Many newcomers to the joys of Outback travel are confused by the different communications options available. The traditional means of Outback telecommunication has been HF radio, commonly known as ‘Flying Doctor’ radio. Before the advent of satellite telephones HF radio was the only means of mobile communication that 4x4 owners could rely on.
There’s no doubt that a handset satellite phone is more portable than an HF radio that needs to be installed in a vehicle, with a power supply and a large aerial.
Also, there’s no licence needed to operate a satphone. A satphone can be carried when bush walking, or out in a ‘tinnie’, fishing. In many cases this portability answers the HF or Sat question. Where portability isn’t an issue an HF radio has some advantages over a satphone, including the ability to have free contact over long distances between vehicles and bases, including the RFDS. There’s also the community spirit enjoyed by HF radio club users, who can communicate with like-minded bush travellers and experienced base station operators. The cost of operating an HF radio is less than using a satphone, provided the user is taking advantage of free and low-cost communications options. However, using an HF radio for phone calls costs around a dollar per minute - about the same as the average satphone call cost. For me, satphone is the answer. Because I’m in the Outback for at least four months every year I decided to buy rather than hire my satphone.
I qualified for the Federal Government’s satphone subsidy and John Booth from Landwide processed all the necessary paperwork for me. He’s also been very helpful with setting up the phone – not that it’s difficult - and is only a call away if I have any problems.”
“No matter where I am – in an unexplored part of the arctic, the middle of the ocean, or on a hiking trail - satellite phones connect me to the outside world of friends, family, resources, media etc, and in turn, connects the world to me. Using an Iridium phone from Landwide Satellite Solutions gives me complete freedom, peace of mind and even internet access to share the experience online, from virtually anywhere on the face of the planet.”
“When you’re in the middle of nowhere, there is nothing more important than being able to communicate with the outside world. A satellite phone, from Landwide Satellite Solutions, is lies at the heart of my expedition kit: It does more than just let me keep in touch from anywhere on Earth, it also enables me to connect to the internet to send & receive emails and even update my website from unexplored regions of the arctic, the middle of the ocean, or wherever I happen to be. Apart from the joy of sharing these experiences as they happen and being able to speak to and reassure loved ones at home, carrying a satellite phone gives anyone travelling in remote areas the freedom to let people know when your plans change, and in an emergency situation, provide potentially life-saving information and be given critical medical advice, immediately, with the added reassurance that you can be sure help is on the way. While carrying safety devices is no substitute for proper preparation or risk assessment, even the best laid plans can go astray, and so for my own peace of mind - and for the peace of mind of those at home – I always bring a satellite phone with me, in this day and age when staying in touch and informed is so simple, I consider it part of responsible remote area travel. Even on a short, safe trip where I plan never to use a phone, I’ll still bring it – I could always run into someone else who needs help.”
“Ever since growing up sailing around the world with my family on our homemade yacht, I’ve had a burning desire to continue travelling – continue pushing back the limits to my experiences. I’m only 25, yet already this passion has led me to visit places and see things that few - if any - have ever experienced before. With an ever growing network of great contacts – including Landwide Satellite Solutions, and the Australian Geographic Society which in 2004 presented me with their ‘Young Adventurer of the Year’ award – my journeys have become increasingly remote and consequently more exciting.
Just recently my hiking partner Clark Carter and I returned from the second part of our ‘1000 Hour Day Expedition’ a world-first, unsupported 70-day expedition across Victoria Island in the arctic. Hauling almost ¼ ton of food and supplies behind each of us in our homemade PACs (Paddleable Amphibious Carts), I’ve had an Arctic Wolf stride within two meters then actually play with me. I’ve been chased by a pack of 9 Wolves and experienced the awe of standing there as a Polar Bear lumbered towards me. Paddling past blue icebergs and in sub zero temperatures where every splash turned our drysuits into suits of armour while curious seals surfaced beside us… In Tasmania’s isolated South Western Wilderness with mate Jasper Timm I’ve stumbled upon sperm whale teeth, stranded whales, a previously unknown breeding colony of Australian fur seals, and fought through an endlessly impenetrable five meter high wall of scrub with a machete. Other journeys have seen me trudging through waist-high snow, sleeping in an igloo, sailing almost half way around the world across the Southern Ocean – all unforgettable memories that fuel my burning desire to go further, and experience more.
