Iridium’s GO! satellite WiFi and Globalstar’s mysterious SatFi

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

28 Responses

  1. Kees says:

    Just what I was waiting for in Satellite Comms… Easy to install, easy to use, hopefully combined with a reasonable data plan… on top of Iridium’s super benefit of reliability and 90N to 90S global coverage.
    If they get the plans right this will blow all existing solutions away. Dedicated satellite phones with their 1990s style interface all seem very old fashioned suddenly.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sat-Fi, trademarked 2 years ago by Globalstar.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sat-Fi, trademarked two weeks ago by Globalstar:
    http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4809:p1pe4t.2.1

  4. John Dark says:

    GMN/RedPort Global here, with a few comments.
    For land-based users and weekend boaters, the Go! is undoubtedly a great product, and we’re thrilled to see the industry embrace the concept we introduced with the RedPort Optimizer Wi-Fi router in 2011. For those not familiar, the Optimizer connects to any satellite phone or terminal to create Wi-Fi hotspot that works with your smartphone, tablet or computer. http://www.globalmarinenet.com/satellite-phone-data-optimizer.php
    While we love the Go! for casual usage on a boat, we believe that for fixed maritime and in-building installations the RedPort Aurora is a better product.
    Why? Like the Go!, the Aurora is an Iridium-based terminal that uses apps for voice and data connectivity. However, to permanently install the Go! on a boat, you need to use an external antenna and LMR antenna cable, an connect a power source to it (or charge the battery frequently), which makes for a trickier installation, and adds cost to the Go!. Plus, the Go! does not have an Ethernet connection to create a local network if you’d like to use that instead of the Wi-Fi.
    The Aurora is a single dome designed for fixed installation with a standard maritime mount. There are no below-deck units to install, just a single Ethernet cable that can be used used for power, or to connect to an existing vessel network. The Ethernet cable is vastly easier to run than LMR cable.
    Additionally, both the Go! and the Aurora work with both XGate satellite email software and Iridum Mail & Web, giving customers options for their email/web/weather/social media service. Both are excellent products.
    For more details, see: http://www.redportglobal.com/marine-satellite-internet-firewall-routers/aurora-iridium-marine-terminal/
    The Aurora is available for sale today: http://www.globalmarinenet.com/catalog/aurora-iridium-wifi-terminal-p-2865.html

  5. John, any idea what the Aurora draws at 12V? I like the approach, and the features look very nice – how much power does it need?

  6. John Dark says:

    Hartley, the Aurora draws 1.5 amps when transmitting less than .5 when idle. Because it uses PoE (Power over Ethernet) it can be used with either an Ethernet injector or plugged into a router with a powered Ethernet port.

  7. OK – so 18 watts in TX and 6 watts in receive. Is the PoE injector that’s included a 12V device?
    The reason I ask is that I see PoE is a 37-50 volt service, not 12V, so the injector must be some sort of converter/power supply.
    Thanks!

  8. Cire says:

    Aurora is priced at $1999 and requires one of the current Iridium service plans.
    The Go! will be $800-900 and have unlimited plans around $130-150.
    Will likely take out my old Iridium and upgrade to the Go! and utilize existing cable run/antenna.
    As a bonus we get all the great GMN software for free when using Go. Kinda cannibalizes the GMN proposition.

  9. John Dark says:

    Hi Cire,
    As mentioned, we also think the Go! is right for a lot of people. A couple of comments regarding your post:
    Initial indications from actual Iridium providers indicate that the actual SRP will be $895. For someone who doesn’t mind putting the Go! on deck and recharging the battery as needed, it’s a great product at a great price. Another alternative is to purchase a remotable antenna, LMR cable and mounting it. In this configuration, the only thing missing in the Go! compared to the Aurora is the GPS NMEA repeating.
    Iridium has not yet indicated whether they will expand their service pricing to other hardware devices yet.
    Both RedPort Aurora and Iridium Go! work with both Iridium Mail & Web and with RedPort XGate (and its variants).
    The key difference is that Iridium Mail & Web works only over Iridium airtime, but has no monthly fee for service. XGate works over any network connection (for example, over Marina Wi-Fi or your home network) but generally requires a monthly service fee.
    They are different products for different customers, and we’re happy for the success of both.

  10. emsusa says:

    The GO! is an inspired solution. Rate plans will be the pivot if it is to become a killer app. For our use, the GO! is a safer install solution than Aurora; smart antennas have the liability that if it gets knocked off the boat, you loose the entire transmitter. Lack of a rj45 on the GO! is an oversight but not a deal killer. PoE would be nice too.
    Not to detract from the hard work leading to their products, the advert for redport and GMN seems a little over the top for this forum?

