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Keeping in Contact With Family, From Afghanistan?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the and-don't-say-learn-pashto dept.

Cellphones 176

LiNKz writes "Within a short while I will be heading to Afghanistan and in the interest of keeping in communication with my wife and family I've been looking at different means of it, from VoIP to cellular services. I'm not sure how well connected or how stable of a connection the base I'm deploying to has, which means VoIP might simply not be an option. I have, however, noticed in my searches that Afghanistan has recently boomed with cellular coverage though that too seems to be difficult to ascertain. I'm curious if the Slashdot community has any information or experience regarding international cellular services offered in this country and the means of obtaining it."

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first post (-1, Offtopic)

RegTooLate (1135209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767345)

get your comm out fast! like fp

Not an issue anymore (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767371)

Internet access and calling centers are plentiful, at least on the US bases. This is really the *last* thing you need to be worried about.

Re:Not an issue anymore (5, Interesting)

Crewdawg (1421231) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768535)

I would disagree slightly here. I am an IT Manager that has a dozen or so remote sites in Afghanistan and Iraq. I would not consider the internet and call centers plentiful. We are often forced to use VSAT to get any connection at all. When there is a military provided connection it is usually a SIPRNET or NIPRnet. Use of VoIP and personal communications on these networks is usually prohibited. We do have good luck with Skype and even Vonage when there is an internet connection, though it is often heavily delayed (think 800 - 1200ms delays).

Re:Not an issue anymore (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768549)

Yeah, you can't just hook up a VOIP device to niprnet and expect it to work - the firewalls are far too restrictive. Not to mention that it violates regs.

Morale phones are generally provided. A cell phone is a possibility, but remember foreign call charges.

In my experience, about all you can count on is snail mail, email, and rationed phone access.

Re:Not an issue anymore (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768565)

A friend of mine is currently serving in Iraq, he is a Marine. His friends all think My Space is a proper "email" service and he is forced to wait upward of ten minutes for a single page to load.

For the author of the article, if you plan to do personal internet stuff go with what ever is indigenous like cell phones.

Re:Not an issue anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768775)

We don't know if the Asker is leaving in uniform and will have access to anywhere near that level of support.

If I weren't going out there on government orders and with their full support on the ground, I wouldn't even consider going without a satellite phone. Cell phone towers and the ISPs are often the first thing to go in a coup, and the country in question is anything but stable.

I'd suggest grabbing a prepaid Thuraya phone, just-in-case. They're cheap ($0.90/minute?) and tiny, no larger than a ~1999 Nokia phone until you extend the antenna. It's also possible to get ISP service over the phone, in a pinch. Their site kinda sucks, but the service doesn't: http://www.thuraya.com/ [thuraya.com]

They can be useful in other situations, as well: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=29876 [pressgazette.co.uk]

I'm not familiar with the alternatives (Thuraya's the only service I've seen set up storefronts in my current home of India), but your colleagues in country may be able to give more and better advice.

Re:Not an issue anymore (1)

Bangmaker (1420175) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768817)

There is a free online video contact service a friend of mine used. I can't remember the name at the moment( I will post it when I find it out so keep looking for it). All you need is a webcam and microphone for both parties -- worth the cost to keep visual and audio communication.

Ham radio (0)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767377)

For a relatively reliable link, one could get a General class ham radio license and operate HF...although antenna and radio can get a wee bit expensive. Additionally, propagation conditions could be quite an issue.

Re:Ham radio (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767471)

However, it's not clear that the Afghani government is ready to issue a reciprocal license to just anyone dropping in unexpectedly, since it doesn't appear that there's much activity from their own citizens these days.
And, even if you were able to get over that hurdle, then there's the issue of who you'd be talking to - if your family members are also licensed hams (with a General class or higher license), fine. BUT, if they don't, you're probably out of lucky as I don't think there is a third-party agreement in place between the US and Afghanistan, and the US ham involved could lose his/her license by passing third-party traffic to/from a country that doesn't permit it.
Your most reliable solution, albeit expensive, would be a commercial satellite telephone.

Re:Ham radio (4, Interesting)

LVSlushdat (854194) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767537)

I worked at a MARS (Military Affiliate Radio Station) station in Vietnam back in the 70s, and have been a ham since then, and I can tell you you're gonna have major difficulty doing any kind of HF phone patches from that part of the world.. HF propagation from there to the US is pretty spotty at the best of times. I've lost contact with the MARS program, and would guess that with all the better communications options today for deployed military morale traffic, that old-style HF phone patches have gone the way of the dodo bird...

