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Thuraya Hughes 7100 / 7101 satellite phone with APSI FDU-2500
Monday, 29 October 2007
In almost 2 years of travelling we’ve been using a Thuraya satellite phone combined with a Thuraya FDU 2500 fixed docking unit. Earlier we wrote about the Thuraya Hughes 7100 satellite phone. In this follow-up there’s more info – now about the fixed base unit and a few more details about the Thuraya Hughes 7100 model.

Thuraya Fixed Docking Unit

The Thuraya FDU 2500 base unit is build for a Thuraya 7100 series satellite phone to be used inside an office or home.
Thuraya APSI FDU 2500 Fixed Docking Unit
APSI FDU-2500 with Hughes 7100
The fixed base unit is connected to an outdoor satellite and GPS antenna. The Thuraya Hughes 7100 / 7101 model slides into a holder in the base unit and be quickly removed for mobile usage. The base unit looks like a normal fixed line phone. These features together we decided to install the FDU 2500 base unit in our truck. Although it’s is meant for fixed home installation, it works ok also in mobile units. The Thuraya FDU 2500 base unit is produced by APSI (Asia Pacific Satellite Industries) in Korea.

A satellite docking unit has several distinct advantages. It allows the use of the satellite phone in conference style. A call can be put on a speaker and anyone in the room can join the conversation. Writing during a call is also much easier – this i.s.o being outside and trying to balance paper, pen and the satellite phone pointed to the south.

Next the Thuraya docking unit allows charging of the satellite phone using a 12 volt car battery (cable not supplied). The USB connector of the docking unit allows a PC connection with the phone. This way SMS messages can be written on a PC and shipped without having to be outside with a laptop and satellite phone. At the same time the address book inside the phone can be managed using Teknobil’s Thuraya Manager through the USB connection.

GPS and Thuraya Fixed Docking Unit

Unfortunately the GPS inside the phone can not be accessed properly using the Thuraya FDU 2500 base unit. The base unit communicates on 19200 baud with the Thuraya phone. The internal GPS receiver has a speed of 9600 baud (NMEA 2400 baud). Although the lower GPS speed is transposed on the higher speed, the communication with the GPS is somehow messed up when accessed with a PC (on 19200 baud). The GPS antenna of the base unit is only used by the phone to get it’s GPS position to establish a satellite link.

Fixed Docking Unit sound quality

The sound through the docking unit is of good quality – the unit has an amplifier inside to compensate the use of a long antenna cable. The directional (square) antenna should be pointed to the south for optimal signal. While parking this can be an issue – requiring the satellite antenna to be aligned to the south. On the precondition there is a line of sight to the south.

Sometimes the docking unit provides a good signal but when a call comes in the signal quality drops - obstruction the call to get through properly. We’ve experienced this a few times when there are many buildings in the area and /or a narrow line of sight to the south.

Fixed Docking Unit Advantages

The docking unit has a quite robust feel. The ring tone is also far more audible compared to the one of the phone itself. The phone can be locked in the unit with a key – however the key does not prevent calls being made when locked. After 2 years of weekly use the unlock button to get the phone out of the unit requires more force than before. Some silicon grease made it a little easier again.

In all the fixed docking unit does a good job. In area’s (or seasons) with harsh weather, making a satellite call without being outside is quite a plus. Also in crowded countries like India making a satellite call inside is far more convenient – the event itself doesn’t attract an instant crowd and thus making the call impossible because of the noise.

The Thuraya phone has now been used for 4 years. The keys have started to fade, the casing has a lot of scratches and it  dropped numerous of times on hard and soft surfaces. It never stopped working and the display still has good clarity. Connecting the optional data cable with 9 pin connector has become a little difficult. It doesn’t hold that well anymore. The FDU 2500 docking unit doesn’t have this problem though.

Thuraya satellite phone experiences

We’re still using the 4 year old battery – and it still works quite well. It stays standby for at least 2 days – and making a call after 2 days standby still works.

The Thuraya 7100 model is a little slow at startup – entering the pincode immediately is not always shown on the screen in the familiar stars – it seems the phone is busy doing other things. Waiting a few seconds after start-up resolves the slowness of the screen.

The Thuraya Pre-pay service when calling 150 (zero rate) has 3 working options, the 4th and 5th menu option (service info ,charging rates) are “temporarily unavailable” since 2 years. The 1st option is recharge and account balance, 2nd own number info and 3rd changing the menu language.

The differences between the Hughes 7100 and 7101 satellite phone is WAP internet browser and an extra jack for a headset. On appearance the sets look similar. Unfortunately the Hughes 7100 series is out of production since somewhere in 2006.

Thuraya SO-2510 and SG-2510 models

The new generation Thuraya SO-2510 and SG-2520
The thuraya SO-2510 and SG-2520 smartphone
The new generation SO-2510 and SG-2510 models have replaced the full Hughes 7100 series. From a user perspective this appears strange – the 7100 series is quite robust and simple in use. This is a big plus - satellite phones are likely to be used in remote area’s. Battery life in the 7100 series is pretty good which is another big plus. Because the phone itself is quite big compared to a GSM phone in 2007, thus allowing a bigger and stronger battery.

The new models have tiny batteries, colour display, camera and fancy graphical menu’s and what more. It wouldn’t be very surprising if battery life for the new models is significant less compared to the bigger and simpler 7100 series.

If the opportunity would emerge we’d surely buy a Hughes 7101 set – this instead of the newer fancier Hughes 2510 series. The fancy things like a camera and more we’d leave for the normal GSM phones.

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