I use a Addvalue Wideye Sabre1 BGAN terminal via the Inmarsat satellite network. This article is not limited to Wideye Sabre1 Terminals but almost any Inmarsat terminal.
These units are pretty portable, and allow broadband internet access with simultaneous voice calls all over the globe (except the South and Northern polar regions)
The Wideye Sabre1 unit holds a 2250mAh battery. This provides good portable power to the unit, but for prolonged use in areas of no power it can cause a problem. It does use a great deal of power when using the unit to access the internet, but given what it does and how far the data has to travel, i personally think its very good.
So i researched many ways to get extra power to the unit, Addvalue did sell an external battery pack for the Sabre1 unit, but it is no longer available. You could get a spare internal battery but you can only charge them in the unit, so its not very practical.
OK enough of the waffle, lets get down to the business, the market for Inmarsat terminal accessories is small by comparison to the mobile phone market, as such i have found that accessories, while well made, are often a fair bit more in costly to buy.
I should point out that I am no electrical genius and most of this was trail and error. However if you now how to use a soldering iron then you’ll be fine, it cant be that difficult because i managed it without burning or electrocuting myself 🙂
The recharging option, the unit requires 15V at 2.8A to charge the battery. To achieve this you use the PSU supplied with the unit via mains power or via an inverter from a large vehicle battery. Or via the DC power cable (car lighter) this takes 12-24V from a vehicle battery and converts it to 15V 2.8A, the DC adaptor opens up a host of ways to power and charge the battery.
One option if you have lots of sun, use 2 * 30W folding solar panels rated at 1.8A each, connect in parallel, gives theoretical output of 60W at 3.6A, connect a car light adaptor to the panels plug in your DC power cable and away you go, so you can use and charge the Wideye Sabre1 Inmarsat Terminal. The panels do take up space and its only really convenient if your camping or have an area to fix the panels out on. The solar panels will also power your laptop, in my case a 15″ Apple MBP, the panels will also charge the Powergorilla via the CLA (Cigarette lighter adaptor) with one of the supplied adaptors. The output from the 2 panels is equal to charging the Powergorilla via the main adaptor that the device originally came with. Please keep in mind that two 30W folding solar panels will set you back around 550 UK pounds and thats if you import them from the USA.
In the UK can buy these panels and the accessories from FlexSolarCell
So what do you need, well for the best performance and the most versatile set up is to have:
2 * 30W Powerfilm Solar Folding Panels
1 * RA-6 Daisy Chain Accessory (Links the 2 panels together in parallel)
1 * RA-7 15 Ft. Extension Cord (If needed, but it does mean you can place the panels outside and run the cable inside)
1 * RA-2 Female Cigarette Lighter Adapter (Comes with the panels above as standard)
1 * RA-1 Cigarette Lighter Adapter (Allows you to charge devices that accept the male CL connector.)
And in the case of the Addvalue Wideye Sabre1 Inmarsat Terminal you will need one of these:
Put all these together and you have complete sun fed power for your terminal, this set up will work with any CLA fed device so you are not limited to the Wideye terminal but any of the ones made by Hughes or Thrane & Thrane, i have successfully used it on a host of other devices as well. You need to check the input and output power requirements first. These can usually be found in the manuals or stamped on the power adaptors themselves.
As with any solar panel, there are fluctuations in the power given and you also need to take into account how much power is available from the sun, for example in Scotland you will get less output than you would if you had the same setup in the Sahara.
A more portable option and by far the cheapest is a superb, small, well built and light weight battery system made by the folks at PowerTraveller a UK based company with huge talent for portable power options. The device is called PowerGorilla, at 631g its the lightest battery system i have used, or seen. The battery has a rated capacity of 21000mAh with output at different voltages up to 4A. It has multiple voltage outputs with varying rates of output (mAh) it also has a single USB charging port set at 5V at 500mAh which can be used at the same time as the main output. It comes with a host of adaptors.