Re:Ham radio (-1, Flamebait)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767717)

It will be hard to stay in touch, and your family will miss you. You should skip the whole thing and stay home where you belong.

Re:Ham radio (0)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767797)

And if everybody did that, you would be doing what you'll be doing as a well-equipped soldier in afghanistan from the "comfort of your own living room", without backup, and without logistics, and since hospitals are the first targets of these assholes, without medical care.

--
-1 Uncomfortable truth

Re:Ham radio (-1, Troll)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768223)

I forgot those dessert dwelling peasants attacked our freedom right? Give me a break.

Re:Ham radio (4, Insightful)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768259)

I forgot those dessert dwelling peasants attacked our freedom right? Give me a break.

Yeah, what could they possibly do. It's not like they could fly planes into buildings packed with people or anything.

Re:Ham radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768485)

Yeah... Let's harass every country that could potentially do that.

Oh wait. That's what we're working on.

Re:Ham radio (2, Interesting)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768529)

Yeah... Let's harass every country that could potentially do that.

Not a great idea, how about just the groups who actually have done it. Like the 9/11 attacks were done by Al-Qaeda for example. You know, those guys hiding in Afghanistan.

Re:Ham radio (1)

HailSatan (843446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768819)

Al-Qaeda did that? How on Earth did a database file named Al-Qaeda, that contained the names of all the horrible people the CIA gave money/weapons to in the 80s in Afghanistan, fly 2 planes into 2 buildings?

I think some people may have done it, personally

Re:Ham radio (2, Insightful)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768933)

Al-Qaeda did that? How on Earth did a database file named Al-Qaeda, that contained the names of all the horrible people the CIA gave money/weapons to in the 80s in Afghanistan, fly 2 planes into 2 buildings?

I think some people may have done it, personally

As I said "You know, those guys hiding in Afghanistan." The "guys hiding in Afghanistan" being the "people" you mention, you idiot. Whether you think Al-Qaeda is the correct name to use to describe their organisation is irrelevant.

Re:Ham radio (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768497)

No they can't, in fact half of them don't even speak English.

Perhaps we should jail the entire United States over the Virginia tech massacre while we are at it.

Re:Ham radio (2, Insightful)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768547)

No they can't, in fact half of them don't even speak English.

Yeah, you're right, they can't. Except for the fact they did, but who cares about facts.

Perhaps we should jail the entire United States over the Virginia tech massacre while we are at it.

If that attack was a military/terrorist attack with political goals sponsored by an organisation as part of an ongoing campaign it would be appropriate to attack and destroy that organisation. If they were being sponsored and protected by a government it would be appropriate to take action against that government including, if necessary, military action. Neither Afghanistan nor any other country has had its entire population jailed, if you're going to use a straw man argument you could at least use one that isn't quite so stupid.

Re:Ham radio (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768525)

It's people like you that voted for Obama and will piss away my freedoms. Sorry, I won't be able to reply because my karma will go to negative after this post.

Re:Ham radio (1)

HailSatan (843446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768865)

Like the freedom to do whatever you want with your own body and mind when it harms no one else?

You should ask Michael Phelps about how much he loves that freedom. God Bless America!

Re:Ham radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26769067)

"You bring us a Stinger missile and we will make you an imitation that would be difficult to tell apart from the original." [bbc.co.uk] You may need to revise your opinion of those "dessert dwelling peasants" capabilities. Sure, the article is about Pakistani tribesmen, but it is in the "lawless tribal belt along the country's western border with Afghanistan."

Re:Ham radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768677)

-1 fucking idiocy. Just because they can fly planes doesn't mean they can launch a large scale attack that will require massive defense. I respect soldiers, I don't respect idiots who think if it wasn't from them being in Iraq we'd all be pissing ourselves.

Re:Ham radio (2)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767873)

If the guy wants to go sightseeing; who are you to suggest that he shouldn't? You're acting as though he's gonna go there and kill ppl ffs!

Re:Ham radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768243)

May you live forever SheildW0lf.

Re:Ham radio (1)

fred911 (83970) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768433)

Not to mention, hanging even a 10mtr wip not to mention a g5rv is like .. Target time?

