Well organised travellers in Australia's remote areas
have always placed a high priority on reliable long-distance
communications. As well as helping to avert personal disaster,
effective communications can save you time and money where
breakdowns and strandings might occur.
hardware usually takes the form of an HF Radio and/or a Satellite
Phone (Satphone). Because these two communication methods have their
individual desirable attributes, choosing a system is not always
With ongoing discussion in various forums on
the choice of communication methods, we make the following
1. If you have
the money, use an HF radio and a Satphone to maximise your reliable
reach to help.
Purchase outlays for
this option will be around $5 - 6000, plus the various memberships,
service fees and call charges.
If you don't want the above outlay, both HF
radios and Satphones can be hired. The Satphone may have a
service plan included in the hiring arrangement..
You could also opt for a single mode communication setup: HF Radio
or Satphone. With this stance, costs are reduced but your
options are also reduced (though not dramatically). Many travellers
choose a single method of communicating, adapt their expectations
toward that system and probably suffer no practical disadvantage as
4. In choosing your communications system, we see
the following issues as important.
When using a satphone,
clear and reliable communications to any phone number on the planet
are generally assured (but there can be many "dead" spots and service "drop outs") and there is
usually a considerable cost for this option.
If you are
in trouble you can communicate with only one person/party at a time. There is no network of Base Stations, Operators and helpful authorised users with support. With a satellite phone you are on your own. A number of time consuming calls may be required to finally
arrange assistance from a source of help that may be a long way off.
The best scenario here may be to have a correspondent do the
arrangements for you, and then ring you back.
In the case of VKS-737's HF radio, communications may not always be as
"clear" as that found on the satphone, and in some circumstances you
may not be able to call directly your intended correspondent. When you do
enter the airwaves though, you access a "community of the air".
There are usually many users monitoring the system, so contact
with someone, somewhere is virtually assured (and using selcall, you
can "wake up" and "connect with" our bases, via automatic
Should you need assistance when calling, base
stations will transmit the situation report and you may find that
VKS-737 subscribed users are nearby (possibly only a hillside away
While using a satphone, this "transmission" factor is not
employed and opportunities for time-saving and cost-saving assistance may be missed
as a result.
If you are in trouble, base station operators can
phone anyone, anywhere, to try and arrange assistance - and it is
all included as part of the annual fees. In 2007, a state of the
art radio would be around $3500, VKS-737 annual licence authority fees
[VKS-737 Fees] for details and there are no usage costs. A basic radio from the used market
will do nicely for "talk only" communications and they are often
sold under $1000
see [ VKS-737 market ] page the Trading
Post, your local classifieds or the HF retailers who often carry
second hand stock).
Radio Telephone (Radphone)
An opportunity to "bridge the
divide" between HF and Satphones exists, in the form of Radphone
(radio telephone) systems. When using radphone on a suitably
equipped HF radio, you selcall the provider's base station, key in
the desired phone number on your radio interface, and commence the
call when answered (a broadcast call in fact - no privacy). This low
cost system is attractive to many users but note that it may not be as
clear as a Satphone. See [ HF-Tel Service ] available to subscribers of the VKS-737 Radio Network..
A comparison of estimated costs for ownership and use of both
systems may be of interest - one such exercise has been documented
by staff at [ Exploroz.com ] .
See our PDF sheet
[ DOC 06 Communications Systems Comparison ] .
The choice is yours...........