Satellite phone or satellite messenger?


I have a PLB, but I was thinking about also investing in a 2-way satellite communication device for non-emergency issues such as vehicle breakdown or medical things.
But the question is: satellite phone or satellite messenger? I don't there is much discussion on that specific question here. Does anyone have any advice or experience to share?


- A lot cheaper up front (but plans aren't cheaper)
- Smaller, more durable
- Works without a clearly-defined satellite connection; message is sent when the satellite becomes available (at least I assume it works like this)
- Can do frequent check ins that log our location over time
- Probably OK for non-emergency requests for help (not as useful as a phone though)


- Better for getting complex advice for first aid or from a mechanic
- Easier to organize getting you car recovered or towed

The Thuraya XT LITE phone ( can be had for $829 and has a $15/month casual plan ($180/year).

The Zoleo Communicator ( can be had for $345, but the cheapest plan is $32 per month ($384/year) and there is a $40 activation. You can stop and start the plan for a month as needed, but you need to keep paying $6.50/month to keep the subscription going.

The Garmin inReach Mini is $529 RRP and the cheapest plan is $25/month, and there is a $54 annual fee ($354/year). Can be suspended for no cost though.


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We had a spot and a sat phone on our last trip, the spot was great for people following the trip and we sent a check in morning when we started and at night when we stopped.

But when we had an issue (rats chewed through a wiring loom) we had to use the sat phone to communicate.
The other issue certainly with the spot is you can't charge it via 12v, you have to charge the batteries separate and replace them. Not a deal breaker but it does mean you have to think about it.


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I think a phone wins hands down but have never tried a messenger type product
From personal experience when on our travels I have rung my mechanic at home for advice and diagnosis and have managed to make repairs myself to get out of a situation with that advice.
I have rung tilt trays , organised accommodation that we would be turning up for after hours to use. Have sort medical advice and arranged replacement prescriptions from our family doctor.
Have arranged the RFDS to fly out a sick child to a hospital in Broken Hill and then on to Sydney Children’s hospital. Organised parts to be delivered to us in the Simpson Desert so that we could drive ourselves out etc etc

If you can’t do these sort of things with an alternate product I think you have chosen second best


But when we had an issue (rats chewed through a wiring loom) we had to use the sat phone to communicate.

I wonder if you might have been able to get away with a 2-way messenger in that case... especially if you had a third party (a friend/family member) that you could enlist vis text message to be your voice, so to speak.

Thanks for your sharing your experience.


I don't travel and don't intend to travel to extremely remote areas on my own. I travel light and I have no time limits. Where I go I expect to encounter other traffic in a couple of days or week. That covers most of Australia, including the CSR and Simpson desert.
I have a PLB for life or death situations. For other remote coms I use the Garmin mini. I use the Garmin to chat or summons assistance if necessary using text messages with family or friends, or the authorities through AMSA (where I've registered it as well). Family and friends can track my location online. The Garmin sits on my dashboard and is permanently powered on and connected to my phone through bluetooth. It has an annual fee of $54, but you can suspend it or reinstate it at any time for free. I haven't used it now for nearly 2 years. So far I am comfortable with that setup and see no need for a satellite phone.


Albynsw, quite a list there! I agree that a phone would be the better choice for those situations, but I reckon you could probably get the same result with the messenger, just with more hassle.

Medical advice and advice from a mechanic are the two keys things there, that would really benefit from a phone...


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If you are happy you can convey your message to a third party who then rings who you want to ring on your behalf and can convey the appropriate information to you via a text I guess you can.
IMO The information you get on that basis is half baked. The doctor / mechanic is going to want to ask you questions about symptoms and to check this or that or monitor this or administer whatever etc etc. In our case with the RFDS we were in contact several times a day over two days monitoring the child’s conditio before they made the call to airlift them out.
The next best thing to them being there is to talk to you and use you as their eyes and ears to assist you In an appropriate manor fir the situation. I personally don’t see that happening via text very well and even less well via a third party in between

At the end of the day you have to run with the system you feel comfortable will work for your situation, I am just hi lighting scenarios I have encountered and how it has worked for me.

muffin man

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I bought a Satphone 17 years ago when the big argument was happening....Satphone vs HF Radio.
Anyway the satphone is great and costs $600pa + calls...topped up with a PLB for motorcycle trips.
If I was buying now i'd consider the new options but would probably still go for a satphone.
It's the most expensive option for a reason.

Neil Watts

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Sat Phone is the smarter choice but I do the same as Kippie with my Garmin InReach.

The only reason I chose the InReach over a Sat Phone is because the wife would be ringing me every 5 minutes.
As it is the txt messages are of the hook but she can track my course and know where I am which allows me to get away and stay remote.


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Iridium sat phone on a casual plan whenever we go remote, normally once a year for a few weeks. PLB for worse case emergencies.
Sat phone number can be called or texted for same cost as any Aussie mobile number. Family know we turn it on each night between 6 & 8 if they need us.


Awesome advice.

Most sensible and practical choice: sat phone
Cheaper and more useful day-to-day choice: sat messenger

I'll probably go with a sat phone. I actually like the idea of having it stored away and off, ready for when it is needed, hopefully never :).


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What I do when deciding on critical items like this I picture a scenario of sitting on the side of the road in a life threatening situation to me or a loved one and how pissed off I would be that such a critical life saving item was selected on cheapest price knowing there was a better option available and I scrooged out on it. ;)


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I believe the Thuraya plan can be put on hold and reactivated when needed so you're not paying for the full year. It got a decent revue from Stephan Fischer. The Thuraya satellite is geostationary over Singapore somewhere so may be spotty down in the south east of the continent, but I wouldn't know for sure.


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I actually like the idea of having it stored away and off, ready for when it is needed, hopefully never :).

I have a small canvas shoulder bag, bought from an army surplus store, which hangs over the bag of the driver’s seat. It holds the sat phone, PLB, a small emergency first aid kit and pen and paper. It is our “grab bag” in an emergency. Have been in a couple of precarious situations, where I got my wife out of the vehicle with the grab bag just in case.


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We travel with just a sat phone - Iridium as it is the only one with guaranteed coverage all over Australia. Ours is the 9575 Extreme which came with a magnetic roof top antenna and hard case. It also has an SOS button that will contact a global call centre as well as nominated contact numbers with a message and GPS coordinates.

Our thinking was that it offers a lot more versatility than a PLB or Spot device and we weren't interested in the ability for friends or family to follow our trip - no one we know is interested in doing that.

The sat phone comes out and stays on the whole time we are travelling in areas without mobile coverage and our family has the number so they can call us. On the Pivotel plans, calls to the sat phone cost the same as a normal mobile phone call - outgoing calls are more expensive.