Re:Ham radio (4, Interesting)

kgamiel (514048) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768597)

I recently acquired my (now deceased) grandparents home. He was a WWII veteran, radio man, who taught at the Coast Guard Academy and served in the Navy in communications. Until he died when I was 17, he had a 100' tower in his yard (many kid accidents caused by guy wires) and was a dedicated HAM, he hosted the repeater for the region. Among the many dusty certs on the wall of his small shop/office is a MARS cert. What a fantastic program and comradery. From what I can tell, that and like-minded groups of guys would hear the poster's question and move hell or high water to make it happen, that was their cause. Do we have such geeks today? I suspect we do and if so, we need to celebrate them with crusty-edged paper that bears their name and shows up on Slashdot decades later. If not....

Re:Ham radio (1)

reynolds_john (242657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768653)

MARS was around when I was in Japan in 1988 in Iwakuni. Made life a lot better, since phone calls back then long distance could cost you your whole paycheck in the span of an hour or two.

Re:Ham radio (2, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768703)

I was stationed at Schofield Bks, Hawaii in the late 90's. There was a MARS site near Area X-Ray (ranges) that seemed to be in use. It's been about 10 years...but I imagine the mil hasn't given up on that stuff entirely.

Try something new: "voicebeep" (5, Interesting)

nitroamos (261075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767379)

It's a cross between instant messaging and asynchronous voip.

http://voicebeep.com/sayit [voicebeep.com]

MWR provided internet and Voip (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767381)

I'm currently deployed in Afghanistan at FOB Blessing and the broadband phones and internet that the MWR give us for free is actually really quite good considering where we're at. It's free and works perfectly, the only problem is the small amount of computers (8) and phones (3) available for this base with our numbers. Most of the other outposts have a MWR room with similar things in them, maybe less or more comps or phones..

Not many people use the afghani cell phones or their blackberrys (apparently depending on the plan they work here albeit very expensive).

hope this helps or reassures you!

Re:MWR provided internet and Voip (2, Insightful)

bmgoau (801508) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767655)

Can you bring/use laptops? Is there a wireless access point or is that considered to much of a security threat?

Re:MWR provided internet and Voip (1)

MrFreezeBU (54843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768185)

I've had friends stationed at FOBs in Iraq over the last 4 years. They were able to bring their personal laptop along for the ride. As far as connectivity goes, I am not sure the options presented to them, but they were online in some capacity. On a flight to Vegas during a friends mid-deployment leave, he fired up the laptop, complete with sand from Iraq, much to the annoyance of the other passengers (you can only imagine what infantry guys find amusing)

Re:MWR provided internet and Voip (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768475)

On a lot of the medium to large bases, guys will throw in money to purchase their own satellite systems, and they will sell access to people. It's generally expensive, but in many cases it is a great option for getting net access in your room. The "hadji" net access really blows. If you have net access in your room, then of course you can use your laptop, set up wireless access points, or do whatever. If you are using the MWR system (the free internet access, i.e. a computer lab) then you generally aren't allowed to plug in your laptop. Of course, it varies depending on where you're at. For more details on the net access situation, see my other posts.

Re:MWR provided internet and Voip (1)

amilo100 (1345883) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767867)

"and internet that the MWR give us for free is actually really quite good considering where we're at."

I currently have a crappy (and expensive) 3G connection that keeps on disconnecting. So what you are basically saying is that Americans in a war zone have better access than me (living in a stable country)?
Amazing.

Re:MWR provided internet and Voip (1)

dollargonzo (519030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767869)

For all our sakes, stop reading Slashdot at work!
 
..I kid, I kid

Re:MWR provided internet and Voip (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768029)

what's wrong with skype or ichat?

Re:MWR provided internet and Voip (-1, Troll)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768327)

"Anonymous Coward" is a perfect characterization of your army of cowards, behind your Bradleys. An handful of Mujahedeen armed w/ Kalashnikovs and IEDs are beating your stinky occupant ass for 8 years now.

May you find your grave in Afghanistan.

Re:MWR provided internet and Voip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768467)

as may you

Re:MWR provided internet and Voip (4, Informative)

shiftless (410350) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768457)

Yo dude, hello from Camp Phoenix, Kabul! Never been to Blessing, but I've heard of it. IIRC, you fuckers are always getting lit up, or at least you used to when I went through the area a couple years back.

