Getting away from it all, but staying contactable.

, posted: 22-Oct-2009 22:11

I'm thinking that in the fairly near future I'd like to take an extended tiki tour around NZ, on my motorbike, largely staying at DOC sites, and more of the off the main road ones (not that many DOC sites are ON the main road, but you know what I mean). 

Trouble is, for my web site clients I really need to be contactable, on-call as it were.  I can't just switch off for a month (or even a day) and say "too bad, deal with it yourself" if stuff goes all Tango Uniform.

Cell coverage, on either network, is pretty spotty when you get away from the main trunk areas... Fiordland, Westland, Karamea, Kahurangi, Molesworth, Lower East Coast of the North Island, Urewera Park, Whanganui Park all these places are shown to have pretty poor or no coverage, especially in the South.

So anyway, I've been thinking of solutions,

  1. Cross my fingers and wing it, try and stay in coverage as much as possible.  Chances are, everything would be fine, but, I'd alwyas have a lingering doubt and a restless night.  This isn't good.

  2. Employ somebody to watch over stuff.  Not an option, not only can I not afford to employ somebody good enough (smugness aside, my code is pretty unique and complex (and good)), but finding somebody good enough would be nigh impossible.

  3. Only stay in coverage areas.  That would mean really staying in commercial facilities and escalate the costs of my trip substantially as well as detract from the adventure.  Boo.

  4. Iridium or similar satellite phone, or data. $500 NZ to rent a phone for a month, $2.50 US per minute calling, 85c US per txt.  or a "BGAN" broadband over satellite thing is $750 rental a month, and $8.50 US PER MEGABYTE (AIII!!!!), I got these prices from  - does anybody know anywhere cheaper, I see that in Australia there is FAR more reasonable satellite phone availability, as little as 60c/minute Australian and the AU government actually has a subsidy programme to pay up to $1000 for people who need a satellite phone because the live out of mobile network coverage.  I guess living in a desert has it's advantages there.

  5. Iridium Pager.  This I think seems to be the most likely solution, but I havn't found anywhere in NZ offering these.  Anybody know?  At least if I had a pager I could get a page when somebody cries for help and know that I need to find a coverage area sooner rather than later.  At least most places in NZ without coverage are not too far (less than 50k's I'd guess) from somewhere that does have coverage.  A quick blast on the bike can sort that in 1/2 an hour.

Any useful folks got any better ideas?  Or know where I can get an Iridium pager from in NZ (or at least, to NZ).


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Comment by magnet, on 22-Oct-2009 23:15

callme offline on 021 XXXXXX to discuss options

Comment by nate, on 22-Oct-2009 23:46

My suggestion would be to bite the bullet and find someone to cover for you.  Not only does this remove the need for you to have an internet connection 100% of the time, I think you'll enjoy your travels around NZ more

Author's note by sleemanj, on 23-Oct-2009 00:05

@magnet - If you're serious and not just looking for a job then post details here for the world to hear about, I don't usually do phone, this is the electronic age you know.

@nate - I wish it was was that simple :-)

I should charge more, and be tougher, but I'm too nice you see (and so modest).

Comment by Cheap Iridium Rental, on 23-Oct-2009 01:51

Cellhire offer Iridum Satellite phone rental at £85 a month ( which is approximately NZ$196) i.e. much cheaper than the NZ$500 you'd found.

The calls may be a bit dearer but incoming calls are free which may suit.

Comment by Cheap Iridium Rental, on 23-Oct-2009 01:55

Cellhire offer Iridium Satellite Phone rental at only £89 a month (approx NZ$199) which is much cheaper than the NZ$500 you'd be quoted. I think the calls are a little dearer but incoming calls are free which is a way of keeping the cost down.

Author's note by sleemanj, on 24-Oct-2009 01:52

@Cheap Iridium Rental (cellhire)

That's certainly a better price, unfortunately it looks like it'd be at least an extra 60 pounds (each way?) to ship it.  Plus all the extra trouble that entails, and I bet it would get pinged for GST on it's way in.  Works out probably about the same price and with a bunch extra hassle :-(

You guys should get a New Zealand or Australian office.

Although I doubt I'd be gone a month anyway, 2 weeks more like (4 to 500k's a day, some rest/rain days, 5000k's total).

Comment by Hadley Smith, on 28-Jan-2010 11:55

Hi James

There are a number of options available for your situation.

The advantage of a satellite phone is if you hire the phone there is no additional costs - you can rest easy knowing you can be contactable! Only if you were to make a call would this incur charges. Plus anyone can text you for free off our website

The BGAN option is rather expensive for this kind of thing, they are more positioned at media crews and disaster recovery teams - plus at $8 per MB this is costly!

Buying a satellite phone can get as low as NZ$1000 which might be a good bet if this is a regular thing - there are also prepay options so your bill can't 'run' away from you. Additionally, if you were to purchase a phone - there are a number of plans available for example the AUS/NZ plan is as low as $0.61 a minute which is cheaper than regular cellular phones!

The pagers are a terrible piece of technology, somewhat of a blip in the satcoms industry - remember when cell phones were just coming out, and there was a heap of pager hype?

This industry is really changing at an incredible speed, you can expect the hardware and calling rates to come down over the next few years - Inmarsat have just released information on a new light weight handset: IsatPhone Pro view it here

if you have any questions please feel free to email me at

All the best with your travels!

Comment by johnr, on 20-May-2015 15:51

Karamea, Maori Point site was unlocked this afternoon 2G , 3G and 4G

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James Sleeman
New Zealand

PHP Programmer Extraordinaire

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