Product Review: New IsatPhone Pro 2

The new IsatPhone Pro 2 was recently released by Inmarsat, and the second generation handheld phone includes some new and very compelling features and improvements:

IsatPhone Pro 2

IsatPhone Pro 2

1. Speed. In terms of the time it takes to register the phone with the network, The IsatPhone Pro 2 is night and day compared to the Generation 1 IsatPhone. The phone registers to the network within a couple of seconds, practically instantly, compared to the 1-2 minutes or more it would take with the Gen. 1.

2. New antenna design. What is important about this feature is that the new antenna design allows it to be exposed while stowed, so this phone will receive inbound notifications without having the antenna deployed. The way this works is if there is an inbound SMS or phone call, the phone alerts you that there is an inbound call or message and gives you a 10 second period of time to deploy the antenna and receive the call or message. You can also reject this notification in which case a call would go through to voice mail and a message would stay on the network server until the next time you connect. The phone includes a specially designed holster that allows this function to work with the phone stowed in the holster.

3. Built in tracking. The Gen. 2 phone now has automated tracking built into it, and it is fairly easy to set up. It also has a switch built in that allows you to turn tracking on and off. The previous generation phone was limited to manual GPS position reporting.

4. Built in SOS/Emergency Alert button. The Emergency Alert button is on the top side of the phone underneath a weatherproof cap. You are able to set up emergency contacts that can receive an email or SMS message with your GPS position, and it can simultaneously place a phone call with speakerphone automatically enabled as well.

5. Weatherproofing. The IsatPhone Pro 2 has a much higher grade weather resistant design and has been tested to IP65 standards.

6. Battery life. The IsatPhone Pro 1 already had the largest battery capacity in the market, and the Gen. 2 has exceeded it with a battery that provides 160 hours of standby time and 8 hours of talk time.

7. Upgraded screen. The high visibility, scratch-proof, transflective display makes it easy to view whether in the dark or in bright sunlight.

8. Form factor. This phone version is a bit thinner than the previous design at 29mm (Gen. 1 is 39mm). It is, however, wider at 75mm (compared to 54mm) as a result of the antenna being off to the side which is what allows the incoming alert feature. One thing they couldn’t do with this model is cut out weight, and in fact the Gen. 2 phone weighs in at 318 grams compared to the Gen. 1’s 279 grams.

9. Finish. The sleek black finish is definitely an improvement over the previous “Inmarsat royal blue” and the designers gave it a textured finish as well as some handy rubberized grips on the side walls.

Overall, for the amount of additional features, increased functionality, and improved durability, the IsatPhone Pro 2 is well worth the additional cost or simply as an upgrade from the IsatPhone Pro 1.

 You can see more details on the IsatPhone Pro 2 here.

Firmware Updates

From time to time satellite phone manufacture’s & carriers come out with updates to their devices. These updates are called firmware updates since they change the devices core functioning software. The updates can do anything from fix bugs found in the previous firmware release(s) to adding new features & tools. Running an outdated firmware means you’re not only missing out on these updates, but can also produce incompatibilities with value-add equipment like docking stations.

As of April 1, 2014 the following are the current firmware versions for these common satellite products:

  • Thrane & Thrane FleetBroadband –           v1.19
  • Skipper FleetBroadband 150 –                    v1.7
  • Hughes BGAN 9202 –                                 v5.8.1.1
  • Hughes BGAN 9201 –                                 v3.8.1.1
  • Sabre 1 BGAN –                                         v14.4.6
  • Safari –                                                       v1.2.0
  • Thrane Explorer 700 –                               v3.08
  • Iridium Pilot –                                             AO12003
  • Iridium 9575 –                                            HL11013
  • Iridium 9555 –                                            HT11001
  • Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro –                         v5.3.0

Listed below are the websites where the latest firmware is available. Always consult your owners manual for the steps to take to check the firmware of your satellite device, as well as the procedure on how to update it. Of course, always feel free to contact OCENS if you need any assistance.

INMARSAT

FleetBroadband

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/fleetbroadband-firmware

BGAN

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/bgan-firmware

ISatPhonePro

http://isatphonelive.com/support

 

BEAM Communications (Inmarsat/Iridium SatPhone Docking Stations)

http://www.beamcommunications.com/common-resources

NOTE- BEAM firmware is located on the support page for each individual BEAM product associated with this link.

 

IRIDIUM

Iridium firmware must be downloaded from the carrier providing airtime. Please contact OCENS for assistance in getting the latest firmware for your phone.