To the OP, most larger bases have a SPAWAR system. That's a very good satellite system with a bunch of phones and computers available. You purchase minutes off the SPAWAR web site and make calls back to the states for $.04/min. You can also use Skype, as VOIP bandwidth is guaranteed. Laptops are generally not allowed on the system, but the network actually has very few (if any) restrictions. I download torrents all the time, for example, by running uTorrent off a thumb drive. The system is really slow during peak hours but in the middle of the night you can get some fantastic download speeds. I've hit 400k+ a sec before on torrents.

Smaller bases (small FOBs) may only have DSN phone access. In that case, you just call back to a base in the states, have them transfer you to an outside line, and use your calling card to complete the call. Just as cheap as SPAWAR, though more hassle.

At any rate, what it comes down to is, you will have no problems keeping in touch with family, even if you are stationed on the smallest, shittiest FOB in Afghanistan. So don't worry about it!

P.S. be sure to bring a big external drive. You'll need it to hold the thousands of movies people will let you copy off their drives.

The Taliban will ring your mother! (-1, Offtopic)

Mendy (468439) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767423)

Space, the easy way out (1)

arogier (1250960) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767435)

There's always the satellite phone option. Yes it is a bit pricey, but it should be a very reliable option given the terrain, etc that make such a mountainous country a less than ideal place for a cellular or traditional radio solution.

There's an RFC for this (4, Funny)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767439)

RFC1149 is the obvious approach one would take. Though there is some packet loss, the packets can be sufficiently large to transmit entire messages without fragmentation.

Re:There's an RFC for this (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767483)

RFC1149â"A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers

Re:There's an RFC for this (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767951)

but with this protocol any user should be aware of sniffing with machine guns...

http://www.faqs.org/qa/rfcc-361.html [faqs.org]

Deprecated (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767991)

Actually, the RFC1149 protocol has been deprecated in favor of RFC4376, the lunch protocol.

Re:There's an RFC for this (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768647)

"Though there is some packet loss, the packets can be sufficiently large to transmit entire messages without fragmentation."

High latency over Kandahar may be a concern, as avian carrier efficiency deteriorates when in defensive ("CYA") mode.

http://www.javno.com/en/world/clanak.php?id=130563 [javno.com]

Regulations (5, Informative)

breakzoidbeg (1260428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767443)

Communication Through un-official means may get you into some trouble, so be discrete no matter what option you choose so be careful. When the prime minister of Canada visited our base in kandahar they blacked out official communications and were really on top of unauthorized communications (no e-mail even). Keep your head down mate!

Re:Regulations (1)

LiNKz (257629) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767505)

Good to know, I've been concerned about that as well. I'm not entire sure of the regulations related to communication devices. In all, regardless of what I might want I won't set myself up for trouble, but I am interested in the possibilities.

Re:Regulations (2, Informative)

MrFreezeBU (54843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768197)

One thing to watch for, if someone deployed to the base is critically injured or killed, all unofficial communication channels are closed until the next-of-kin can be notified, for understandable reasons. I've been on the US side of one of these blackouts, and although unpleasant and nerve racking, I can understand the reasoning behind the decision.

Hey, it's you! (4, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767453)

Osama, is that you?

Re:Hey, it's you! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767659)

Obama..

Re:Hey, it's you! (1)

Nathrael (1251426) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768023)

The most funny thing about it is that if he had made a (maybe slightly offensive) joke about Bush, he'd got a +5 funny. Don't take me wrong, I don't like Bush either, but it's kinda strange that here on Slashdot, some people seem to look at Obama as if he was some kind of legendary savior and that insulting him is either racism, heresy, fascist talk or other bad form...

Re:Hey, it's you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768407)

We get signal.

Be sure not to do any phone sex (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767457)

Unless you like giving NSA employees jollies, don't be doing any phone sex from Afghanistan.

Skype (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767459)

While you may have questionable internet, Skype is free and you can use it whenever you do find a internet connection. I set it up for a couple of friends and acquaintances while they served in Iraq and they were really happy with it, especially the video phone part of it.

I don't get it. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767523)

Where's the Australian connection?

The story is about Aghfas...Ashgaf...some other place besides Australia.

Also, the submitter doesn't appear to be Australian, and they haven't linked via an Australian news service website.

