The Iridium system has gotten more robust and now has 66 low-earth-orbit satellites arrayed in a constellation that delivers Arctic-to-Antarctic coverage. One big advantage of this system is that the company has recently decided to transition to a 2015 upgrade called “IridumNEXT” that will be backward compatible. The new satellites and software will allow current sat-phones to remain fully functional. This is very good news for those contemplating purchasing a new 9555 phone, as planned obsolescence will not be an issue.
The current marine package includes a waterproof case, a remote marine antenna, chargers, an earpiece and a USB data cable, plus a new hands-free dock. Airtime costs vary from provider to provider, but usually you need to pre-purchase about 500 minutes to get the price down to $1.25 to $1.35 per minute. Monthly plans also reward higher usage with lower rates. Phone prices at the Miami Satphone Store are $995 for the basic kit and $1,450 for the marine package.
This system is well tested, its data-rate transfer speed is slow, but its performance in voice mode is excellent, and its portability makes it an important communications asset that can be carried from boat to boat. In an emergency, it can become a valuable backup to an EPIRB. The number of survivors who extol its virtue grows annually.