The Iridium satellite service has altogether changed the way we hunt in Alaska these days, period. When I started in this business in the mid 90’s if a client had a real medical emergency on the mountain, then in all likelihood it would have meant a total disaster. Previously we used radios at sporadic base camps, but they were never handy enough to help out in a life threatening situation, and at best they worked around 70 % of the time. Iridium came into my former employer’s camp in 1999 and we have been happy to have the sat phones in camp ever since. The model that we use is the original Motorola 9500, and we have never had a problem with either of our two phones. We now use the Iridium pre-paid phone cards in 200 minute increments and find this to be the best route for our purposes. As far as coverage, they are officially the only phone that has global coverage, and I haven’t found a place that this isn’t true. I do have to walk around some times in sheep country to get a signal, due to the mountains blocking the line of sight from the satellites, but I have always been able to get out, and the pre-paid card also includes free reception of e-mails. I rate the phones a solid 4 stars, with my only complaint being the fact that it still runs me about $1.49 per minute. By the way, a well charged battery will typically hold up for around 50 minutes of use, and the used 9500 can be purchased from Outfitter Satellite in Nashville, TN for around $500, which is much nicer than the slightly lighter new version that runs $995 used.Update on Model 9505 August 2005
We purchased the newest model Iridium from Surveyor’s Exchange in Anchorage last August and I must say I do like it quite a bit more, due in large part to the fact that it will fit in the little mini Pelican waterproof case and the whole unit weighs in at 2 pounds. Just a little more compact than the 9500, and we will be looking to purchase more for the upcoming season. Great phone but very expensive new at $1,600 with the case!