Keys to the Kingdom Page 3

Electronics — June 2005
By Ben Ellison

Keys to the Kingdom
Electronics Q&A
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Keys to the Kingdom
• Part 2: Keys to the Kingdom
• Electronics Q&A
• Lopolights
• Garmin Radar
• Navman Pilot

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• Electronics Column Index
• Electronics Feature Index

 Elsewhere on the Web

• Furuno
• Lopolights
• Garmin
• Navman

What’s the best satphone deal for fishing the canyons? S.T. via e-mail
Despite the rumors still floating around and the actual histories of financial distress, both Globalstar and Iridium seem to be going strong these days (though it may sound macabre, global turmoil is often good for these businesses). Globalstar is by far the most popular choice for boaters within a few hundred miles of the United States (and in the Caribbean), offering purportedly fine service with lower initial hardware costs and lower per-minute costs. These days a Globalstar handset retails for about $650, and the minimal 40-minute monthly plan costs $40, with extra minutes $1 apiece. Globalstar is also significantly faster than Iridium at e-mail, and even Web browsing is tolerable, especially if you sign up with a specialized service like OCENS Mail.

The complaint I hear about Globalstar (and Iridium) is that the handsets don’t always work inside a cabin and that use on deck can be awkward and/or too noisy. The common solution is a marine kit that includes an exterior antenna, secure cradle for the actual satphone, and separate handset. There are benefits besides inside use. The phone is constantly charged, the better antennas typically extend its range, and a permanent data cable is easy to rig. Besides, though I have no hard evidence that it’s harmful, I’d just as soon not put a transmitter strong enough to reach a satellite right upside my brain. There seem to be lots of choices in Globalstar (and Iridium) kits. A few places I know to look are OCENS (, Sea Tech (, and Marine Computer Systems (

If you should go fish the Great Barrier Reef or cross an ocean, then you may want an Iridium, which has truly global coverage (even at the Poles) and also a uniform global service plan. Both kinds of phones, by the way, can be rented by the week or month from the sources above and others.

Got a marine electronics question? Write to Electronics Q&A, Power & Motoryacht, 260 Madison Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10016. Fax: (917) 256-2282. e-mail For fastest response, visit the Electronics forum at No phone calls, please.

Next page > Lopolights > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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