Wednesday, December 12, 2012

INMARSAT ISatPhone Pro Data Service (Field Test)

I used my ISatPhone Pro in conjunction with the SPSMail application during the 2776 NM transit from Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands) Spain to St. Martin in the Caribbean.

ISatPhone Pro:
I have mixed emotions about the ISatPhone. Pro. We were at a very low Latitude so I expected the signal strength from the satellite to be quite strong. In fact it was no different than further North. I guess when the satellite is in geosynchronous orbit (if I remember right about 22,500 miles up) a few thousand extra miles don't matter much.
Three drawbacks:
(1) The antenna is very directional. On a rolling sailboat this means you need to hold the phone in your hand and compensate for the roll. I spent a lot of money on dropped calls until I figured this out.
(2) The phone seemed to be very affected by moisture in the atmosphere. Whenever there were clouds (and there were a lot of them) it was difficult to maintain a connection.
(3)  It is difficult to read the telephone (and in my case also my computer) "outside with a clear view of the sky" during daytime hours. I ended up only making the connection at night so I could see what was going on.

SPSMall Data Service
I used the console application that was provided. It was less intuitive then I thought. Once I read the instructions I did a lot better. Some of it takes getting used to. For example the "sent" folder contains messages that are queued up for the next data connection but have not actually been "sent." Copy, Cut and Paste are disabled most of the time which is annoying.  Whatever you do don't delete orphans in the queue! These are the messages that have been partly received or partly sent. If you delete the queue you lose all of those messages. Since they are already in the "sent" folder you think they have been sent but they haven't. Not good. Spent a bunch of money learning that too! It is worth taking the time to explore the various "utilities." I discovered a nice interface for getting GRIB files. I pretty much ignored the "Web Fetch" utility until I discovered a very nice catalog of weather pages that are most useful to boats at sea. I believe it is an interfac
e to the "Saildocs" service.

I have used "Airmail" in conjunction with "" for many years. When close to shore it works quite well. In the middle of the ocean it is much less reliable. Despite the drawbacks noted I was glad that I had invested in the ISatPhone Pro and the SPSMail Data Service. It provided one more link for Captain and Crew to our shore based support and loved ones.

Satellite Phone Store
A special mention to Filip Kvasny – Sales Manager at the Satellite Phone Store (HYPERLINK "" In spite of me giving him totally incorrect information and then complaining that he had not done what I asked he figured out that I had my head up my a^&*^&, fixed my problem, and did it all with good grace. So Bravo Zulu as we say in the Navy. Or, thank you Filip as we say as civilians. If you are looking to purchase a phone or other equipment, an email service for your phone, and/or air time I would recommend the good folks at the Satellite Phone Store.

Fair winds and following seas

(Posted with the ISatPhone Pro utilizing the SPS-Mail data service.)


1 comment:

  1. Roger,

    We might be able to make your data usage on the IsatPhone a bit more tolerable and reliable.

    When you get a chance take a look at our Optimizer ( and our email and weather options (

    If I can answer any questions please let me know.

    Merry Christmas,

    Jeff Thomassen