The New IsatPhone Pro 2 from Inmarsat Just Released

Inmarsat just released its 2nd Generation handheld satellite phone, the IsatPhone Pro 2, which is now available from OCENS.

In a nutshell, it does everything the IsatPhone Pro Gen. 1 does, along with the following additional features and improvements:

  • SOS (assistance) button: sends GPS coordinates and message to emergency contacts
  • Automated GPS position reporting (tracking) [Gen. 1 can only report manually]
  • Receives calls with the antenna stowed [Gen. 1 requires the antenna to be deployed]
  • Extended battery capacity: 160 hrs. of standby time [Gen. 1 has about 100 hrs.]
  • Improved weatherproofing: IP65 [Gen. 1: IP54]

It also has a sleek black finish, so unless you are big fan of the Inmarsat royal blue, this is also a design improvement.

See complete details on the phone here: http://www.ocens.com/IsatPhone-Pro-2-P544C61.aspx

IsatPhone Pro 2

IsatPhone Pro 2

 

New divider system adds more stability, better configurability for Pelican case kits.

We recently implemented a new divider system from TrekPak into our communications and rental kits that use a Pelican case. We are very happy with the new system because it greatly improves the quality and functionality of our kits and thus adds value for the end user. This system offers a significant advantage over the stock foam because it is a lot more rigid and durable, the pin system is more configurable, and overall it frees up more space within the case. Below is a picture of our standard BGAN rental kit which incorporates a Pelican 1450 case and Hughes 9202 BGAN terminal.

1450_cutout_2

If you have any questions about this new system, or are interested in a customized case or divider system for your satellite communications equipment, please contact OCENS here.

For more information on Trek Pak, please visit their website here.

 

 

Mandatory Isatphone Pro firmware update

All IsatPhone Pro users must ensure that they update their firmware to version v 5.3.0 before network enhancements are carried out in early 2014.

Features introduced in firmware v 5.3.0 are vitally important for continued use of the IsatPhone Pro service, and users who have not upgraded to the new firmware by the time network enhancements take place, will not be able to register on the network to make or receive calls.

The network enhancements are scheduled to take place on the following dates:

13th January – I-4 Alphasat (EMEA)
27th January – I-4 F3 (Asia-Pacific)
10th February – I-4 F1 (Americas)

No service outages are expected during the network changes.

Firmware version v 5.3.0 is available for download from the Support section of the Inmarsat website:

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/isatphone-pro-support/

To check what version your Ph has please do the following: Menu +> Settings +> About +> Firmware needs to be 5.3.0

 

 

Emergency with a good ending…

There is more to satellite phone communications than just having the satellite phone. We at OCENS strive to provide not only the best equipment for the application, but the follow up service that customers need to actually make it all work and keep it going. Thank you to Dave for letting us know how this event turned out and we are very thankful that you all made it back ok.

“Thank you very much for your assistance when my wife called you during a medical emergency at our hunting camp. She said you were most helpful in obtaining more minutes for our sat phone.

Between the air force C130 and a Blackhawk helicopter which we wouldn’t have been able to get without the sat phone we saved the live of a fellow hunter who was having severe breathing and heart problems.

It is amazing how fast the minutes of use add up when you are trying to coordinate between state troopers, air force personnel, medical people and giving weather reports to flight crews and everything else. The event started at 9:30pm on 9/17/13 and took two different rescue attempts by four different crews because of severe weather (snow, wind, rain, and darkness). It took thirteen hours to finally get to us and airlift him out. The Blackhawk landed and picked him up, flew him to Gakona where he was transferred to a C130 which flew him to Anchorage to Providence hospital. He spent five days in the hospital and was released on the sixth day. Thought you might like to know the results of your help. The sat phone worked great.

Again thank you so much for your help.”

Gratefully,
Dave Carroll and Ben Cabo Alaska hunting crew

Satellite Tracking Platforms

An attribute inherent in most satellite communications devices is the ability to use them for asset/personnel tracking. I will discuss the various satellite communications platforms and how to implement tracking with each one.

First is a brief summary on how tracking works. The device used for tracking needs to be able to perform two basic functions: 1) acquire a GPS position and 2) send the position report to the internet. Of course, if the position report is being sent, it also needs to be received on the other end. The internet makes this possible and most tracking platforms are web-based, including our own OTrak portal. The portal will receive the report, and plot each position report on a map, and can also perform a myriad of other functions such as geofencing, alerts, speed changes, altitude, heading, etc.

