Setting up your Iridium 9575 Extreme for SOS messaging

You can easily set up your Iridium 9575 Extreme satellite phone to send an SMS message, email, and call an emergency contact when in the Emergency Mode. Your phone goes into the Emergency Mode when you push the SOS button or manually select it from the phone’s menu. The following are the instructions on how to set up your 9575 phone for emergency messaging.

1. From your phone’s main screen, select Menu.

2. Select Setup

3. Select Location Options

4. Select GPS Options

5. Select GPS Update Options

a. Select the updating frequency you would like

b. Go Back to Location Options

6. Select Emergency Options

7. Select Emergency Actions. Select if you would like to Message and Call, Message Only, or Call Only.

8. Select Emergency Beep. Enable Emergency Beep if you would like the phone to beep while in Emergency Mode.

9. Select Message Recipient

a. Highlight the first entry and Select Options

b. Select Edit

c. If you would like to send an SMS message:

i. Select Enter Number

ii. Enter the emergency contact phone number you would like to send the SMS  message to when in Emergency Mode. Remember to always precede the phone number with 00 or the + sign, then the country code.

iii. Select OK

d. If you would like send an email:

i. Select Edit

ii. Select Enter Email

iii. Enter the email address of your emergency contact

iv. Select OK

e. Fill in the other two emergency contact entries if desired

f. Select Back

10. Select Call Recipient

a. Enter the phone number for the emergency contact you would like to call when in Emergency Mode. Remember to always precede the phone number with 00 or the + sign, then the country code.

b. Select Save


Now you are all set up to use the Emergency Mode on your Iridium Extreme 9575 phone!

“Be Prepared” Satellite Phone Voice Services: What does it cost to save a life?

The cost-of-ownership for Iridium, Globalstar and the IsatPhone Pro’s handheld voice services are compared. IsatPhone Pro’s hardware prices and newly available prepaid airtime plans establish it as the lowest cost option for always-ready emergency voice communications.

Perhaps it’s simply because you like to be prepared, just in case the car gets stuck on the way home from this winter’s ski trip. Or just in case the next hurricane knocks out all the phone lines and cellular service between here and who knows where. Or maybe just in case you break a leg on your next back-country hiking or hunting trip. Whatever the reason, you’ve realized the only way to talk to someone to ask for help in a crisis without conventional communications is to have a mobile satellite phone handy. Now what do you do? And what is the least expensive means of satisfying your passion for preparedness without having to pinch every other penny in your possession?

Before diving into our analysis of available options for “just-in-case” satellite voice systems, one simple truth needs to be addressed. Like any cell phone, a satellite phone that isn’t activated under an airtime plan is nothing more than an expensive paperweight. Furthermore, if you’ve waited to activate your satellite phone until your emergency actually happens, you’ve waited too long. The whole reason you’re considering a satellite phone is because you’re concerned about losing communications during a natural disaster or personal emergency. What do you need to activate a satellite phone? Yes, communications.  What have you just lost with your regional, local or personal emergency? That’s right, communications. So indeed, you’ve saved yourself from paying a monthly service fee for your satellite phone’s airtime plan by purchasing that satellite phone and putting it in the drawer inactivated. In so doing, you’ve also emasculated the potential of this phone to possibly save your life. Consequently, any meaningful analysis of the costs-of-ownership of a life-saving satellite phone has to consider up-front hardware AND on-going airtime costs.

Three competitors presently vie to provide you with your just-in-case voice solution. There’s Iridium, the seasoned veteran with its 9555 and Extreme 9575 phones. Globalstar, injured and out of commission for five years but returning in 2013 with high hopes of climbing back into the mix. And then there is the IsatPhone, new to the handheld game but aggressively priced and carrying with it Inmarsat’s heritage of success in fixed phone installations.


Of the three competitors, Iridium is the only truly global satellite phone. Pole-to-pole coverage grants to the Iridium network unprecedented reliability and access to voice communications no matter where you roam.  But such system capability doesn’t come cheap. Its 9555 phone is routinely priced around $1200. The high-end 9575 Extreme does contain built-in GPS which can be accessed for personal tracking and its SOS button can be triggered for emergency help but you’ll need to shell out almost $1500 to purchase the 9575 phone.

