Is a phone with satellite connectivity a good replacement for the EPIRB? PBO expert Rupert Holmes answers the question
Are the new rugged phones with satellite connectivity of interest to the intrepid sailor?
Would they be an alternative to the phenomenally high priced EPIRB?
Rupert Holmes replies:
The device Peter appears to be referring to is the Motorola Defy Satellite Link, created by Bullitt, the company behind ruggedised mobile phone brand CAT.
The whole satcoms field is changing rapidly and Bullitt has just launched the first mobile phone with integrated satellite messaging.
However, there appears to be nothing inherently new about the Defy Satellite Link – black boxes that interface with smartphones for satellite messaging have been available for several years, although this one is competitively priced at US$100, plus a US$5 monthly subscription.
These devices might be very helpful in an emergency, and most have limited SOS messaging functionality that can be accessed without using a smartphone.
However, this is usually via third party providers that mostly deal with incidents on land.
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By contrast, a proper EPIRB sends its message directly to a coastguard rescue centre via the dedicated COSPAS SARSAT satellite network.
If the unit is correctly registered the coastguard has immediate access to full details of the vessel in distress, including shore contacts.
Over the past few years EPIRB prices have dropped, while battery life has increased to 10 years.
With retail prices now starting under £400 they are no longer phenomenally expensive.
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