There are many GSM devices that can be used for tracking, but satellite tracking devices are used when GSM is not available or when an asset moves in and out of GSM coverage in order to provide consistent and contiguous reporting. Satellite devices have coverage virtually anywhere since all they need is a line of sight to the sky.

Within satellite platforms there are many different options, but we can break the whole group up into two broad categories: 1) Tracking as an “add-on feature” and 2) Dedicated tracking devices.

Tracking as an “add-on feature”

Several of the handheld satellite phones and most of the larger satellite terminals have built in tracking capabilities.

Handheld Satellite Phones

The Iridium 9575 Extreme is the only handheld satellite phone that can provide stand-alone automated position reporting. It has a built in GPS engine and uses the Iridium SBD (Short Burst Data) service to send position reports. It can also send reports manually via SMS. The Iridium 9555 is capable of sending position reports, but only in conjunction with a docking station that has a built-in GPS engine, such as the Beam 9555SD-G.

The IsatPhone Pro from Inmarsat, on the other hand, can send manual GPS position reports via SMS as a standalone operation and can perform automated reporting when used with a GPS enabled docking station, such as the Beam IsatDock Drive.

Fleet Broadband

Any of the Thrane&Thrane Fleet Broadband terminals can send automated position reports with the latest firmware version. You simply have to go into the tracking menu  in the User Interface (UI) and configure your terminal to report to the tracking portal and then register your terminal’s IMEI in the portal.

BGAN

Similar to Fleet Broadband, any of the Thrane&Thrane BGAN terminals can provide position reporting simply by setting it up in the UI. The Wideye Safari vehicular terminal can also provide reporting directly via the terminal.

Optimizer 102

If you are using or plan on using the Optimizer 102, it has position reporting capabilities already built in that work with virtually any of the terminals that are capable of generating GPS information. To set it up, it is simply a matter of checking the box for the type of terminal you are using in the Optimizer’s configuration settings and then registering the IMEI number of your terminal in your tracking portal.

Dedicated Tracking Devices

Iridium SBD

Iridium can provide dedicated tracking via its SBD service. Terminals are available from both ASE and Beam. The terminal requires an antenna, of which a large variety exist, and an antenna cable which connects the antenna to the terminal. The antenna needs to be installed so that it will have visibility to the sky and the terminal requires a DC power source.

Isat Data Pro

Inmarsat’s small packet data platform, the IsatData Pro, is also frequently used as a dedicated tracking device. The IsatData Pro is a one-piece terminal with a built in omnidirectional antenna and is available in three configurations: Marine, Vehicular, and Dual-Mode. The Marine terminal is slightly taller and provides lower look angles to account for pitch and roll, whereas the vehicular version has a lower profile antenna. The dual-mode terminal incorporates least-cost-routing with GSM as the primary service and satellite as the failover. The IsatData Pro is highly configurable so can be set up to receive and transmit a large variety of data input.

For whatever your tracking needs are, there is most certainly a solution to fit them. If you already have a satellite device and are not using it for tracking, then there is more than likely a way to utilize it as a tracking device in addition to any of the other functions it performs.

Please contact OCENS for more information and to get help with setting up your tracking services.

 

 

Critical firmware update for Fleet Broadband SAILOR and Thrane BGAN Terminals

OCENS has been informed by Inmarsat that the latest firmware version 1.16 will be feature critical for all Thrane & Thrane FB SAILOR 150, 250, 500 and BGAN units by 1st June 2013.

Terminals not upgraded to this firmware version will not be able to receive calls on the IP handset. Only the terminals listed above using the Thrane & Thrane/Cobham IP handset will be affected. Terminals with a standard two wire handset will continue to work as normal.

Other features included in this release:

•    Support for Fax and 3.1kHz Audio on SAILOR 150
•    Restoration of an open PDP context on a UT power cycle
•    Support to ThraneLINK, a sophisticated communication protocol that connects the SAILOR products in a network

To Upgrade your firmware, follow the steps below:

1.     Download from the link below the latest Thrane and Thrane firmware to a zip disk:

http://www.inmarsat.com/Support/detailsupport/FleetBroadband/Firmware/index.htm

FILE SIZE is approximately 7 MB. DO NOT download over your satellite connection. Download over wifi or other connection to an external zip disk and carry to the boat.

