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Old 06-01-2022, 10:53 PM   #1
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Sirius XM Southeast Alaska

Anyone experiencing intermittent service in Southeast Alaska. I was having trouble in Wrangell in my slip which I attributed to cellular interference. It worked fine until we started approaching Kake and then it started dropping in and out. Tonight we are in an anchorage where we have had service before but lost signal completely about 400 yds out. Our service should be coming off the 115 degree orbital slot but it seems we are using the 85 degree satellites which woul account for the low elevation angles and loss of service as you go north.

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Old 06-02-2022, 10:49 AM   #2
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I thought XM radio had difficult coverage in Alaska? Or is SE Alaska good as I thought it wasn’t?

I decided not to add it as I experimented with a Starlink instead.
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Old 06-02-2022, 10:57 AM   #3
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SEAK is too far north for Sirus/XM. Can't see satellites.
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Old 06-02-2022, 11:23 AM   #4
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This is info from 2016-2017 but I bought the whole Sirius weather package. Talked with them at length about where I was going to use it (SE Alaska) and they sold it & shipped it. Long time trying to get it to work. Long time on Tech Support then finally some wizard said---"Oh, it doesn't work there".


Sent it all back.
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Old 06-02-2022, 09:18 PM   #5
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Currently tied up in Ketchikan with 3 out of 3 bars of signal strength. I don't have the audio so I don't know about dropouts, but the weather has been working at least up this far (modulo the bugs in Raymarine LH4.0 software).
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Old 06-02-2022, 10:23 PM   #6
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I’ve been using Sirius XM for 9 years without any problems until this summer. Weather is a different issue. Some MFD manufacturers take Sirius at their word “Limited Alaska coverage, and don’t put in the software to display the data that is being sent. Right now in Kake with 3 bars which is more bars since we left Sumner St. Heading up Stephens Passage tomorrow so we will see.
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Old 06-03-2022, 12:51 AM   #7
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The Sirius XM Weather is just data riding the same signal as the sound - except time of delivery is less important, so drop outs will go unnoticed.

The problem I've had with Raymarine is the LH3.16 software displays both the US and Canadian marine text forecasts, but the LH4 displays only the Canadian. It is a bug I've turned in, so far escalated a couple of levels in tech support but with no other reply than that.
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Old 06-03-2022, 01:45 AM   #8
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That’s the whole it doesn’t work in Alaska crap. I could see real time lightning alerts in Florida but couldn’t get SE Alaska forecasts issued every 12 hours.
DDW

Good luck in getting it fixed. It’s because of that I dropped any thought of getting Sirius weather. To the people writing the code Alaska is in the lower left corner of the map. I have dealt with outside service providers for nearly 30 years, and what works now may not work next week because they forgot about us.

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Old 06-04-2022, 11:41 AM   #9
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I've just regressed the software to 3.16, and can get both the Canadian and NOAA marine text forecasts. Also a 72 hour wind prediction, it comes from gribs sourced from GFS it appears, nevertheless it has been (surprisingly) more accurate than the Canadian forecasts so far (which always seem to be pessimistic). The coders writing the Raymarine stuff are in the UK, and probably cannot locate AK on a map - but in 4.0 software omitted the US in its entirety, which is a little hard to miss.

Has your reception improved?
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Old 06-05-2022, 11:53 AM   #10
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After looking at the elevation angles to trees from where we are anchored, I am pretty sure we aren't getting service from the 115 orbital slot but only from 85 degrees. As we go north I expect it will be intermittent and probably go away completely by Juneau. Let you know.
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Old 06-12-2022, 11:09 AM   #11
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Looking into this a little and it is complicated, isn't it? Because of the merger, there are two functioning XM satellites and two functioning Sirius satellites. They serve exclusively the XM and Sirius receivers respectively as the encoding scheme is incompatible. SXM-7 was to replace the XM satellites, but malfunctioned after launch in 2020. SXM-8 was just launched last June and can service either receiver, but I don't think it is in service yet. There is supposed to be a spare, XM-5 launched back in 2010 that can service either.

Do you know if your receiver is SM or XM? Not sure how you'd tell, on my Raymarine SR200, the specifications say "XM Network".
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Old 06-12-2022, 11:44 AM   #12
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SXM8 is in service at 85W and at 115 are XM4 and XM5. XM4 is in year 16 of a planned 15 year life. XM5 is in year 12. My radio says SiriusXM but I don’t know if that means both formats or is just marketing. According to the merger agreement future radios were supposed to be capable of either format. XM4 is only the XM format and XM5 is both formats. My guess is something is wrong at 115 west but I haven’t been able to get any meaningful answer from the customer service side.