  11. sv Haven says:

    I can’t wait for this!! I hope it ships with a reasonable rate plan b4 my offshore trip north in May.
    I hate running blind on weather. Sandy almost snagged me because i was offshore and blind when it formed. Not great seamanship (not arguing that) but the current options just suck. This looks like it might be really good for saildocs grib files (grib via email for free).

  12. BackBeat Sailing says:

    Any word on a shipping date? I need to put together an Iridium package for an offshore race in June. This looks perfect for my needs, but it makes me uncomfortable cutting things so close.

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    The SatPhoneStore is taking Iridium GO pre-orders:
    http://www.satphonestore.com/iridium-go-global-online-smartphone-access1.html
    And I also queried Iridium about the ship date this morning.

  14. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Iridium reply about GO delivery date: “The expected launch date is still ‘Q2’ which is best interpreted as late May, early June.”

  15. Michael says:

    With an SSB you don’t have to run blind — and no plan required

  16. Gregory Yount says:

    Satphonestore shows the GO “in stock”, and priced at $875, though they list shipping as June. Plans start at $49.95 (for a very limited usage).
    I am anxious to hear some user reports before taking the leap.

  17. Jim Cochran says:

    I notice that no one has indicated transmission speed. Thought I read that it’s 2.4kps. BTW, SatFi was announced two weeks prior to Iridium, not the other way around. I’m holding off to see what Globalstar brings to the party, certainly lower entry point (around $300 was mentioned) and faster speed because their satellites are brand new. No thanks, I’ll wait.

  18. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    You might want to reread the entry, Jim; I correctly reported that Globalstar announced SatFi in late January, which was before Iridium announced GO in early Febuary (but when many people like me had already heard about GO on an embargoed basis). What struck me as odd was that Globalstar did not include a photograph or hardly any other detail of SatFi.
    Guess what? It’s more than three months later and I still don’t see photographs, pricing, or specifications for SatFi. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I think it will be great if there’s a cheaper, faster alternative to GO, but right now I’m in “I’ll believe when I see it” mode with Globalstar.

  19. John Dark says:

    John with Global Marine Networks / RedPort Global here. Ben, In response to your post of May 26, the Globalstar Sat-Fi is now available for sale online. http://www.globalmarinenet.com/globalstar-sat-fi.php
    Pre-orders of the Iridium GO! are of course also available: http://www.globalmarinenet.com/iridium_go.php

  20. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, John! Great to see that Globalstar Sat-Fi is for real, and I guess my skepticism was unwarranted. Jim (commenter above) may be disappointed with the $999 price, but the specs look promising. I also see that the data and voice apps are available at GooglePlay and iTunes:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=Globalstar+Inc
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sat-fi/id881495410?mt=8
    And that Globalstar itself has posted lots of info:
    http://www.globalstar.com/sat-fi/lander.php?pk_campaign=satfi_lander
    John, are you seeing good data rates in your testing?

  21. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    PS: John, I checked out the Sat-Fi service contracts at GMN and see that users have to agree to a line that reads: “I understand that there are some temporary limitations to the Two Way Voice and Data Services on the Globalstar Satellite Constellation.” That line links to a Globalstar Constellation Update — http://www.globalstar.com/en/index.php?cid=107 — which is more than a year old and which suggests that only two of the new satellites is fully functional. Hopefully just a web publishing oversight?

  22. John Dark says:

    Ben,
    Globalstar data rates are 9.6 Kbps. While all providers speeds vary slightly from published rates (both up and down) we find that for virtually all purposes, the published rates are good benchmarks.
    Regarding the service contracts on the globalmarinenet, yes, they just haven’t been updated. Globalstar’s official network statement is here: http://www.globalstar.com/en/index.php?cid=7010&pressId=792
    This is a good time to be a satellite data user. There are new products that support mobile devices from all of the carriers , each with its own advantages, and at generally lower prices than any comparable equipment cost just a short while ago.

  23. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks again, John, but I still feel the need to play the curmudgeon. The “official network statement” you linked to is general marketing with no specifics about the new satellites actually being in service. People buying the hardware and service plans still must agree that they understand about “temporary limitations” to voice and data with a link to a constellation update saying that most of the new satellites were expected to be put in service a year ago. That seems strange. If they are in service — and I hope they are, 9.6 Kbps is sweet compared to Iridium’s 2.4 and the Inmarsat phone’s less-than-2.4 — why doesn’t Globalstar say so?