You can power your Addvalue Wideye Sabre1 Unit and the Wideye Bluetooth Handset (Model Number SB1/BCP1000) with everything that comes in the Powergorilla box, but as i don’t want to carry a load of small bits with me, i took the output cable, cut the end off it. This left me with the cable and the connector that fits into the DC Out socket on the Powergorilla. I needed to add my own DC adaptor to the end of the cable i had just cut. After some research and some trial and error i worked out the specifications of the connector in the Wideye Sabre1 unit. (2.1mm*4.75mm DC)
I purchased a 2.1 * 4.75 DC terminal from a website in the UK called Maplin and soldered it back to the cable, hey presto i can set the voltage on the Powergoriilla to 16V plug it in to the DC input on the Wideye Sabre1 unit, and away you go.
You can use the battery to charge your Wideye unit or you can use it to power and charge the unit. (while you are using it)
you have potential increased your units usage by 4-6 times, depending on usage, the Powergorilla supplies power at a rate determined by the Wideye unit, i cannot measure this, and as the Powergorilla has a safety circuit that hasn’t activated i assume that is is drawing at a rate equal to the DC and AC charging options, namely 2.8A.
If your not brave enough to solder your own connector onto the adaptor cable that comes with the Powergorilla then you can use adaptor tip L52D however it only just fits as the L52D plastic surround is a bit to big for the Wideye unit.
These options are not limited to the Addvalue Wideye Sabre1 unit, the same principle can be applied to any other the Inmarsat BGAN terminals, but you must observe the voltage a power ratings, these can be seen on the reverse of the PSU or on the back of the DC CLA Plug. They are often stamped Output: then you will be given the voltage output and the current output, for me the Wideye Sabre1 PSU has a rated output of +15V at 2.8A and the DC adaptor has positive tip polarity, this is identified by the following picture on your PSU.
So you can power the following BGAN terminals based on my research, i haven’t researched the other terminals from Hughes or the Explorer 700 but if someone wants to loan me them, i’ll test them 🙂
Addvalue Wideye Sabre1
Thrane & Thrane Explorer 300 and 500
OK this is all very well, until your Powergorilla runs out of juice. Powertraveller do sell a solar charger for the Powergorilla, but it a rigid type crystalline one, and for me it didn’t seem robust enough or provide as many options as a dedicated folding panel. However the Solar Charger from Powertraveller is considerably cheaper, the Solargorilla is £140 UK Pounds inc delivery, far cheaper than a £350 pound 30W folding panel. By comparison the folding one will, in theory, charge quicker because its output in mAh is higher.
As i have 2 * 30W panels it seemed logical to work out a way of charging the Powergorilla from them. Any size folding panel will do but, the smaller the panel the less power it provides thus lengthening the time it takes to fully charge your Powergorilla unit. I hooked up my panels to a male CLA (Powerfilm code RA-1 pictured above) How? Well take the 12v car charger socket and adaptor tip nos L51 (they come with the Powergorilla) plug that into the DC IN socket, plug your RA-1 CLA cable from the solar panels into the 12V car charger socket, and you’ve got complete power needs, all from the sun.
The Powergorilla is a fantastically thought out device, clearly developed by a traveller for travellers. Well made in an aluminium shell, light weight, it comes with a neoprene case, a PSU and lots of adaptors, and if you need one that isn’t supplied they offer a service to get the correct one for you via there website.
For the price it represents extremely good value for money. They also do a Minigorilla but that lacks the 16V output i needed, but maybe suited for some of your needs.
Do i recommend it, oh yes wouldn’t travel without it!
As i use a Macbook Pro as well, you can power your Macbook or Macbook Pro from the Powergorilla. Apple laptops have a Apple patented connector, and they are known for pursuing infringements, so you’ll need to do some research in order to get the bit you need, without the need for the airline adaptor that Apple sells. I don’t want to post anymore information than that. Google will help you out with this.
I have written this article over a few days, and as such it might be a bit mixed up, if you want any specific help or have any comments then please email me or post a comment and i’ll try and help out.