2.     Unzip and extract the contents of the downloaded file to a known location on the computer attached to your Sailor or BGAN terminal;
3.     Launch your web browser and load the Dashboard by typing into the address bar:

http:// 192.168.0.1

4.     Click on ‘Settings’ on the left side of the Dashboard
5.     Click on the ‘Upload’ menu and in the section ‘Upload Software to Terminal’, click on ‘Browse’ button
6.     Point your cursor to the location on your computer to which you extracted the file in Step 2 above
7.     Highlight ‘bganx_bdu.ao_1_16-0012-bganx_bdu.dl’  and select (Open)
8.     This returns you to the Dashboard. Click the ‘Upload’ button to the right of the Browse button.
9.     The system will upload the new firmware and restart your equipment. IF it does not restart the terminal automatically, do so manually.

After the terminal has restarted, return to the dashboard and confirm that the software version on the main page reads:

1.16, build 12

Iridium Airtime Plan Comparisons: Prepaid vs. Postpaid

A very common question when choosing an Iridium airtime plan is, “Should I go with prepaid or postpaid?”

The general answer to this question is actually with another question, “Do you plan on using the phone?” In most cases, the answer to this question will put you into one of two categories: 1. Emergency-Only User, or 2. Active User.

Emergency-Only User

Some people purchase an Iridium phone to use strictly for emergencies, so they plan on rarely using airtime, if ever. They simply need the phone to be active and available for that critical situation. In this case, it usually makes the most sense to go with a postpaid plan. There is really only one postpaid plan, which is the Basic plan. It is $49.95 per month for the subscription, which keeps the phone active, and any minutes you end up using are billed at $1.39 per minute. If you don’t use the phone, you are only liable for the monthly subscription fee. The main advantage with this plan is that you have a minimal monthly expense that you can budget and still know your phone will be available for when you need it. The other advantage is that it is an open account so, when you do use the phone, you would be able to use as many minutes as you needed.

Active User

The other group of subscribers are those that are actively using their phone, whether it be year-round or seasonally. Typically, a prepaid plan is more cost effective in the long run if you are using airtime, because there isn’t a subscription fee like the postpaid plan so you are only paying for straight airtime. The detail to be aware of with any prepaid plan is the expiry period. Every prepaid bundle has a different time allotment and the bigger the bundle is, the more time you have to use it.

The best point of comparison between postpaid and prepaid is when you stack the Basic postpaid plan against the 500 minute prepaid plan. The 500 minute prepaid plan is valid for 12 months and the price for a new activation is $745. This is an effective rate of $1.49 per minute. If you take the Basic postpaid plan’s monthly fee of $49.95 and multiply it by 12 months, this works out to $599.40–about $145 less than the 500 minute plan. If you take $145 and divide it by the $1.39 per minute rate of the Basic postpaid plan, this works out to be about 104 minutes, which is your break-even point. So, if you think you will use around 100 minutes or more in 12 months, you’re getting a better value from the 500 minute prepaid plan, since you are effectively getting an additional 400 minutes for the same cost. The one trade-off to this is that you are paying for all of those minutes up front. If you are concerned that you might not use all 500 minutes within the 12 months, don’t worry, as long as your refill your plan (with any amount of minutes) before your expiration date, those remaining minutes would roll over.

If you are a seasonal user, you can do a similar analysis with the 200 minute prepaid plan, which is valid for six months. The price for a 200 minute prepaid bundle is $500 and six months of the Basic postpaid plan plus 200 minutes would be $577.70. In this case, there would be a net savings of $77.70 with the prepaid plan. The 150 and 75 minute prepaid plans are basically a wash when compared to the Basic postpaid plan.

In conclusion, you’ll see the most dramatic savings when comparing the 500 minute or higher prepaid plan with the Basic postpaid plan. Coincidentally, the 500 minute prepaid plan is the most popular amongst our subscribers.

 Regional Plans

There is always a third option, right?

Iridium also offers Regional prepaid plans. Before I get to these, I will point out that even though I stated earlier that there is just one postpaid plan available, there is actually an additional one–the Australia/New Zealand regional postpaid plan. This plan makes the most sense if you are only planning on using your phone in Australia or New Zealand. The subscription is only $34 per month and airtime is just $0.80 per minute. The roaming rates outside of these countries are extremely high with this plan, so even though you can roam with it, we really don’t recommend it.

Getting back to the regional prepaid plans, there are four to choose from: Africa, MENA, Northern Lights, and South America.

The Africa plan is pretty straight forward—it includes roaming in all of the countries in Africa. It costs $320 for 300 minutes and the minutes are valid for 12 months. So, if you are only planning on using your phone within the continent of Africa, this plan offers very good value.

The MENA plan is very similar to the Africa plan, only along with the African countries, it includes most of the countries in the Middle East region as well. This plan costs $460 for 500 minutes which are also valid for 12 months.