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Old 06-12-2022, 07:44 PM   #13
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According to the Wiki article, the merger agreement required future radios to be dual capable, but that was dropped quickly and only one model was introduced back in 2010. What brand is your receiver? My Raymarine says SiriusXM too , but buried in the spec page it says XM.

I'll be heading north again at the end of the month, in Ketchikan I am still getting full signal strength. Will be interesting to see if our experience is different - not that anything can be done about it. I've been able to get the Canadian forecasts in places I could not receive a legible VHF forecast, which is what I was hoping for.
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Old 06-13-2022, 10:41 AM   #14
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The ONYX radio doesn't make any mention of the signal format. Auto manufacturers generally support both formats from what I can tell, but since the latest satellite XM5 at 115 supports both formats, on the surface it shouldn't be a problem.

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Old 06-13-2022, 04:22 PM   #15
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I received a call back from SiriusXM Investor Relations and got a reasonable explanation of what happened. In January SiriusXM transitioned all service from the 115W orbital slot to XM5. XM5's footprint does not offer much if any service in Alaska so Alaska is getting service from only 85W. This results in service will be lost where it previously was available due to trees and terrain. In addition as you go west and north elevation drops as well as signal level from the satellite getting out of the performance envelope of most antennas. So north and west of Kake watch for intermittent service highly dependent on the orientation of the antenna. For example coming across Icy St we had intermittent service but once we entered Frederick Sound and stopped rolling service became more consistent.

So it is what it is. For weather data, things should be ok but for entertainment its not as good as it was.

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Old 06-14-2022, 12:31 PM   #16
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Interesting. Audio is of course dependent on consistent reception. Did they suggest it would improve when SXM-9 goes up? I guess by then we will all be on Starlink and SiriusXM might be Tango Uniform.

I wonder if a different antenna would make a substantial difference? The antennas made for cars may not perform as well on a fiberglass boat (no effective ground plane). I see some directional ones which wouldn't work, but what about something like this one? The helix design might be less sensitive to low altitude? I am tempted at only $49 to try one.

Edit: I just ordered one. It would be a shame to have spent $500 for the receiver and $70/month for the service, and then not get it. If that antenna makes a difference, for the price of 7 gallons of diesel, it'll be worth it.
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Old 06-14-2022, 01:18 PM   #17
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DDW,

I had a similar one and the magnetic mount antenna actually worked better. Without knowing the specs it’s hard to say if it will work better at lower elevation angles. Most RF engineers don’t consider anything at low elevation so optimize the antenna design for greater than 15 degrees. Does your Raymarine Sirius module use the same antenna connector format? On the Garmin and Lowrance systems I used, there was no antenna cable, just NMEA 2000 and audio preventing use of a third party antenna. I may try one also but with only 15 ft of cable my locations are limited.

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Old 06-14-2022, 04:30 PM   #18
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The Raymarine unit - according to Raymarine - is sourced from Sirius and branded Raymarine. The antenna supplied with it is the Shakespeare SRA-50 patch antenna. It has a very short ~4" pigtail with a TNC connector, then an extension of about 20' with the SMB male push on at the end. I believe that connector is nearly universal in Sirius receivers. Out of the Raymarine/Sirius (white) black box is e-net and RCA audio. The UI is done on the chartplotter. It does have a diagnostic page with a lot of stuff on it, mostly incomprehensible without some insider knowledge.

Most of my experience with patch antennas is GPS in aircraft. I have 6 GPS receivers in my glider if you can believe that. The patch antennas are almost all tested and rated with a small ground plane (like 4x4 or 6x6), however it mainly improves the upward gain and the noise rejection from below. We have issues in gliders at bank angles of say >30 degrees with the satellites dropping out, but of course they are all over the sky. I don't know enough about antenna theory to judge if a helical would be better, many people seem to think so, the gain pattern can be varied a great deal depending on geometry, and that particular one is supposed to be for offshore use so maybe low angles?

I wonder if you would see an improvement by tilting the patch antenna towards the satellite? Obviously not a practical solution, just some interesting data.
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Old 06-14-2022, 06:37 PM   #19
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I attached what SiriusXM sent me on North American coverage and it seems to pretty much confirm what I am seeing on the ground. I am currently in Hoonah at the north end of Chichagof Island which is right at the edge of the blue and it is currently unusable in the harbor. I expect to see a little better service at we head down Chatham St tomorrow.

Tilting the antenna toward the satellite could help but not really practical. Several years ago we tried a phasing approach with multiple antennas but that was little over our head to make it work any better than a single antenna.
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SXM Ak Coverage.jpg  
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Old 06-15-2022, 10:23 AM   #20
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I should be in Hoonah about 7/15 and up in Glacier Bay after that, will see what I get there with either antenna and report back. Planning to get up to Skagway which will be our furthest north.
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