  24. John Dark says:

    Ben,
    The limitations notice was our error – our web team just didn’t delete it when we should have, but it’s now gone. Iridium and Globalstar products and services each have their own advantages. I’d encourage you to look at the whole new BYOD landscape once with all the products coming to the market over the next few months.

  25. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Excellent news, John. So I guess the new GlobalStar sats are all operational and there’s no need for “limitations” disclosure. Cool.
    I realize that Globalstar has much better data speeds (like 4x) than Iridium while Iridium has much better coverage of deep sea and high latitude areas. And I too am excited about the BYOD concept, though I had to use Google to find out that means “bring your own device” as in the GO and Sat-Fi WiFi boxes are like sat phones except that you use your own smartphone (or tablet) for voice calls, device management, data downloads, etc.
    Not that voice part is so important anymore. I think it’s telling that when Jeff Bezos introduced the new Amazon Fire phone last week, he admitted that he hadn’t actually tried to make a call on it. At any rate, I hope that GMN will put up some reviews of the new sat WiFi devices, as you have in the past, and I also hope to try them myself.
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/06/why-are-we-still-calling-them-cell-phones.html?mid=google

  26. Graham says:

    I am still finding this technology ‘leap’ intensely frustrating.
    The GO has a couple of serious limitations:
    a) describing it as a wireless hotspot is intensely misleading as that implies an open access to the Internet, when, in reality, you can only connect (at this time) through Iridium supplied apps so no Pocket Grib etc.
    b) the real killer, you can only use the iridium supplied email address and this address can ONLY be accessed through the GO. No collecting you attachments when on wifi, no checking the mail when you get home (unless you are happy paying for satellite time while connected to a broadband network. Not me. You MIGHT be able to use a web-based mail like Gmail but you would give up any bandwidth management tools. This issue alone puts the GO in the ‘toy’ category for me. I also think it is the height of cynical marketing to only offer unlimited data on a device so thoroughly limited that it would be almost impossible to make use of it. Don’t hold your breath for unlimited on the Pilot……
    So – Globalstar? I invested a good deal in a then ‘state of the art’ GS system last year for our trip to the Bahamas, having been assured by the ‘value added’ retailer that it was well within the coverage area. Ha! Fine down the U.S. East coast – where I didn’t need it anyway, OK in the Abacos, south of Nassau? Nada, zip, nothing, with or without the external antenna. Tech support was completely ineffective and I eventually gave up and decommissioned the system. I jumped through lots of hoops to get my GS annual service terminated early but the VA retailer dismissed any liability for their bad advice, would not refund on any software or services and reluctantly agreed to take back the hardware only if I returned it in ‘resaleable condition in its original packaging’ – after a boat install? I don’t think so….. So it has become a premature occupant of my obsolete electronics cupboard.
    Sorry if this is a bit of a rant but after VERY little communication, a LOT of aggro and being about $5k in the hole, I still am at a loss as to how to solve this offshore comms issue effectively. Not quite desperate enough to consider an SSB installation yet but getting there…..
    Graham

  27. Anonymous says:

    UPDATE: A combination that seems to overcome the email limitations of the GO appears to be to ignore the GO ‘free’ email account and run the xgate email service through the GO. This will allow you to use the highest bandwidth device available to collect mail and manage attachments. Seems to work in theory. Guess it is going to cost a bit to find out for sure…..
    Graham

  28. Tom Brady says:

    I don’t know how many people have used one of these, but as a product I don’t think it is ready for prime time. The voice and text works as expected and don’t see any problems with them. The web and mail service is pretty poorly implemented. The first problem I encountered is my specific IPhone and IPad would not work. There is a know problem with some phones and tablets that in 2 months still has not been fixed. I was able to use it with an Android tablet. The app for web and mail is separate from the app for voice. The functionality of this app is pretty retro. First you have to connect the app to the Go. When the app is doing this, it displays a screen that is a throwback to the dial up modem days. It even displayed a line to says “dialing” and later connected. Once it is connected the app opens Opera Mini. However when that opens you lose visibility into your connection status with the GO and the GO with the Iridium network. You can try to open a mobile web page, and wait forever to realize your connection has dropped with the network. At that point you start all over again.
    I spent most of the time with the web app being the equivalent of a radio operator. It would seem this process would all be in the background. It is not very fast retrieving mobile pages but it can be done. I was able to get the mobile marine weather for southeast Alaska. I could even get observations from a station. However, it was not the easiest process.
    Iridium needs to do some work on the the user works with the app. On the web side, you should be able to tell it to retrieve a page and let it handle the communications. Right now what should be automatic, is mainly manual.
    Tom

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