In fact there are no links to any Australian websites of any kind at all!

It appears this story has no Australian content or connection whatsoever!

When kdawson was in charge, we could count on him and Slashdot to serve up nothing but Australia-promoting stories, but the moment he's absent we have to wade through shit from other places.

Australians were rejoicing at the news of yet another once-excellent website being hijacked by our self-serving countrymen, whose embarrassingly adolescent inferiority complex makes them hellbent on convincing the world that we're actually important, and the focus of world attention.

Now it's back to this?

Was that all just some kind of sick joke?

This smacks of an evil conspiracy by terminally envious Kiwi sheep-shaggers.

Nah, they're much to pathetic to successfully achieve anything.

Video Skype (4, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767585)

Video Skype on a Linux Netbook is the easiest way to do it.

VSAT and VoIP will work fine (2, Informative)

Tolaris (31078) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767623)

My company provides VSAT service in the Middle East and Africa, including as far east as Afghanistan.

VSAT latency is 600-1000 ms, and many VSAT Internet service providers prioritise voice-over-IP. We certainly do, although to a limited number of providers due to technical limitations.

Given sufficient bandwidth, VoIP will do fine. Be sure to use a service that supports good audio compression, and turn it on. Use G.729 or G.723, and never G.711.

On an iDirect VSAT network with cRTP enabled (RTP header compression), a G.729 call needs about 16 kbit each way. Good VSAT service in that area will have at least 64 kbit upload and 256 kbit download.

Re:VSAT and VoIP will work fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767637)

Good VSAT service in that area will have at least 64 kbit upload and 256 kbit download.

At a k$ per hour, that's not too bad.

Re:VSAT and VoIP will work fine (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768617)

My company provides VSAT service in the Middle East and Africa, including as far east as Afghanistan.

I have a colleague working in Internet in Afghanistan. He tells me there are others investing directly in building out VSAT access there as well. See o3b Networks [o3bnetworks.com] for details.

His personal observation? It's interesting work and very very challenging in a place like Afghanistan, fighting your way through the red tape alone is a major achievement, then there are all the service delivery problems without any infrastructure.

If you're there on a military assignment, it sounds like your best option - for now, at least - is to use whatever's available on the base. Outside of Kabul, it's bound to be better (or at least, more robust) than any commercial offering.

Good luck. Keep your head down.

T-Mobile International is the Ticket (3, Informative)

lindec (771045) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767647)

My father has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world and he brings with him a T-Mobile Quad-band phone with the International Package. He got pretty good service in Afghanistan. You can check the rates here: https://www.t-mobile.com/International/RoamingOverview.aspx?tp=Inl_Tab_RoamWorldwide [t-mobile.com] It looks like calls are about $4.99/minute there, so you probably won't want to chat for hours on end, but my family has used this method for several deployments and it works stellar. Thank you for your service.

Re:T-Mobile International is the Ticket (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768339)

http://www.militel.net/default2.asp?ag=undefined

Militel is a great method for keeping in contact. It's relatively low cost and you can use just about any Afgan phone. They even give you an 800 number so that people can call you from the states. My father just got back from a 13 month tour at FOB Lindsey and it worked out great for our whole family

Re:T-Mobile International is the Ticket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768569)

And thank your father for his.

A Little Info (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767657)

I'm currently in Afghanistan as well.

SPAWAR provided phones at the MWR are cheap. Take a look at the link: http://oif.spawareurope.net/

Also, Bently-Walker provides good satellite Internet out here. That's what I'm using right now.

Iridium (4, Informative)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767667)

Is price an object?

If not, you can buy an iridium phone for around $1400. Plans are around $30/mo, and $1.45 a minute, Or you can do prepaid. They work everywhere, and are pretty portable. You can call the phone from the US for regular long distance charges using a pass-through number.

Re:Iridium (3, Informative)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768099)

I'd second this. If purchasing one is out of the question, renting one is possible -- though for six months, it may be cost-prohibitive to rent. In addition, if you're worried about the cost, you may be able to recoup your expenses by selling access to other people who similarly want to keep in touch with folks at home. I rented an Iridium phone for a drive to the Arctic Ocean and was able to get people to pay $5 per minute for an opportunity to call home from the Arctic Ocean. The proceeds paid for the phone rental.

