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Wednesday
Jul102013

Iridium connected D-Star HotSpot??? Maybe not....

This week I was thinking about alternative ways to get internet connectivity to operate my portable D-Star HotSpot. 

While I am using it at home or work it's plugged into a traditional Ethernet network and the internal Mikrotik router is powered off.  When I am out and about I use a 3G USB stick plugged into the Mikrotik router. 

My mobile ISP uses the Optus 3G network in Australia.  In recent years Optus has spent a lot of money installing new base stations and the network coverage has improved quite a bit, especially on the Eyre Peninsula (where I live).

But 3G does not work everywhere and it's actually quite fragile. In my area Optus uses microwave backhaul to link the majority their base stations and there is no backup backhaul... if a tower loses power for an extended period, all base stations along the backhaul path after that one will also stop working!   I started thinking about alternative methods of getting IP connectivity.

Satellite internet connections have become quite common in recent years but these tend to be quite bulky.  Many are not really suited to transportable operation and those that are still very expensive to maintain and operate... certainly not something you leave lying around "just in case" you might need it.

I have used various satellite systems for data connectivity in the past beginning in the mid 90's with the Optus Mobilesat system.  Back then you could get a "massive" 2.4k of throughput, not too bad for that time in history... but it doesn't seem to have improved very much in the last 20 years!  Two of the popular players in the handheld portable satellite phone market, Iridium and Inmarsat still only offer 2.4k data connections!  Globalstar is a little bit better with a 9.6k connection but with it's network coverage issues (satellite constellation failures) it's only recently started bouncing back as a reliable service provider. 

I thought about using a handheld Iridium 9555 handset for the internet connection, mainly because I have access to one!  It has a USB socket on the side and you can use it as a dial up modem with a PC.  It's small, easy to pack and works virtually anywhere.  It's not as cheap to run as a cell phone, but it's certainly cheaper than keeping a BGAN terminal on standby!

BUT... with Iridium's network data connection speed of 2400bps, it's half the rate that a single D-Star transmission uses over the air! Unfortunately it's not going to be an option even if my Mikrotik router could use an Iridium 9555 handset as a data connection device!

So while this looks like it might be a fantastic way to keep your D-Star HotSpot on the air during an emergency or away from cellphone networks... it's not going to work. 

73

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Reader Comments (2)

This will be an option when it's available:

http://www.iridium.com/products/Iridium-go.aspx

Supposed to be 1Mbps, tho I'm not sure if that's with the current Iridium network or Iridium Next.

March 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Hello,
can you kindly explain me how you have configured mikrotik router with your usb-iridium phone? wich drivers?
Thank you very much!
Cheers from Italy,
Toni

November 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterToni Pezzoni

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