Iridium airtime service doesn’t do anything to lighten your cost-of-ownership. The least expensive way to keep an Iridium phone active and relevant to you as a communication solution during an emergency is with a postpaid airtime plan. Whereas Iridium once offered a postpaid voice-only plan that creative resellers were able to market for as little as $25 per month, Iridium slammed that door shut in mid-2012. As such, their least expensive postpaid plan now runs almost twice as high at $45 per month ($540 per year). This excludes any of the per minute charges you’d actually pay when you talk over the phone (although if the issue is getting someone to you in time to save life and property, the per minute rate you’re paying is probably the least of your concerns). Couple that with the price of the 9555 or 9575 and your first year cost-of-ownership with Iridium runs between $1700 and $2000! Global coverage is great but if emergency voice communication is your criterion and cost is a deciding factor, you are paying an awful lot to make sure you can make such a call from the North Pole.


The Globalstar system has been largely offline since early 2007 when solar radiation zapped the duplex transceivers on the majority of the satellites in the Globalstar constellation. As such, no matter how inexpensive or cost-effective Globalstar airtime has been since 2007, the lack of Globalstar coverage over the past five years has excluded it from any consideration as a just-in-case satellite solution. But the company has been inching its way back to being a bona-fide sat com provider in 2011 and 2012 and should complete the re-launch of its constellation by early 2013. In September 2012, most locations in the Globalstar footprint (see coverage map below) receive 45 to 50 minutes of coverage in a given hour.  This amount of up-time and the imminent launch completion convinces us it should now play a role in your just-in-case satellite phone considerations.


GlobalStar Coverage Map

Globalstar’s 1700 phone sells for $499. Because of the state of its network, the company has been offering unlimited airtime at the unheard of rate of $40 per month. Amazingly, if you have an active phone and can find a working satellite, you will spend less to talk through the Globalstar satellite network than you will on most cell phone plans.

However, because I’m going to assume you wouldn’t mind paying $10 a minute if it will save your life, the fact that Globalstar’s $40 per month provides unlimited talk time is largely irrelevant to our calculus here.  What we’re more interested in right now is knowing it will cost me $480 for my first year of Globalstar airtime to be prepared to make that all-important one or two minute call for help. Combining $480 in annual airtime costs with the $499 price of the Globalstar 1700 and the first year cost-of-ownership with Globalstar is $979, almost one-half the first year cost of Iridium. It’s hard to say what Globalstar will do with its airtime plans once the full satellite constellation is in place (prior to the Globalstar constellation demise in 2007, low end airtime plans were in the $50 per month range), but right now in late 2012, it costs you much less to buy and maintain an active Globalstar phone than it does with Iridium.


Your third option is Inmarsat’s IsatPhone Pro. Inmarsat has been a global leader in satellite communications for decades, but it entered the handheld market only very recently (in the US not until late 2010). Although coverage extends from 70N to 70S, the fact that its geostationary satellites are positioned at the equator makes an IsatPhone Pro sensitive to the direction the antenna on the handheld phone is pointed, particularly at higher latitudes. Users above about 45 degrees of latitude must have clear views of the sky to the south and orient the phone’s antenna in that direction to minimize signal drop.

Aside from these limitations, the IsatPhone is an excellent solution for voice communications. Voice quality is high and because those Inmarsat satellites aren’t moving, once you’ve achieved a signal lock, the connection is very stable. The price of the phone is around $700 after an Inmarsat price hike in early 2012. This has been more than compensated for by Inmarsat with its globalization of prepaid service on September 1, 2012. This change lowered the annual cost of airtime service to less than $200 for the IsatPhone Pro and consequently has elevated the phone’s status as a cost-effective, “just-in-case” satellite solution immeasurably.

The minimum year one cost of ownership for the IsatPhone and airtime service is under $900 ($897 for a complete hardware/airtime kit from OCENS).  This is almost $100 less than Globalstar and less than half the cost of Iridium. The IsatPhone Pro’s comprehensive coverage (both temporally and geographically) gives it a further leg up on Globalstar.

The following chart offers a summary comparison of year one costs of hardware and airtime from the three providers:

Cost Comparison Chart

Inmarsat’s low annual airtime cost also means it delivers to you the lowest on-going cost year-in, year-out.  Second and later year costs of operation of the IsatPhone Pro are $300to $350 less than Globalstar or Iridium.

Ongoing Cost Comparison Chart

Consequently, IF your objective is the least expensive route to accessible satellite phone voice communications just in case everything goes to heck in a hand basket, the IsatPhone is your answer. It does this by merging middle-of-the-road hardware costs for its handheld phone with annual airtime costs substantially below Iridium and Globalstar.

 CLICK HERE to see the OCENS IsatPhone Pro “Be Prepared” kit.



Basic Computer Networking Terminology

This blog post will go over some basics of networking terminology. To learn more, please visit the references listed at the end of this post or give us a call here at OCENS.