Re:Iridium (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768325)

Inmarsat phones are also a good choice, they work perfectly anywhere but the poles
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inmarsat [wikipedia.org]

We sell second hand units for ~US$400 where I work. The call plans are also usually pre-paid - about $20 per month.

Keeping in touch downrange (3, Informative)

Sir.Cracked (140212) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767767)

If you're at an established base, net connectivity isn't an issue. The same connection that provides net connectivity does phones and other comm. This will be kept up as a matter of necessity.

Bandwidth is crap, however. You won't be streaming music or movies. When I was at a rather small, forward base, what I did was telnet/ssh to a pre-setup stateside linux box with an ncurses (read, text based) AIM client installed on it. It's low bandwidth, and generally not filtered. Worst case, setup your stateside box to sit on port 80, which is NEVER entirely blocked.

How useful this all is of course depends on how often you can get a laptop on the network. I was a comm guy, in fact, the comm guy responsible for local infrastructure, so, a drop to my tent was a given, and I brought my own laptop. Depending on your job, you'll get more or less time at a computer, I know most shops had at least one computer in their tent/structure. Since telnet is a standard tool, you don't have to install anything.

Best of Luck!

Re:Keeping in touch downrange (2, Interesting)

SpiceInvaders (1179555) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768103)

Worst case, setup your stateside box to sit on port 80, which is NEVER entirely blocked.

May not be blocked from the far side but if you happen to have Verizon as your ISP, they have been blocking port 80 from getting to your stateside box for years, purportedly as an anti-spam mechanism. 443 goes through ok as does 8080. Good luck and stay safe.

Re:Keeping in touch downrange (3, Informative)

shiftless (410350) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768409)

If you're at an established base, net connectivity isn't an issue. The same connection that provides net connectivity does phones and other comm. This will be kept up as a matter of necessity.

Bandwidth is crap, however. You won't be streaming music or movies.

I bet to differ. Most of the larger bases have a SPAWAR system, which is great. It's slow as shit during peak hours, but if you can get on in the early morning it flies. I have hit 400k+ sec on movie torrents. It is 6 AM right now and I am currently downloading three torrents at 120k/sec total.

Shortwave radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767811)

My Uncle was stationed out in the Pacific doing atomic bomb tests in the 1950s and had weekly chats with his family in California via shortwave radio. Should still work today!

Starband Satellite (2, Interesting)

jarrettwold2002 (601633) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767877)

I googled around http://www.starband.com/services/ [starband.com]

2 way satellite
I don't know if you can hit the satellite from afghanistan. Although, I'm sure you could get a sat-com on station guy to the aim and tune the sucker for you if you can get it approved. Plus

There's internet... but (1)

geekymachoman (1261484) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767975)

I have a friend in Kabul, Afghanistan ... civil stuff, but works in military base. They have internet there, but 70mb daily, then they shut you down .. until tomorrow.

At least you can use messangers... if the latency sucks, sorry.. don't know the details.

text messaging? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768013)

I would use text messaging personally. Coverage is not as much a concern, the messages queue and send/receive when you are in range. (As long as there's SOME coverage at any rate.) Plus, outside the US, voice tends to be rather pricey, if your relatives have a phone they probably text more anyway.

video mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768043)

If you have a web cam you can send video mail.

Good luck.

A few options. (2, Insightful)

ManicDeity (148756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768059)

I was deployed to Afghanistan last year and was able to call back home a few ways. Also it helped that I was signals intelligence.

Skype-on Bagram or Kandajar this was very popular since you can get your own internet (crappy Indian internet at least) in your B-Hut. A USB skype is great for MWR computers, but you will have spyware and/or a virus on it after you use it. Also if you use this option bring a copy of limewire or some flavour of it and tell it to not connect to the internet. Both areas are giant LANs so you can get tons of movies and music. I bought a 500 gig HD there and filled it before I came home.

Calling card- this is the simplest way on semi built up FOBs and main bases. Cheap, simple and effective. VoIP phones are everywhere in heavy duty areas. Just make sure you get a state side DSN that will transfer you out to POTS. Some airbases and guard bases in the states will transfer you for free to local numbers in the area you are calling, so make sure to ask your chain of command if anything exists like that for you.

Cell phone-it is pretty expensive but it works. Shop around for minutes at different markets through out the country. Cell phone reception goes from decent near cities and main highways to "I haven't seen a bar on my phone for the last 400 miles."

