The new Iridium 9575 and Thuraya XT dual are more rugged.
courtesy HumanEdgeTech, SOURCE
Iridium satellite phones and Iridium trackers have true global coverage.
Thuraya cover most of Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. No set plans for expansion.
Globalstar have serious network problems, especially for data.
Inmarsat is undisputed leader in high speed data systems but their IsatPhone has failed to impress.
Tech week: Rugged Thuraya and Iridium, handhelds overview

Posted: Aug 16, 2012 03:12 am EDT
(HumanEdgeTech.com) Two new rugged sat phones are on the market. Here goes an update on both.

Iridium 9575 Extreme

When Iridium launched the new 9575 Extreme last fall we advised explorers to hold their buy for Iridium's notorious history of bad product launches. This spring Iridium recalled all the new phones.

Now that the issues seem to be solved we recommend the new Iridium 9575 for these reasons but remember the previous model 9555 is really good alternative at a great price right now.

Thuraya XT Dual

When Thuraya launched its first rugged phone - XT - in 2009 we gave it thumbs up but complained it lacked bluetooth. Seems their folks read our stories for the new model XT Dual has bluetooth added. Another perk: the unit delivers in two models; with or without camera.

Again: if basic voice phone is all you need the old XT model is selling at rock bottom prices.

Globalstar and Inmarsat

For years Globalstar have suffered problem with their satellites and we haven't seen any improvements. Not recommended.

Market leader for high speed data, Inmarsat have tried to get into the handset market a few times with a clunky phone lacking the user friendliness of Thuraya and Iridium.

Thuraya or Iridium?

Location is top priority when choosing a sat phone system. Iridium has true global coverage which includes Arctic and Antarctica. If you are headed that way - choose Iridium.

On the other hand, if you are off to Asia (Himalaya), Africa or Europe consider Thuraya. Why not iridium? Because of the second consideration: Data.

Iridium has a very slow speed 2.4 kb/s (don't believe marketers claiming 20 times that) compared to Thuraya that can reach up to 60 kb/s.

If you can afford it - most professional explorers and guiding outfitters carry both systems.

Weight is a third factor:

Iridium 9575 247 gr (9.4 oz)
Thuraya XT Dual 211 gr (7.4 oz)
Iridium 9555 265 gr (9.4 oz)
Thuraya XT 193 gr (6.8 oz)

And finally, Price:

HET $1095 *Thuraya XT Dual
HET $1195 *Thuraya XT Dual Camera version
HET $1395 Iridium 9575 Extreme
HET $1095 Iridium 9555
HET $795 *Thuraya XT

*Thuraya handhelds do not include car charger (12V charger needed for solar charging) $61.

We recommend Feather2 - 6.5W or 12W - for charging.

HET $206 Feather2, 6.5W, 200 gr (7.1 oz)

HET $376 Feather2, 12W, 320 gr (11.3 oz)

While 6.5W works it's always sweet to have a little extra for other devices such as MP3 players or cameras.

All this hardware can also be rented here and here.

Thuraya GSM coverage

Thuraya Dual can switch between satellite and GSM which is nice but in reality limited. Costs are at least 25% above standard rates and more importantly: the GSM roaming only works with some partners in some countries.

Carried anyway by most people today, smartphones are clearly easier to use for standard GSM when available. Or get a cheaper local GSM card and use it in your Thuraya which would not be possible in locked iPhones or Androids.

Iridium Access Point

Testing the Wi-Fi hotspot accessory launched by Iridium in 2012 we have found it slow and difficult to connect. The hotspot is also locked by default so only the manufacturer's web service can be used.

Another issue is that he unit requires a 110/220V wall charger and there is no easy way to charge it from solar. Use a cable connection instead (included with the Iridium package) if possible.

HumanEdgeTech is a unique, no-nonsense virtual expedition tech warehouse for satellite communications and edge technology. Created by explorers for explorers, the store is user-friendly with no-hassle pricing, expedition-tested gear, expedition-ready hardware, fast delivery and payments. HumanEdgeTech.com accepts most international credit cards, and delivers worldwide within 72 hours.

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