Garmin Inreach Mini or Zoleo Communicator? Looking for info...

I think the answer is maybe. Satellite broadband like Starlink has very different design requirements than Iridium hand portable terminal services and I don’t think it’s at all suitable for hand portable terminals.

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Yes from what I read Starlink is aimed at commercial customers (who might then redistribute the bandwidth to homes on e.g. remote islands). OneWeb seems to be more end-user orientated.
Interesting times - at least until they start running into each other and knocking themselves out of orbit!
73 Ed.

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Sorry for re-starting an old thread (seemed more appropriate to revive this one that starting a new one).

I wondered if anybody uses a Thuraya satellite phone for SMS spotting? I presume that spotting would work from a satellite phone?

On the Thuraya website they say something about certain networks having issues but I think that relates to their older models of phone.

I’m thinking about getting a satellite phone & wanted to make sure I got one that I could use to spot from. Looking at either the XT Lite, or the X5 Touch.


Whilst its not a Thuraya, I have a Iridium 9555 which I have used for spotting.
In short if it can send an SMS and the number is registered with Sota Watch it should work.
73 Warren, vk3byd

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It will work fine if the phone always sends the same number as the source of the SMS. InReach devices do not and use a pool of numbers and special use of InReach accounts is needed to make the devices be recognised correctly. Spot-X and Zoleo have unique fixed numbers and we have some owners registered but I haven’t checked if they actually use their accounts.

  • Thuraya does not have worldwide coverage, you may not be aware of that.

  • Zoleo devices were not being sold in the UK when I last looked.

  • Spot-X is on sale in the UK. It uses Globalstar network which has only 80% coverage of Earth with the interesting info that in the coverage zone “96% or better probability of successfully sending a single message within 20 minutes”. With my OEM Iridium device (home made spotter) it takes less than 30secs to get the remote message to my server.

The final question is, apart from the sheer coolness of owning a satellite phone, do you really need a sat phone with their expensive service plans if you just want to spot where there is no cell coverage?


Good point!

Sorry to hijack the thread, but there are alternatives to spotting over satellite, in case you (@M0GQC) just want to spot where there is no cell coverage.

Apart of APRS, there is a new clever and reliable way to spot that only needs your smartphone and your HF transceiver (and its microphone).

The solution consist of an app called SOTAmāt that is available for Android and iOS (I only tried it with Android).

You have to preconfigure your SOTA region, your modes and frequencies beforehand. It now also allows to define call sign prefixes and suffixes and UK call signs, depending on the region you’re activating. Once this configuration is done, it’s actually easier to spot than using APRS, at least for me.

There is a thread that discusses it in more detail:

Since you’re a YouTuber, two videos are available that show it live:

N1CLC using a KX2:

Me using a TX-500:

Maybe a topic for a future video for your great YouTube channel?

73 Stephan


It’s less about the “coolness” factor & more to do with wanting a phone that will work outside of mobile coverage areas. I’d prefer to use my everyday mobile as it is better spec & has more functionality than any of the satellite phones on the market but I regularly find myself in locations where it just doesn’t work.

When I’ve been away in the motorhome there have been quite a lot of occasions when I’ve wanted to call or send a text message to family & couldn’t because I had no coverage.

I’ve also broken down & had to walk nearly a mile from the motorhome to call the AA which was extraordinarily irritating!

I’ve looked at several devices:-

  • The InReach plans seemed expensive to me. Handy to have the GPS navigation as a backup to my main device but really can’t justify the cost of that luxury.
  • Spot-X is one I hadn’t considered…I need to look into that
  • Zoleo seems like a reasonable option at £18 per month. They now seem to be selling them in the UK on the Zoleo website. At least I assume that they are available in the UK if they have listed the prices in £
    ZOLEO Global Satellite Communicator

The problem with all of the above is that you can’t make phone calls from them & they rely on tethering your phone to them…something which I don’t really want to screw about with on a summit if I’m honest.

Thuraya plans are actually surprisingly cheap but the drawback is that they don’t cover the USA, which is a shame because I would have liked to use it over there when visiting friends. I believe they can also be a bit temperamental if you have a hill to your south as this can block the view to the satellite. I guess that’s why they are cheaper.

Either way it’s going to be a compromise unless I spend stupid money on an Iridium device, which I’m not willing to do.


Thanks for the heads up.

I’ve tried APRS & found it to be a little hit + miss from some locations.

I wasn’t aware of the app for spotting on HF…I’ll have a look at that.

Good suggestion, thanks. I’ll have a look at the app & see how I get on with it.