Network Designations – the following designations presented here explain networks in context with the Sidekick appliances, though these designations are used throughout Network Engineering.

LAN – stands for Local Area Network. This is the network of device(s) relying on the Sidekick network management appliance for connection, both to each other as well as access to your satellite service. A LAN can be as small as a single computer, or as vast as an entire building and accounts for all the computers, networking equipment, servers, printers, Internet phones, smartphones, tablets, PDAs and more.

WAN –Stands for Wide Area Network. This is the network the Sidekick uses to provide service to the Internet for its LAN. WANs typically refer to the Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) network.

Some other network designations to note:

GAN – Stands for Global Area Network. In short, this is the Internet.

BGAN – Stands for Broadband Global Area Network. Inmarsat primarily uses this designation to refer to their broadband satellite service (FleetBroadband and BGAN terminals)


IP Address – Stands for Internet Protocol Address. Every device, when connected to a network, is assigned an IP Address. This allows your device to communicate with other devices and available network resources. Think of this as your cell’s phone number, allowing you to receive and make calls, send text messages, and access other services.


DNS – Stands for Domain Name Service. DNS provides a means to attach a name to an IP Address making it easier for us to request resources. An example of DNS being used is when we try to access the Internet: Without DNS, to get to we would have to remember the website’s IP Address ( is The concept of DNS is similar to that of your Contacts List on your cellphone; it’s MUCH easier to remember your contact’s name then it is to remember their phone number. DNS functions in a similar way, storing network address information associated with the network’s name.


Server – a computer or application that is hosting a service. A Mail Server, for example, is generally a computer that is hosting, or providing, email services. If you use OCENS.Mail, the application you install to use our service (called the OCENS.Mail Gateway) is in fact a server application.


Client – Usually refers to the recipient, be it computer or application, of a server’s hosted service. For example, a mail client is a software application receiving its mail service from a mail server. iScribe, the mail client we provide for use with the OCENS.Mail Gateway, is a client of the OCENS.Mail Gateway server.


Firewall – a specialized type of server. ALL data transmitted over a network is assigned a specific port number, based on the type of data it is. For example, standard website traffic (http) is usually assigned port 80. Secure website traffic, like when you login to your bank account, is usually assigned port 443.

A Firewall controls what ports are open or closed for inbound and outbound traffic flowing through it. Some firewalls are also capable of routing specific ports to specific outbound or inbound IP Addresses. This is called Port Forwarding for inbound traffic, and Port Triggering for outbound. Say you wanted to host your own website from a computer at home. That website would reside with a server application (called a webserver). In order for people to be able to see the website, you would need to set your firewall to forward all inbound web traffic (port 80 typically) to that webserver’s IP Address.

Typically data types flow on their universally assigned port numbers, but it is possible to change those port number assignments, either locally on a specific computer or as a whole on a network, by use of the next term:


Proxy – another specialized type of server. Whereas a firewall controls the opening/closing of ports and where specific ports are routed; a proxy controls how data is used within those ports and can assign (and keeps track of) port assignment changes.

Proxy servers stand as an intermediary between their clients, and the resources they are requesting. As such, they are capable of controlling when, how, and if those resources can be accessed. For example: say you want to control what kinds of websites you want available to specific individuals, like children. You would employ a proxy server (called a web proxy) to control who, when, how, and if specific sites can be accessed by specific clients. Typically, when this is done, the web proxy changes the specific port used for outbound web traffic, and the firewall then closes port 80 for outbound traffic, thus disabling someone from trying to get around the proxy.

Proxy servers and their configurations are very complex, and it would be hard for me to explain EVERYTHING they can do in this post, but I will touch on some of the basics as they are used with the Sidekick appliances:

Compression – Compression is a function by which the data is squeezed, or compressed, as small as possible before being sent. This is done to help reduce transmission size and duration.

Captive Portal – Captive portal is a means by which you can control who has access to specific services. For example, if you wanted to control who can access the Internet, you would enable captive portal on a web proxy that would require a login before the Internet can be accessed. Ever been to a Starbucks and used their free Internet service? If so, do you recall their initial page requiring you to agree to their service terms? That is a function of captive portal on a web proxy.

Traffic Shaping – Traffic Shaping, or Quality of Service (QoS for short), is a means of prioritizing specific types of traffic over other types of traffic. For example, suppose you have Internet Phone services on your network. Because of how Internet Phone services function, it’s extremely important that their data reaches its destination as quickly as possible. Utilizing QoS functions in a proxy, you are capable of making sure any Internet Phone traffic is handled and routed the moment it comes in, regardless of whatever else is happening on the network.