Make friends with somebody that has an iridium- About 2 months into my tour I was given a job that meant I had to travel to every corner of Afghanistan and back again. Before we left my first sergeant gave me an iridium and said to use it if SIPR/NIPR/DSN was unavailable. We soon figured out we could use it as much as we wanted so we pimped it out at remote FOBs. The guys were very thankful for that. Pretty much for 10 months we had our own personal satellite phone. There is bound to be a few others around the country in a similar situation.

Good luck and I hope you don't have to go to Konar, Korengal or Musah Qaleh.

Re:A few options. (2, Insightful)

EQ (28372) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768903)

Army 98? Good on you.

98C are the smartest monkey-wrenches in MI.

I would try Cell first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768085)

Cell phones are a pretty easy if slightly expensive depending on how often/long you call home. No waits at the MWR either. You need to check with your chain of command tho to make sure they are ok with personal cells. Many units forbid personal cell phones and you can recieve UCMJ action if caught with one.

Been there, done that, don't go. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768127)

It's a shitty place, with - sadly - no future.

Sorry to be 'non-geek', but if you want to stay in touch with your loved ones, the best thing to do is...not go.

Nearly everybody has tried - for over a hundred years - the Brits, the Russians, their placelings, the Taliban, now the US-led coalition & their placelings. It's like herding rabid cats.

I'm a patriot, but please believe me when I say there are better ways and places to serve.

Nuke 'em from space etc.

opiumsmokesignals (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768167)

seesubject

Is it safe (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768217)

To use a Cell Phone network in a country that is very likely infiltrated by your adversary and using it to place phone calls to your loved ones at home.
You loose anonimity for you and your family and it can be used against you.

Learn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768239)

Dari

my friend (2, Interesting)

mistahkurtz (1047838) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768247)

is in iraq on his second deployment. before he left for the second time, he picked up a laptop, and now communicates with the family via skype, and keeps in touch with his buds via wow.

iraq is iraq, and afghanistan is afghanistan, i can't really speak to what differences there may be from base to base let alone country to country, but i'd have to assume that there would be some similarities in infrastructure, availability, etc. expect your latency to be pretty high. my buddy's wow ping is usually around 2k. not sure how well skype works, but he hasn't asked about finding a replacement, and voice chat/vent for wow worked ok.

good luck

Just end it all... (-1, Troll)

hackel (10452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768275)

Break up with your wife and leave your family behind. They deserve better than a disgusting murderer for a husband and father. Set them free...

Re:Just end it all... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768439)

hackel, You're a fucking piece of shit

may you die. (-1, Troll)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768285)

How about a personal visit to your family from an army official?

How's that for communication?

Die, occupant, die.

Re:may you die. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768683)

How about we clone Jeffrey Dahmer [wikipedia.org] so he can do as he pleases to your offspring?

Re:may you die. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768955)

the mapkinase, the

Oh, and fuck you too...

ask hajji (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768451)

you can get a cell on the local economy... shouldn't be too expensive. sometimes shitty service, and your commander (assuming you're military) may ban the use.

and to all of the "go kill yourself" douche bags on here....

soldiers don't decide the wars they fight. politicians who derive their power from the people they govern (at least in the US... most of the time) decide the which wars are fought.

 

Junis (1)

VojakSvejk (315965) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768491)

Find Junis. Use his Commodore 64...

Military or Civilian? (2, Insightful)

pz (113803) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768557)

Unfortunately, the OP forgot to include one bit of important information: are they being deployed as part of military service, or as part of a civilian effort?

While there are a few people on Slashdot who are or have been in the military (and I hope they speak up), I daresay the general Slashdot opinion will be worth about what the OP paid for it: squat. I haven't been in the service, but can imagine that there are a raft of security issues around communications back home and that they need to be done through approved channels.

For civilian deployments, however, the story is entirely different. For this, there is lots of worthwhile advice. Here's my bit ...

1. I've yet to be in a town, even in remote parts of eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, where there isn't some sort of internet cafe. Connectivity is available. Some intenet cafes even have headsets for Skype.

2. Cellular phone service is nearly ubiquitous. Seriously. You have to get very remote to not have some kind of mobile phone service. The US has terrible coverage compared to Europe and the Middle East. I've been on small, remote islands in the Aegean with 5 bars. And I've yet to find a country (including in the former Soviet bloc) where you can't get pay-as-you-go service that's heaploads cheaper than any US phone company's international roaming. Just make sure that your phone is (a) unlocked and (b) quad band GSM. Or buy one there.