Do you still need to install the FT8 app as well or does it generate the FT8 signal itself?

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On Android, it generates the FT8 audio itself, so no other app is needed!
On iOS though, if I remember correctly, you need another app that creates the FT8 signal.

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Thanks Stephan, I’ll have a play and see if I can repurpose the FT8 generation.


The latest version of SOTAmat (any build bigger than 1.0.0-40) generates the FT8 audio itself on all platforms (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire). It no longer needs or uses a 3rd party app. I ported open source FT8 code to mobile myself and built it into the app. The integration makes the workflow far easier since it will auto-repeat, auto-frequency-shift, and gives you a countdown timer for PTT (no Vox modes): the ported FT8 code is specifically designed for SOTAmat rather than a bolt-on.

It also allows you to easily sync your FT8 clock when you don’t have a satellite time signal by simply listening to the other on-air stations and comparing to SOTAmat’s audio played through the speaker to what you hear on-air: you then slide the timer offset if needed (my iPhone has never needed a time correction even off grid for 2 days since FT8 skimmers are forgiving +/- 1.5 seconds or so).

My next task is to re-shoot the instruction videos since they are based on a very old version. The effort went into the software (and porting a lot of FT8 code across 3 platforms!!) and not into the instruction videos. The web site documents everything, but people hate reading!

73 de AB6D - Brian


Hi Brian, Firstly a big thank you for your efforts in setting this up. This needs more publicity as it is a great asset to the SOTA community.

Secondly I wanted to ask if there was something strange going on with the server today? I didn’t notice the exact time but I tried it out for the first time somewhere between 8am & 10am UTC this morning & couldn’t seem to get it to work (or so I thought).

I went out for the day with a view to trying again tonight & I suddenly got the 3 test emails started landing in my inbox between 4pm & 4:30pm UTC

I also notice that the test spot to SOTAwatch went up at 16:04 UTC.

I note from your tutorial videos on YouTube that there can be a delay (I think you said up to 5 minutes) but 7 hours is significantly longer than I would have expected!

Is there something that I have got wrong (maybe something in the settings that caused the messages to be delayed) or has the server had a bit of a wobbler?

As of yet I haven’t received the SMS message which I sent but I think I read on the website that the SMS feature isn’t available in all countries due to the running costs. I don’t know it it works for UK numbers?

Thanks again for your efforts.


While not common, outages do occur since my service depends on PSKreporter, my systems, and the delivery systems (Twilio, Sendgrid, Garmin inReach API, SOTA Watch API, and POTA App API). So there are many links in the chain and they all need to work.
I do know of two outages recently: PSK Reporter had an outage and recovered with delayed (queued) reception reports that got delivered hours late. SOTAmat itself had an unusual outage yesterday where the OS itself locked up: that’s the first time it has happened in a year and it went unnoticed for several hours. The logs stopped as well, almost like a disk failure. I spent last night implementing a better monitoring system here: SOTAmat Health that alerts me. The recent API outage of 10 minutes shown on the Health site was me intentionally taking the service down to test if the monitoring system alerts worked (they did!).
I also looked at the SOTAmat database and see that you tried sending the same exact message multiple times. The system likely treated your redundant messages as “Duplicates” to be ignored. Any unique message gets executed, but identical messages received in a 15 minute window are flagged as “Duplicate” to ignore. On the top of the Activity - SOTAmāt you can see more detail about duplicate reception reports and if that was your issue. If I want to send multiple test messages, I use a configuration with a Test1, Test2, Test3, etc. email target and cycle through them so that each FT8 message has a different suffix (none will be marked as a duplicate).

Now your specific case today I figured out. Looking at my logs, I can see the PSKreporter went down again today starting at 1/29/2023 03:17 Pacific Time. My system tried to reconnect 1,000 times and then backed-off on pounding PSKreporter trying to reconnect, and my service re-attempted and successfully reconnected to PSKreporter at 05:52 Pacific Time. I have a more direct custom API feed from PSK reporter (I don’t use the published APIs) because I need to filter every reception report worldwide, so debugging can be a little tricky, but it looks like PSK Reporter’s API was dead. Philip has been asking for volunteers to help improve PSKreporter’s reliability since so many people depend on it worldwide for many services and research institutions. My guess is that it is up 99.9% of the time, with a recent set of hickups. Unfortunately my current Health monitor doesn’t directly report on the health of PSKreporter and only reports on the Health of SOTAmat’s servers. Because of the special API I use only one connection is allowed at a time and I need to engineer a way to have the health check get indirect information on PSKreporter’s API health. So you might see the Health system say SOTAmat is healthy when PSKreporter is down. I have ideas on how to improve that for another day…

When there is an outage some messages will get delivered late, while others will be lost. It is complex to explain how the multi-stage buffering works, but it all depends on timings and where the failure occurs. So I am not surprised that you got some late while the SMS were lost in the outage.

