Since it was introduced to the market in September 2014 (Eh, yes, 5 years ago !) this device, with its indisputable ergonomics and excellent quality/price ratio, has become a must-have for offshore sailors. Easy to implement, without the need for an external antenna (except metal build) it can be used inside the boat.
A test run of several weeks, conducted in October and November 2016 during a transatlantic delivery, had already demonstrated its ability to download GRIB weather files and weather maps despite the low rate (about 10 KB / mn). With the new Iridium NEXT constellation (¹) we notice since 2019 a real improvement in the global coverage without satellite disconnection.
Antenna and reception
The swivel antenna reception quality, which acts as an on/off switch, is surprising. When conveying, the device has been used mostly inside the boat, a Dufour 560, in the salon or under the cockpit top. I myself did a commissioning in the salon of a RM 12,60 in the old harbour of La Rochelle, surrounded by towers and buildings, without any difficulty. This supports my earlier observation that: an external antenna adds nothing to the reception quality, except in a metal boat. A significant money saving.
Voice / data rate
Voice usage from a smartphone is excellent, the same quality level as Iridium handsets. Despite spacing of satellites in the inter-tropical regions, signal losses are considerably fewer than with the old constellation. For file transfers from an iPad, especially direct downloads of GRIB weather files with Weather4D (²), the observed flow rate allows an average download of 10 Ko / minute. On the other hand, This slow throughput is largely balanced by the following two benefits :
Unlike with satphones 9555/9575, the messaging app Iridium Mail & Web does not hang Iridium GO! if a transfer is interrupted by loss of signal that can still occur between two satellites. The application remains active and the device in standby resumes the transfer by a single tap when a new satellite signal is received. This allows to overcome the maximum size 50 KB imposed by the very short time passage of an Iridium satellite above the boat (5 to 6 useful minutes), and thus make requests for much larger GRIB files that will be partially transferred by several satellites until they are fully loaded without the need to operate the device. Simply resume the transfer in the messaging application or in Weather4D. It is immediately apparent that the communication costs are likely to be prohibitive in use. But…
…and unlimited data
[Update 17/01/2020] Iridium has scheduled a specific offer for GO! with monthly subscriptions with unlimited data. Several different airtime are offered by operators. For example by iTabNav.fr :
- Unlimited plan Calendar (from 1st up to 31 th of the month) : data + SMS unlimited + 150 mn landline and mobile calls (169 € + 25 € SIM activation)
- Unlimited plan Sliding month : (date to date) : data + SMS unlimited + 150 mn voice landline and mobile calls(179 € + 50 € SIM activation)
- Unlimited plan FLEX : (date to date) : data + SMS unlimited + 50 or 150 mn landline voice calls only (179 or € 199 € + 50 € SIM activation) may be interrupted and placed in stand-by, lossless call number or SIM renewal (optional Stand-by 10,80 € / month). Assigning a US-Number to be called least cost.
So there is something for everyone. And the cost of the plans is not much higher than the Iridium prepaid phone cards. Indeed, if we take as an example a Sliding Month Plan for an Atlantic crossing Europe – Caribbean, strolling by the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, about 3 months, This is a cost of (179 € x 3)+50 € = 587 €. Six months in the Caribbean, no need for Iridium. Crossing back to Europe in June, passing through the Azores, thus 2 months up to (179 € x 2)+50 € = 408 €. Extended cost = 995 €. Compared to a Special GO prepaid SIM card! limited up to 500mn / or 1000mn voice / data valid 1 year = 998 € (SIM included) France tariff (Orbitica) or to a standard SIM card Prepaid 600mn valid 1 year = 811 €(Orbitica), subscription offer almost the same price a service data + SMS unlimited and 150mn / month for voice call.
TRACKAmap offers geolocation service from 8 $/months (to a point all 12 hours), simply programmed Iridium GO! at the rate subscribed to send the GPS position by SMS automatically (even in standby). A web interface allows your loved ones to track your progress at the pace of shipments. With a subscription to unlimited data, no additional cost can be used a higher rate. In addition, nothing prevents the device to be continuously powered at a good location inside the boat (except metal boat or carbon bridge !).
For support function SOS, Iridium has contracted withGEOS Travel Safety Group to provide an emergency coordination measures for Iridium GO! at no additional charge. Just register for free on the page GEOS Iridium and follow the procedure described in the Iridium GO user manual! The service will be operational the setting is completed.
The assistance service offered with the Iridium GO! covers all of the land and maritime activities. Thereby it can be an alternative to an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). However, for ships flying the French flag, a Cospas-Sarsat EPIRB became mandatory in blue water sailing since May 1 2015 (Entries D240 - 2.08, 240-2.17, D311-Annex A.1/5.6).
All these elements, on the one hand financial, functional on the other hand, offer a certain attraction for this device on long trips.. Although less expensive to buy than Iridium 9575 to which must be added a WiFi gateway (RedPort Optimizer) and an external antenna + necessary wiring, an adjustable airtime will offer unlimited data transfers at a cost equivalent to most standard prepaid offers, a lowest market price tracking service, What more could you ask for ?
Add, to be exhaustive, that the battery is given for 7 hours continuous talk time, 16 hours standby (According to the transmissions of position adjustment), and its use for a temperature range -10 ° to + 55 °.