Extreme isolation, although one of the biggest attractions, is itself, one of the biggest dangers. Should something go wrong, you can’t just scream for help, or wait for someone to come past – they never will. A reliable communication strategy is at the centre of all of my expeditions, and the heart of this system is either one or even two satellite mobile phones. Whether simply used to report positions back home, or to summon help if your partner has been bitten by a snake or broken a leg – the ability to communicate with the outside world from its harshest outposts can be the difference between life and death. Just the knowledge that if something did go wrong that you could call for help (even if such help may be many hours away), sets my mind at ease, and goes a long way in reassuring friends, family and sponsors, who are often waiting for weeks if not months, back at home. On this latest venture, we used the satellite phones to do live TV interviews while standing, shivering, atop an iceberg or huddled in the tent. I also link the satellite phone up to a tiny laptop computer allowing me internet access to update my wesbite – complete with photographs – from anywhere on the globe. The power of such technology is incredible, letting us share our experiences with people all over the world. John Booth at Landwide Satellite Solutions has become an ever more central part of my journeys, keeping me up to date with new and future technologies, and always – always – there to cheerfully solve any technical queries or hunt down a phone for me at a moment’s notice.
Although we put them through hell, John’s Iridium 9505 satellite mobile phones have never failed me. I find them simple to use – just like a normal mobile - yet robust and dependable, and most importantly, they work just about anywhere on the surface of the globe. While I always carry an EPIRB for backup, a satellite phone is so much more versatile – even ignoring it’s data sending capabilities if you only carry it for emergencies, at least you can explain the nature of the problem: “yes, bring tiger snake antivenin”, or perhaps everything is fine, you’re just running a week late and while there is no need to trigger the EPIRB, without being able to let people know, a search party would probably be sent out in desperation.
Satellite mobile phones are crucial to my expeditions, and I know I can depend on Landwide Satellite Solutions to cover every aspect of this need.
You’re a champion John!
I would like to thank you John for your assistance during the recent Victorian bushfire that affected my brother and his family in Narbethong. Whilst I contacted a number of satellite phone providers on the sunday following the black saturday bushfire, you were the only one who could get me a satellite phone in Melbourne on that day (in fact, within an hour), and remarkably you were able to arrange it all from Sydney.
Following the bushfire, the mobile and land line telephone networks in the Narbethong/Marysville area were down for a number of days. Thanks to your efforts, once we got to Narbethong on the sunday afternoon, we were able get word out immediately to the rest of my family that my brother, his wife and child were safe, using the satellite phone you provided us with. There were also a lot of other grateful people in Narbethong that afternoon who were able to use the satellite phone to call their family and friends and let them know that they had survived the fires.
I would encourage anyone living in a high fire-risk area to ensure that they have access to a satellite phone during the bushfire season - as we discovered, communication is everything in an emergency and the land line and mobile telephone networks can't be relied upon.
During the Sepik River Expedition 2010, Landwide Satellite Solutions were generous enough to supply me with a Solara Field Tracker 2100. This thing was awesome. It automatically sent our position out every half an hour and graphed it on a map on our expedition website…. live!
Because it’s not always affordable to buy these sorts of things, renting is a great option. If you need a Field Tracker or Satellite Phone for your next trip, I highly recommend you contact the guys at Landwide, they’ll sort you out.
Landwide supplied 4X4 Australia with a satellite phone three years ago and these days we’d be lost without it. On numerous occasions, the Motorola satellite phone has got us out of trouble, when travelling in remote areas or simply testing vehicles on the eastern seaboard. You don’t have to head far out of town to lose mobile phone reception.
On one occasion we had a test vehicle catch on fire in one of NSW’s south coast forests. The satellite phone was the only way we could call for help. On another occasion we had to call ahead to Birdsville, from the middle of the Simpson Desert, to order in some spare parts for a vehicle that had broken its suspension.
On long outback trips the satellite phone is the only way we can keep in touch with friends and relatives. It’s simple to use, affordable and reliable.
If you’re heading into remote areas, or travel alone where mobile phone reception isn’t reliable, a satellite phone is a must-have piece of communications equipment. We simply wouldn’t go bush without it!
For 15 years I’ve been leading expeditions into Australia’s most remote deserts – the Simpson, the Gibson, the Great Sandy and Great Victoria – and out there, having reliable communication isn’t just ‘nice to have’ – it can be a matter of life or death.
