find out everything I need to know before making a decision. Apparently, Iridium is the way to go. I read that Globalstar lost a couple of their satellites, so that's out. I've been putting off getting a cell phone for a long time, but realize what a Godsend they can be when in car trouble,( and able to get a connection). I'll be making some decisions soon!

Thanks again to all,

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Old 06-08-2008, 10:59 PM   #7
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I agree with the Globalstar comments, but I have one. They were having a special late last year and I was able to purchase the phone for less then $200 and I have a plan that costs me $10/month with unlimited calls in the U.S. I've used it a couple of dozen times in the States and in Mexico and had the calls dropped twice. But, was able to call right back and got through. Sometimes there is no service due to their satellite problems, but I've never had to wait more then 15 or 20 minutes to get out. I got it for emergencies when in the boonies and figure I can wait a few minutes in most cases. Just hope it's not a life threatening situation....
Anyway to date, it does what I need at a super cheap price.
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Old 06-09-2008, 08:03 AM   #8
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Scatter, thanks for your feed-back. Wow, the price sounds excellent! I'll inquire about that at Skycall also. Maybe a cell phone and that would work out....but there's always some worry about a life threatening situation, as you mentioned. Hmmmmm

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Old 06-09-2008, 08:19 AM   #9
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Have you considered SPOT and a regular cell phone?
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Old 06-09-2008, 10:35 PM   #10
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I have a SPOT and have used it pretty extensively. I don't think it is a great substitute for a sat phone. The coverage isn't been perfect for emergency issues and the communication messages are pretty limited. Likewise, the cell phone coverage can get pretty limited in rural or off road locals.

I think SPOT is perfect for broadcasting that you are doing ok but it gets more limited if you have any nuance that you want to send urgently.

My 2 cents.


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