Caching – Caching stores commonly used resources at the proxy server for faster access. For example, how often do you access With caching enabled on a proxy, instead of your request to going to the internet and waiting for the reply back, the proxy will store the page and present it to you when requested. Over a satellite system this also means a cost savings since the proxy, which is local to your network, is providing the requested site instead of your satellite Internet connection.

Whitelists/Blacklists – White/black lists are a means of controlling what kinds of services individuals can access. For example, say you’re a Packer’s football fan and you despise the Vikings. You could set your proxy to allow the Packer’s website through, but block requests to the Vikings site or even re-route requests for the Vikings website to the Packer’s utilizing the functions of whitelists and blacklists. Because of the complexity and the vast amount of sites out there, generating your own blacklist can take quite a long time. Because of this, there are services available that provide a pre-configured blacklist for you. Some are free while others require a usage fee based on what proxy server software they support and the complexity of the list.

Usage Reporting – All proxy servers provide reporting of who did what and when. These reports are useful when evaluating what your satellite airtime is being spent on as well as troubleshooting connection issues when they arise.


Least Cost Routing/Failover/Load Balancing

I’m group these topics together because they function similarly and are related; they all are a means of managing and optimizing multiple WAN connections. Some functions can be utilized at the same time, while others are an either/or setup.

Least Cost Routing (LCR) – This is a means of utilizing the most cost affective WAN connection available at the time. For example, say you have a FleetBroadband terminal and Cell Data receiver. Because Internet service is less expensive over the Cell Data receiver you want to route all your Internet traffic over it when the service is available, and switch to the FleetBroadband when it isn’t. This is called Least Cost Routing.

Failover – Failover is VERY similar to least cost routing. Basically, it means that if connection A isn’t available, switch to connection B. Since Least Cost Routing and Failover are pretty much the same function, most setups that utilize one will utilize both at the same time.

Load Balancing – While load balancing is similar to failover and LCR in that it utilizes multiple WANs, how it uses those connections is different. With Load Balancing, the Sidekick takes the inbound/outbound data traffic and spreads the load among the different WAN connections, thus effectively improving service. Load Balancing can function along with Failover since it would switch to the available WAN if another goes down.


VPN – Stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a means of joining two networks together, when they aren’t physically together. For example, say you want to have access to your work network (giving you access to it’s supplied resources like printers, servers, ect) from your boat? You would need to setup a “VPN Tunnel” linking the two networks together to act as one. An individual can link to the VPN, or a LAN management appliance (like the Sidekick) can link the entire LAN.


VoIP – Stands for Voice over Internet Protocol (IP) this is an emerging service that has been growing and developing quite a bit as of late. The old traditional telephone systems haven’t changed in many many years; but with the increasing demand for additional features like video calls, teleconferences, multimedia presentations and more they just are not capable of keeping up with the newer demands. VoIP however, uses an Internet connection to supply those services and more. Some examples of VoIP technology are Skype, Google Voice, and Vonage. Also, most cellular smartphones provide the ability to utilize VoIP services.



If you would like further information regarding the topics in this post these resources can explain more:

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) –

The IANA is the governing authority for maintaining official assignments of port numbers and their uses. They are also the governing authority managing the IP Addressing assignments that make up the Internet. If you are ever interested in how the Internet as a whole functions, IANA and their documentation is a great place to start.

PF Sense –

This is an Open-Source Firewall and Router suite, and their wiki has a lot of useful information regarding their functions.

Squid Proxy –

This is an Open-Source Web Proxy Server, with great documentation and support.  –

Wikipedia it is a great resource for learning and provides useful information and resources. RFC documentation regarding different topics from network designations, TCP/IP functions, DNS and more can be found here. RFC (Request for Comments) documents are the governing documentation for Computer Network Engineering and their underlining technologies.

HowStuffWorks –

This site is owned by the Discovery channel, and is a great learning resource for explaining how specific things work.

New Iridium Australia and New Zealand Postpaid Regional Plan

OCENS now offers a new Australia and New Zealand postpaid regional airtime plan. The plan is only $25 per month and in-region calls made while within Australia and New Zealand are only $0.80 per minute. Roaming, out-of-region calls are $1.59 per minute. See all of the details on this plan here.

Is There a Fit for Fleet Broadband?