If you can’t tell by the name, the Northern Lights plan is a regional plan for only Alaska and Canada. This is a very popular plan for those only using their phone in Alaska or Canada since it offers great value. You get 200 minutes for $199 and they are valid for six months.

The South America plan is for use within all of the South American countries. You get 100 minutes for $199 and they are valid for six months.

Two Trains Depart the Same Station Travelling at Different Speeds…..

Does all of this sound like a high school math story problem? Don’t worry, it probably seems more complicated than it really is. You are always welcome to speak to us about your particular needs so we can help you figure out what plan makes the most sense. The important part is simply to define the main purpose of the phone and where you will be using it. We’re more than happy to help you crunch the numbers!

See all of the Iridium airtime plans here.

Travelling Internationally? Consider a Satellite Phone Rental.

We’ve put together a new analytical tool to make it helpful for you to compare international roaming rates on the major cellular carriers with the cost of renting an Iridium satellite phone. Besides the cost savings that you can experience in many instances, and which you’ll see in the examples below, you gain the following advantages by having a satellite phone along with you:

Iridium will work anywhere in the world–literally anywhere. Where cellular is limited to areas in which towers are present, a satellite phone uplinks directly to a satellite, and Iridium’s satellite constellation provides 100% worldwide coverage.

A satellite phone has one universal rate. Regardless of where you are calling from and where you are calling to, the rate on a satellite phone call is going to be exactly the same. With cellular, international roaming rates can vary greatly from country to country and can even vary from network to network within a country. Besides roaming rates, you also could be liable for international toll rates, depending on where you are calling to.

Incoming calls are free on a satellite phone. Direct incoming calls are always free on a satellite phone. With cellular, you’ll be liable for the international roaming rates regardless of an inbound or outbound call.

A satellite phone has extended battery life and is built rugged. Satellite phones are designed to be used in remote areas and in the outdoors, so they are built very rugged and weatherproof. They also pack a lot more battery power than your average cellular phone, so you don’t have to worry as much about frequent recharges. The Iridium 9555’s battery provides around 30 hours of standby time.

We’ve created a complete international roaming rate matrix for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint which allows you to quickly compare costs by country. You can see each one in the links below:  

Verizon

AT&T

T-Mobile

Sprint

The following are a few example scenarios to illustrate the potential cost differences between roaming internationally and renting a sat phone, and they don’t take into account the previously mentioned benefits of having a satellite phone on hand (such as coverage):

Example 1: Let’s say you are taking a three week trip to South America and you plan on being in Argentina for a week, Chile for a second week, and Peru for a third week. You plan on using 120 minutes of calling time each week (about 17 minutes per day). If your carrier is Verizon, your roaming costs alone would be $598.80 for week one, $279.79 for week two, and $346.80 for week three for a total of $1225.39. This same trip with AT&T would cost you $720.00 and with T-Mobile, you would be paying $1328.40. Sprint would run you $822.38. Your cost for an Iridium phone rental with the same amount of airtime would be just $549.

Example 2: You’re taking a one week trip to Russia and are only planning on using 60 minutes of calling time. Verizon will charge you $244.39 and T-Mobile and Sprint would both cost $359.40 in roaming fees. The cost for an Iridium phone rental with 60 minutes of airtime would be just $153.00.

Example 3: You’re going on a two week safari in both Tanzania and Zambia. You plan on using 120 minutes throughout the trip. With Verizon, you’ll pay anywhere from $279.79 to $483.79, T-Mobile $718.80, and Sprint anywhere from $483.79 to $598.80. The cost for an Iridium phone rental with 120 minutes of airtime would be $282.00.

Do you travel internationally frequently?

If so, another perspective is to consider simply owning a satellite phone, such as the entry-level-priced IsatPhone Pro. After the initial investment of $699 to own that phone, you would have access to the following global prepaid airtime bundles: 25 minutes for $30, 50 minutes for $55, 100 minutes of $99, and 250 minutes for $245, as well as larger bundles. Using the most dramatic example of the South America trip above, the price of a new phone plus 250 prepaid minutes would still be over $300 less than the roaming costs on T-Mobile and over $200 less than Verizon. See more details on the IsatPhone Pro here.

So, before you plan your next international excursion, consider which mobile communications device is going to provide the best value in terms of costs, coverage, and capabilities. See details on the Iridium rental program here. 

You can see more details on OCENS’ entire line of products, services, airtime, and rentals at: www.ocens.com.