I have been slowly increasing getting the word out about SOTAmat. It was in beta for 6 months (!) with just 5 users as bugs were found. Now as more and more uses come online (100’s) I want to observe the reliability. The recent monitoring service should help with minimizing the MTTD (mean time to detection) and MTTR (mean time to remediation).

73 de AB6D - Brian


Thanks Brian. I’ve sent 3 more test messages (this time with unique numbers on the end). They were sent just over 10 minutes ago. I’m waiting to see if they get through & how long they take.

There are a lot of stations on 40m at the moment & I’m only running 10 watts so I might get drowned out by the bigger stations.

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When the system is working properly the Maximum time it can take for delivery is 6 minutes 30 seconds. In practice, the Median delivery time is 2 minutes 45 seconds. After 6 minutes of non-delivery, you can be almost certain something is wrong: either you were not heard by any skimmers, or a service is broken in the chain.
Here is how the time breaks down:

  • You transmit, RF travels at the speed of light to skimmers
  • Skimmers hear you (often multiple) and they queue the reception report with other reports
  • Every 5 minutes, the skimmer(s) will transmit a bundle of reports to PSKreporter. Note that while FT8 is time sync’ed, the 5 minute report bundles to PSKreporter are NOT time sync’ed between skimmers. Thus if multiple skimmers hear you, often you will get reported before 5 minutes depending on probability.
  • PSKreporter queues and processes them for a few seconds if the server isn’t overloaded. It often processes 400 reports per second!!
  • PSKreporter streams a buffered version of these reports to SOTAmat. Most of the time they are about 10 seconds behind or less.
  • SOTAmat pre-filters and queues the reports that have suffixes. About 3 seconds later (maximum) another SOTAmat processor in parallel decodes the suffixes and executes them.
  • When calls are made to SOTA Watch API (or POTA, etc.) there can be a few seconds (about 3) of negotiation around the OAuth credentials and the Post api call.
  • Services that watch for posts from SOTA Watch (like SOTA Goat, the web site, etc.) poll the API and sometimes poll at a slow 1 minute rate.

So essentially the delay is 5 minutes for skimmers to report to PSK reporter, 1 minute for monitoring services to poll for updates, and a few extra seconds for multi-hop processing = 6 minutes 30 seconds maximum.

73 de AB6D


Hmm. Just while I was sitting here looking at logs and stuff while chatting with you all, I am seeing disk errors. Looks like I’ve got a hardware issue. Sigh. Replacement SSD ordered. Until I get new hardware and replace parts I would not trust the service, likely until Thursday. I’ll add a banner on the homepage…

Feel free to play with it, but I don’t trust it when there are multiple disk errors being reported and they seem to be increasing. I may move to AWS at higher cost…



Computers…great when they work, pain in the rear when they don’t!!!

I’m wondering if there’s also an issue with PSK Reporter because I’ve tried multiple times in the last 45 minutes on several different bands & don’t seem to be getting picked up by PSK Reporter.

I find it hard to believe that not one skimmer picked me up with all of those attempts. Plenty of other FT8 activity on all of the bands that I tried.


Yes, PSKreporter is having multiple issues in the last week. Here was today’s: When the service is restored it can take some time to catch up. I think the system can handle about 1000 reports per second and normal activity can be up to 400 reports per second, so when the service goes down it can take some time to recover. But that is just my guess from watching the behavior: I don’t know that to be true in fact.


The SOTAmat failing disk has been replaced. No data lost. PSK reporter had multiple outages and seems to have stabilized. I had a router issue that was fixed. I have a new remote management tool for when problems arise so that outages can be greatly shortened via fast detection (MTTD). And the new monitoring system has been beefed up with a lot more tests for both PSK reporter and SOTAmat internals.
So… I’m hoping with these recent improvements to get back to the 99.9% uptime I’ve had in the past.
Philip at PSK Reporter is working to improve his system resiliency as well, which SOTAmat depends on.
It will take a full month for the uptime numbers to recover from the recent major/prolonged outages. So for now they look abysmal but going forward I’m expecting good service: SOTAmat Health Dashboard

M0GQC: I think you can resume your work with testing and developing tutorials, etc.

73 AB6D - Brian