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.

 

Inmarsat Mini-M & Fleet Classic LES Changes

As of January 1, Land Earth Station (LES) 015 is no longer available for use. If you are an OCENS customer with an Inmarsat Mini-M or a Fleet 33/55/77 (Fleet Classic) terminal, and use it in the LES 015 region please contact us here at the Office so we can provide you with new LES info.

 

Tricks for your Mac – Turning of Bonjour

When the French say “Bonjour” it means “good day”, but when Apple says “Bonjour” over your satellite connection it may not be such a “good day”.

“Bonjour is Apple’s implementation of Zero configuration networking (Zeroconf), a group of technologies that includes service discovery, address assignment, and hostname resolution. Bonjour locates devices such as printers, other computers, and the services that those devices offer on a local network using multicast Domain Name System (mDNS) service records.”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

While this “Bonjour” sounds great and does work well when you are connected to a network via a high-speed connection and have other devices that you connect to on that network, it can make your day not so good and cause real frustration when trying to connect to the internet via a satellite phone system.

Bonjour is continually broadcasting information about your device to the network and then listening for what other devices or service are available to connect too. Each time your information is sent your system is using precious megabytes and bandwidth. Not a big deal at home or via a good and inexpensive Wi-Fi connection. But when you are connecting to the internet via your satellite phone you usually doing so via a very slow connection, such as and Iridium phone, and/or are paying a premium for data that is transmitted (i.e. $20 per megabyte for the FleetBroadband systems). Now it does not sound so great.

When you make a connection via your Iridium phone – your Mac is going to see that you are connected to a network and try to find out who is on this network that it can communicate with – this can use up your very limited bandwidth, or pipe if you will, and leaves very little if any room for your weather or email application to transfer its data. What you typically end up seeing is a stalled connection because the data is stuck in the bottleneck of the small pipe and then you receive a time-out error. If you are using one of the higher speed system where you are paying per megabyte – the system is using up data to do this – data for something that you may not care about or realize is being used.

There are a couple ways to reign in Bonjour when you are using your satellite phone.

OCENS software products employ a mechanism that automatically disables Bonjour when you use the dialer in OCENS Mail or WeatherNet so that the data flow is unimpeded by any Bonjour transmissions. When the connection is finished the service is re-enabled.

Another way is to manually disable Bonjour. You can do this by opening the terminal application on your Mac and entering the following command:

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.mDNSResponder.plist

Then hit enter. You may be required to enter your system password. Bonjour is now disabled.

Bonjour will automatically restart when you reboot your system. To turn this back on without the need to reboot your system you can enter the following command in same fashion as before:

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.mDNSResponder.plist

Bonjour is now re-enabled.

I hope this tip helps you to understand your system a litte bit more.

Bonjour!
Jeff