Rightfully so, there is much gnashing of teeth in regards to Inmarsat’s new Small Vessel Plans for Fleet Broadband and the disjointed path it seems to be pursuing in the marine marketplace for any boat other than a supertanker.  Consequently, interest in Fleet Broadband by fishing vessels, workboats, and pleasure yachts has waned to something in between awful and poor.  Couple this with the thunderstorm of VSAT marketing and promotion and its not too difficult to recognize that Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham presented less of a challenge than that faced by an Inmarsat reseller making another FBB sale into the small vessel market.  Is such an attitude warranted? Is there a place for FBB any longer in the small vessel market?  Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

This contrarian perspective was reinforced yesterday during an enjoyable conversation with a prospective customer who called to discuss his plans for satellite communication on his soon to be commissioned sailing yacht. His opening comments about the new Fleet Broadband MB plans and rates demonstrated he was someone who had been doing his homework and because of them had decided to explore other alternatives that could more cost-effectively address his communication needs.  He indicated those needs were primarily data driven and those along the lines of email, weather and one or two web sites. After a bit we transitioned into a discussion of Iridium, docking stations, external antennas and antenna siting and data rates and he seemed to be committed to the Iridium path.  It all made for a very productive and enjoyable exchange.

But before we ended the conversation, I asked him to revisit his data interests with me. Was he interested in Internet browsing, (no), what kind of email (on the small side with an attachment here and there), what types of weather (charts) and web sites (an ftp site he had crafted to pull files he needed each day).  Given that mix, why had he rejected the Fleet Broadband option? The reason given was that he felt the new per MB rates for data were just too high. He just couldn’t justify spending $15 to $20 per MB on FBB service.

Can you blame him? $15 to $20 per MB does seem high (let’s not kid ourselves, it is high). Isn’t it much easier to stomach $1.29 per minute on the Iridium network for those data sessions? Maybe it is. Or maybe it is until you do the math.

Iridium runs at a speed of 2400 baud (this translates to about 300 bytes per second or 18,000 bytes (18 kb) per minute; for further context this blog entry is about 6000 bytes (6 kb)). At that speed its going to take you almost 56 minutes to move a MB of data through the Iridium network which, using the not uncommon Iridium charge of $1.29 per minute, is going to cost you $72. Add some additional overhead for dropped calls and connect/disconnect delays and you are probably closer to $80/MB. How much did we say it was to move a MB through a FBB? That $15 to $20/MB number now looks incredibly cost-effective.

Let’s look at it a slightly different way. Inmarsat’s Standard FBB plan costs $190 and includes 10 MB of data.  Moving this 10 MB through the Iridium network would run you close to $800. Or taking the perspective of actual usage, I could send 1000 normal (5 to 10 kb) emails through my Fleet Broadband every month without running out of ‘included’ data. If I’m compressing those emails through OCENS Mail, I’m capable of doing something on the order of 5000 or more emails each month with my Standard plan on FBB. And I’m doing this without drops, disconnects and restarts.

Of course, the VSAT interests correctly argue that this same 10 MB would cost just $50 on a V3 system. But in order to get to that first $50, I’ll need to have invested over $14,000 in hardware (and be providing my VSAT hardware a continuous AC feed as there is no DC option with VSAT).  That’s eight to nine thousand dollars more than what I’d be paying today for an FBB 150. If I’m sticking with my 10 MB a month or less plan, its going to take me over 8 years before the additional investment I made in my VSAT begins to pay off. If past practice is any indication of future behavior, I’ll have either sold my boat and bought another or be looking to invest new money in 2020 communication technology that is far superior to what I have available in 2012.

Could I apply the same reasoning to my decision to purchase Iridium instead of FBB? That is, certainly I’ll spend much less on my Iridium setup and I can apply this savings to the ‘extra’ airtime charges I’ll be paying each month.  Well, yes and no. I can spend as little as $1200 or so and be able to run data through the Iridium network. But since I’m going to be transferring data pretty regularly, I’m probably going to get tired of sticking my satphone up the hatch every time I want to check email. So I’ll end up adding an external antenna, cabling and a docking station. In other words, I’ll end up adding another $1000 for a total cost of $2200 for the Iridium package I’m going to go to sea with. That’s a $3000 savings relative to my FBB hardware and only going to buy me about 5 months of usage at my 10 MB standard of living.

In short, returning to our original question and in the context of Iridium (handhelds; the OpenPort/Pilot to FBB contrast is a story for another time with a whole different line of reasoning) and VSAT, FBB can make a great deal of sense.  It does so if my primary applications are email, weather and occasional web access. It does so if I estimate my usage will top out at less than 50 MB per month. And it does so despite the absence of a cohesive Inmarsat strategy for the small vessel market or the tantalizing flirtations put forward by the VSAT marketing machine.