Iridium OpenPort vs KVH FB150 testing #3, VOJ in the Pacific

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.

14 Responses

  1. Big thanks to Google, by the way, for both graphic and audio illustrations at the top of this entry.
    Also, I forgot to mention the VOJ blog, where you can follow the passage and also read about the extreme measures Gram and his folks had to take in order to fix the boat’s folding prop while anchored in the Galapagos:

  2. JesperW says:

    What can one say… I am pretty sure this is the first time in many many months I have read a review and ended up with “No further questions, Your Honor”.
    Extreeeeemly thorough, useful and well written too.
    Here’s your three cheers from me: Hurray horray hooray! (Hmm… how do you spell that, actually?)

  3. Russ says:

    Great review. And all of this while spending half your time under the boat fixing the prop!
    I understood you to say that you downloaded a large GRIB file and 3 faxes a day, but by using XGate your monthly total data usage was just 1.6MB. That works out to just over 50KB / day which is quite modest for 3 faxes and a large GRIB.
    The airtime offerings that I’ve been able to find on the web for both OpenPort and KVH150 total up to more than $100/mo for 100mins of voice and 1.6MB of data. Could you expand upon the data usage and airtime agreement?

  4. From out in the Pacific via one satcom or another:
    Russ, I tried to make clear that our average usage of 1.6MB/month was due to use of shoreside internet connections at times each month and that I expected our next few months to be higher as we traveled more offshore and to places without WiFi. February usage was almost 13MB of data of which about 6MB was final testing for the article. That means we spent $73 on our voice commitment of 100 minutes and 7MB of data at $13.50/MB for a total of $167 for a month of phone calls plus 2 grib files, 2 weather faxes, 2 text weather forecasts per day, and all “casual” boat e-mail (News downloads and non-urgent personal e-mails were done ashore while in Galapagos). This was slightly higher than my estimate from the article of $150/month for fairly significant usage.
    Our Openport airtime provider declined to be included in the article, but offered us 100 minutes of voice for $73/month with excess calls billed at $0.73/min and data at $13.50/MB. KVH offers a “Season-Pass” level that for $747/year ($59+tax/month) gives you 60MB of data to use at your leisure over the course of a year which works out to $12.75/MB or $1.25/min for voice in any combination. Excess usage is billed at those rates. By paying for a year in advance you get to use your credit at any time during the year. This is what we have decided to do for the remainder of our trip, using FB150 primarily for data and using the Openport for Voice at $0.73/min with a 100min commitment. Obviously this is the best of both worlds and not available to most, but either service offers pretty good deals depending on if voice or data will be a bigger part of your total each month.
    Hope this answers your question, and we hope to run in to you out here before too long.

  5. dave says:

    it would seem to me that the FB150 is a clear winner. It has the highest speeds especially download, the lowest data rates and reasonable call rates. given that the hardware is roughy the same. ALso since we dont know the premium for the higher openport speeds ( from my scan around the web , they seem very high, with a big commitment. Sat Voice can be had from iridium muh cheaper then needing openport. SO its looks like at present FB150 has a definitive edge.
    I suppose this isnt suprising, Openport is really a fudge, simply using multiple iridum channels to simulate a higher data rate channel. the primary drawback of iridium and hence openport is that iridium was simply never designed with data in mind, whereas FB150 is and has new sat technology behind it.

  6. John says:

    Gram, well don this is an excellent review. I’m interested to know the “boot up times” of each system. IOW, from being turned off to ready to make a call. How long to find and lock onto satellites and have sufficient signal strength to make a call or connect to data service? Safe sailing and fair winds. Many thanks, John

  7. Russ says:

    Gram – Thanks for the additional information. Fair winds to Easter.

  8. George says:

    Reading this discussion makes me wonder about the progress of technology, sometimes driven by research efforts, sometimes by leisure activities, sometimes by war and disasters. Seeing this boat is off the coast of South America and knowing of the natural disaster in Chile and the need for communication there, makes me wonder if I was there what would I do? Sail to the coast of Chile and offer to relay communications somehow? Collect supplies from other unaffected areas and ferry them to those in need? Or just give the few dollars I can spare to government and aid agencies and hope they do the right thing?
    The difference between resources and efforts was brought up with the news about: “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday she will bring 20 satellite phones and a technician with her when she visits earthquake-damaged Chile. The gear and expertise are a down payment on help the United States intends to provide following last week’s massive quake in Chile….”
    Maybe there should have been a flotilla of private boats with aid from Florida to Haiti after their disaster, or did everyone think that governments and aid agencies can fix everything.
    (I know Panbo readers are now wondering – ‘hey, what kind of Sat phones did Sec. Clinton take to Chile?!?!?’…and if I knew, I would have said.
    I’m also reminded of anthropologist Margaret Mead who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

  9. Note the two new voice tests added to the end of the entry. Also, John, here’s your boot-up test from approximately 20S 106W:
    “I did a boot-up test this evening. Openport was ready to go in 45 seconds and FB150 was ready in 1:20. That is in 4-6′ beam seas with significant roll (probably 20 degrees) so in an anchorage I would expect the FB150 to be somewhat faster but I have no measurements of this.”

  10. John says:

    Thanks for the updates. The boot up time is negligible between the two sets.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I was wondering how the 150 does in bad seas. Every time the link is dropped there is a minimum usage charge to reestablish the link. This is not a big issue if this happen occasionally; but if the unit has to continually reestablish the link in bad weather it could become costly.

  12. Skipper150 says:

    I have had continous use of the FB150 aka “Skipper 150” during the Marion Bermuda race in 2009 on board Bremer Speck and while caught in the center of a Nor’easter for 2+ days. I continued to blog, make phone calls (and answering calls from the Coast Guard) etc. and not once did I lose the connection during that time! The antenna pod is mounted on a specially fabricated arch over the transom (I wanted it that way), about 10 feet above the waterline.

  13. VOJ had quite the entrance into the Hao atoll yesterday, which Gram illustrated with Expedition screen shots:

  14. Jussi says:

    Great info for all of us planning to invest to those equipment!
    Power is tricky to be measured in good accuracy with your tools. You might need an oscilliscope.
    Can you tell me what is ment with “idle”. I cannot figure out why OP “idle” amps in moderate seas with good rolling are smaller than in anhorage?
    The transmission power measurement is even more trickier since the duty cycle is very small (4 x 8.28ms per 90ms radio frames).

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