During our sailing adventure we took along a satellite phone - an ISatPhone Pro from Inmarsat. While we only used it a few times for voice calls, it has the ability to send and receive short (160 character) emails. We used this email capability often for our daily position reports and to keep in touch with family as well. Now, Inmarsat is finally launching data service for the phone.

For our trip, Inmarsat had yet to launch full data service - where you plug in a computer and the phone acts like a dial-up modem. The latency and slow data rate does not make it anything close to a regular Internet connection - for example, web browsing would be not only painfully slow, but really expensive for the per-minute call charges. However for email, it's absolutely perfect, and a nice alternative to SSB/Pactor.

Having this data service, and regular email access, really opens up what we'll be able to do with this device for the next trip. Not only for position reports and having access to email out on the high-seas to email friends+family, but the ability to receive weather information - for example forecasts and GRIB files from saildocs.

GMN XGate, which offers a compression and duplexing product that greatly reduces airtime charges has also already announced support for the phone. While XGate is moderately expensive, it reduces airtime charges significantly for people with lots of email to send.

A full long-term review of the phone will be coming some time this summer, once we've had a chance to test out the data service.