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satellite phones / BGAN

I will be travelling to Sudan shortly and am looking for good advice about the type of satellite phone or BGAN I’ll need. Basically I want to be able to stay in touch with my editors and family by phone, and hook up my laptop (a MacBook Pro) to the Internet for basic emailing. I may also send some digital photos although I write for a weekly, and the photos can likely wait until I return to Canada if necessary. I’m getting a lot of conflicting advice from sat phone distributors and would appreciate information from people who have actually used the gear. Please contact me directly at: michael_petrou@hotmail.com

Thank you.

by Michael Petrou at 2006-10-12 21:45:20 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Ottawa , Canada | Bookmark | | Report spam→

the idea of this place is to share information so that others can benefit from it too… so no personal e-mail, sorry. but here goes:
if you just need e-mail, you don’t need the broadband access of the BGan, if you buy a simple Nokia or Thuraya Sat phone (or Inmarsat is cheaper if you have electricity) with a USB cable it’s cheaper and more than enough for e-mails and calls.
the best thing about Thuraya is that you can buy prepaid cards so you don’t need a bank account.
besides, a BGan is not a phone, to make calls you need to go through a special software and need a headgear.

by [former member] | 12 Oct 2006 22:10 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
Thanks Guilad. Will a Thuraya suffice to send digitgial photos if necessary?

by Michael Petrou | 13 Oct 2006 14:10 | Ottawa, Canada | | Report spam→
Yeah, a thuraya can send photos but it’ll take forever. If your editors can wait, it might be better to send from a hotel.

by Bill Putnam | 13 Oct 2006 15:10 | Portland, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
Has anyone checked out the Thran & Thrane 500, I understand it works from anywhere in the world, does data and voice. Pretty pricey though, and maybe a little bigger than an rBgan. http://www.landseasystems.com – Just search for the Explorer 500

by Micah Walter | 13 Oct 2006 15:10 | Portsmouth, Dominica | | Report spam→
you guys should check out the new NERA…..it’s the size of a small hard cover book, comes with a bluetooth VoIP phone, and is less than the Thrane last time i checked.

by [former member] | 14 Oct 2006 01:10 | Port Au Prince, Haiti | | Report spam→
Do you have a link for the NERA?


by Bill Putnam | 14 Oct 2006 03:10 | Portland, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
This might help as far as specs: http://satcom.neraworld.com/Nera_Common/templates/Page____5175.aspx

But for prices, you’d have to go to the distributors.

by Guergana | 14 Oct 2006 13:10 | Tampa, United States | | Report spam→
a Thuraya is enough to send photos but it’s very slow, however very reliable so if you have the money and time, it’ll do the job eventually. from what you said, that’s not the aim so better wait for the hotel or back home if you can.
the good thing about the Thuraya is it’s size, weight and price, and the possibility to have pre-paid cards. but it’s just a sat-phone
i used to use a double set-up Thrane&Thrane’s, works well but very heavy, very big and very expensive.
for photos you still can’t beat Inmarsat, i’ve never tried Nera but it looks ok, however if it’s speed and rugged you’re after then the fastest and only one to support WLAN is the Hughes HNS9201.
the BGAN Inmarsat website can help you choose:

by [former member] | 14 Oct 2006 13:10 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
Hey michael — unless you’re really in the middle of nowhere, and absolutely, positively have to file to deadline — dont’ bother with satellites at all.

Most cities and towns have some kind of internet cafe, and cell phone service. download your files to tumbdrive and use it at computers in the cafe or hotel business centre. get an unlocked world gsm — if you plan to phone a lot in country, buy a local sim card and pay as you go scratch cards to avoid int’l roaming fees). a hotel concierge should help you out.

Keep in mind NGOs, UN and militaries almost always have some internet and phone access in the field, and if you’re really really nice you can mooch off it.

I’d only purchase sat gear if you plan to use the equipment in the future and want to made the tax-deductible, depreciating, capitol investment,

I’d suggest a thuraya for voice (the newer cell phone type models look a bit flimsy to me ) and a bgan for data. While you can use sykpe or other voip software with the bgan, it is a bandwidth hog, and you’re paying by the Mb. Phones, IMHO, still make more sense for voice. Both can be filled with pay as you go scratch cards.

A warning: RBGAN service is being phased out next year. so a lot of places are selling the equipment cut rate. don’t fall for it. buy a Bgan.

also keep in mind that all the bells and whistles like bluetooth on the bgan, high data rates, etc — drain the battery faster. sometimes, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere, simple is better. Get a car lighter adapter. buy an extra laptop battery. make sure you pass your power through a surge protector, etc.

I’m in Toronto, and have dealt with satellite outfitters — shipping up north has been easy with them , and an email will get you scratch refilles from the field, if you can;t buy it in country.. They also rent, though it is pricy.


by Tom Popyk | 14 Oct 2006 18:10 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
agreed with most of what ya’ll say…
two things… the nera is bad ass….small…fast as hell…light….. only thing is.. breaks easy.. like a kitten in a blender… seriously.. i fried one last summer with no explanation….no noticable damage..no memory of anything that could have fried it.. just..one day…. in fact.. the only day i ever REALLY needed it… nope..nothing..dead….

anyway sudan.. if your heading west.. you have no worries for internet access… everyone will hook you up.. this will be true all the way into chad… now.. if your planning on going off the beaten path… well.. you would not want to go through sudan to do that in the first place…. so… my guess… dont bother with satelite….ngo’s etc..as others have said…

anywho.. those who have used thuraya data transfer… how does this work?? do you have a link i can see?? ive never seen anyone using this……….

by e.t.r. | 14 Oct 2006 20:10 | portland, oremagon, United States | | Report spam→

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Michael Petrou, Michael Petrou
Ottawa , Canada
Bill Putnam, Producer. Bill Putnam
Washington, D.C. , United States
Micah Walter, Artist Micah Walter
Brooklyn, Ny , United States
Guergana, Guergana
New York , United States
Tom Popyk, Journalist/Videographer Tom Popyk
New Delhi , India
e.t.r., artist e.t.r.
San Francisco, California , United States


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