Since they first became available in the early 1980s, I’ve always been a fan of satellite phones over the alternatives, even though the first examples were a bit cumbersome to use. Necessary steps included locating satellites with a hand-operated mini communications dish!
Nowadays, using a satphone is as simple as using a mobile. Yet not all satphones and networks are the same. On a recent expedition to the Gibson Desert, we took two phones. One was an Iridium 9505 connected with Telstra from Landwide Satellite Solutions, the other…well, it doesn’t really matter.
In the heart of the Gibson, the 9505 quickly became the preferred unit, with the other satphone dropping out in the middle of conversations, or even failing to make contact in the first place. Not exactly what we wanted with unseasonably hot temperatures over the 50 degree mark always a lurking threat to expedition members’ wellbeing!
Another plus for Landwide Satellite Solutions was the fact that company principal John Booth was on hand to answer any technical questions about operating the phone – just a call away. Not that we ended up having any questions; the Iridium 9505 was simplicity itself to use.
Thanks again Boothy, for your assistance on the Patience Well Expedition 2004.
When I explore the remotest river systems on earth, I normally go alone and with minimal equipment for a month or more. No film crew, no support team, and everything I need on my back or in the packraft. Whether I’m in Gabon sharing antelope stew with pygmies, searching for unknown waterfalls in Australia’s Kimberley, tracking bears in Canada or seeking out rare black jaguars along Guyana’s jungle streams, one thing’s for sure – in the sort of places I end up, safety is everything.
John Booth of Landwide Satellite Solutions has supplied me with two exceptional bits of gear which I consider absolutely ideal for Remote River Man expeditions – the Iridium 9555 sat phone and the Solara Field Tracker 2100. I cannot stress how important both these products are in giving me peace of mind when I’m completely alone, hundreds of kilometres from the nearest human being.
The Iridium satellite network has a proven track record of long-term reliability, and the 9555 is a perfect phone choice that combines durability, compactness, light weight and simple, user-friendly features. Aside from its vital use in case of emergencies, this phone also allows me to keep sponsors and the media updated with my progress, and lets me assure my family that I’m eating piranhas for lunch, and not the other way around.
The Solara Field Tracker 2100 is really quite an amazing piece of equipment. Among other things it allows people anywhere in the world to track your position on a map through advanced GPS technology, and also has a very cool global texting feature that uses the same excellent Iridium satellite system. I couldn’t believe how light and small this thing was – it’s a cutting-edge multi-function marvel, and a perfect tool for someone like me who conducts lengthy solitary expeditions.
Remote River Manjourneys are all about self-reliance, but they’re also about being able to rely on the gear I take with me. With Landwide Satellite Solutions, this is not an issue – John Booth and his enthusiastic crew really know their stuff. They keep me informed about new technology that might benefit my highly specialized expeditions in the future, and are always there for support or any queries a technology-challenged guy like me might have. Equipping myself with Landwide’s superb and easy-to-use communications gear was one of the best decisions I ever made as a remote river explorer. Knowing that my communication needs are all sorted, I can now concentrate on other things - like avoiding electric eels and tropical rattlesnakes, and trying to remember that termite soup recipe...
Kevin Casey / Remote River Man
My travels take me all over Australia, to the Antarctic, PNG, Indonesia, across the Pacific and just locally into the bush. On every occasion I have differing communication needs – whether it be as simple as an ‘ordinary sat-phone’ to keep in touch, through to complex systems which will do location, text and image transmissions back to maintain the home backup team or publishers up to date.
Landwide has this great ability to supply what I need, when I want it and they always come with a Reply Paid so I can send it back with ease
Recently I completed a three week Simpson Desert expedition on my own to update track data and take more photos for my publications (only got 7000 pix!) and my Landwide package kept me rolling the whole way. I had two times where I had to use the phone to get technical mechanical help for my vehicle allowing me to avoid very expensive alternatives. On two other occasions I was able to standby when I met another group who had no satphone capacity and it looked like they were going to need urgent assistance. Fortunately both times the issue was resolved without having to use a helicopter and/or rescue vehicle to fix their problems.
Possibly the greatest use of I have made of the systems, other than knowing I can call for any help anytime, has been to call family and reassure them that I am OK and on schedule – there ain’t nothing like hearing a happy Mum!
Landwide has my vote for great service, great products, great systems and great people. Thanks guys.