3. Everything in the Middle East is negotiable. Everything. Negotiation and bartering is part of the culture.

Re:Military or Civilian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768735)

Unfortunately, the OP forgot to include one bit of important information: are they being deployed as part of military service, or as part of a civilian effort?

While there are a few people on Slashdot who are or have been in the military (and I hope they speak up), I daresay the general Slashdot opinion will be worth about what the OP paid for it: squat. I haven't been in the service, but can imagine that there are a raft of security issues around communications back home and that they need to be done through approved channels.

For civilian deployments, however, the story is entirely different. For this, there is lots of worthwhile advice. Here's my bit ...

1. I've yet to be in a town, even in remote parts of eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, where there isn't some sort of internet cafe. Connectivity is available. Some intenet cafes even have headsets for Skype.

2. Cellular phone service is nearly ubiquitous. Seriously. You have to get very remote to not have some kind of mobile phone service. The US has terrible coverage compared to Europe and the Middle East. I've been on small, remote islands in the Aegean with 5 bars. And I've yet to find a country (including in the former Soviet bloc) where you can't get pay-as-you-go service that's heaploads cheaper than any US phone company's international roaming. Just make sure that your phone is (a) unlocked and (b) quad band GSM. Or buy one there.

3. Everything in the Middle East is negotiable. Everything. Negotiation and bartering is part of the culture.

Dude? I'm assuming he's American, would you stroll around Afghanistan, as an American, to find a local iCafe? I don't care how big your gun is! lol
Besides, there are great options available on most bases, as some have said. I've set up a connection for one of the Canadian bases, so I know it to be true.

MagicJack (1, Troll)

Deathlizard (115856) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768671)

I don't know the feasibility of using this over there, but if you have access to a computer you could look into a Magicjack. [magicjack.com]

Basically, you plug the Magicjack into a USB jack and it acts like a Voip gateway for a phone. You can use a regular phone or a computer Speaker/Microphone to call. Since you can use a local number for your jack, if you family calls you it will not be long distance. It also supports Caller-ID and voicemail. combine with this phone [overstock.com] , and you got a lightweight solution. Although that handset isn't looking too stellar review wise.

It's not the cheapest solution though. Magicjack costs 39.95 for the unit which comes with 1 year of service. After that it's 19.95 a year. Also, the Military may frown on software being installed on their PC's. If you are bringing a notebook or Netbook you shouldn't have a problem though. Third, bandwidth could be an issue too, since it needs a minimum of 128 kb/s to function.

Defense Switched Network (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768985)

I was deployed to Iraq in '06/'07. When I was there, cell phones were a big no-no, and for good reason. Allowing unsecured communications is a BIG security risk. VOIP was also not an option because there was no way to connect my computer to the Internet and one cannot simply install unauthorized software on government computers.

Your best bet is to use provided channels. We had phones though MWR (very cheap but limited to 30 min calls and with long waits), and the AT&T phone center (less wait time, no time limits, but more expensive). I found that using the military's DSN network was the best bet if you can get access to a phone. (I worked in the company office so it wasn't a problem for me.) Call a stateside switch board and they can give you an outside civilian line. From there you can use a regular phone card. If you find a switchboard near home you may be able simply to place a local call.

Been There, Done That (2, Informative)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769065)

Just got back last July. Most cities, major roads and Coalition bases have cell phone voice coverage. In my experience, data services were non-existent outside of Kabul. I primarily used prepaid cell service where I purchased cards to add minutes -- voice only. I made a few international calls on that cell but felt they cost too much for regular use (about $0.80 per minute to US). I used the coalition provided comms wherever possible. The only commercial ISPs I saw off a US base were in Kabul and the data rates were roughly from well below 56k modem to maybe 128k DSL. Hope this helps. Stay safe.

Facebook! (1, Interesting)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769127)

I'm trying to be a troll, however, I have a very good friend who is currently deployed in Kwohst and keeps us informed on a regular basis using facebook. We even chat as I'm waking up and he's going to sleep.

Re:Facebook! (2, Funny)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769135)

Oops!

That should have read - I'm *NOT* trying to be a troll...
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