Fault with IsatPhone Pro firmware

We have just received this service bulletin from Inmarsat about a firmware fault in the recent production batches of IsatPhone Pro satellite phones. Please check your phone’s IMEI number and make sure you follow the instructions in the message below:

Fault with IsatPhone Pro firmware

Please be advised that a fault has been identified with IsatPhone Pro firmware versions 5.1.0 and 5.2.0 (the latest) that affects handsets manufactured since 7 September 2012.

The fault causes the battery on these phones not to charge while the handset is switched off. If the battery is allowed to run flat, then it becomes impossible to charge the phone unless a new, pre-charged battery is fitted. A new version of the firmware which will resolve this problem is expected to available for release by 8 February 2013.

Only a small number of IsatPhone Pro units are affected by the fault. They are those handsets shipped since 7 September 2012 with IMEI numbers above 353032041133824 (operating with firmware versions 5.1.0 or 5.2.0). Handsets manufactured before 7 September 2012 will recharge as normal, switched on or off, with all firmware versions, including 5.1.0 or 5.2.0.  No action is required for users of these handsets.

You can check a handset’s IMEI number in three ways:

  • Printed on the label on the original presentation box
  • Printed on the label inside the battery compartment
  • Through the phone menu (under Settings > About).

Users with an affected handset are advised to follow these simple guidelines:

  • Keep the phone switched on during charging
  • Maintain a full to half-charge until their IsatPhone Pro has been upgraded with the new firmware.

All IsatPhone Pro users are requested to upgrade to the new version of firmware when it becomes available on 8 February 2013. Version 5.2.0 has been withdrawn in the meantime.

Inmarsat apologises to customers for any inconvenience. We will send a further communication to advise on upgrading once the new firmware is available.

SATTRANS Iridium 9555 Office Docking Station certified

We are glad to announce that SATTRANS Iridium 9555 Office Docking Station has been successfully tested and approved by Iridium Communications Inc. for commercial use in connection with the Iridium satellite communications system. The Iridium 9555 Office Docking Station enables Iridium subscribers to use Iridium 9555 satellite phones indoors, where the satellite coverage is not normally available. Any office, home, shelter or similar indoor area can be quickly set up with the docking solution to ensure that the Iridium phone will be connected to the satellite network.


  • Two-mode operation of calls – The docking station provides users with two alternatives of maintaining voice calls over the satellite phone: 1) hands-free mode via the built-in speaker and microphone, 2) private mode via optional handset or earset.
  • Data capable via built-in data port (mini-USB) – The docking station allows users to connect the satellite phone to a computer and use all standard Iridium data services, Direct Internet 3 software as well as third-party software and hardware add-on solutions such as OCENS Mail and XWeb, Vizada’s Skyfile, DigiGone Secure Chat and others.
  • Standard antenna port – The port enables connecting a variety of commercially available Iridium antennae.
  • Charges phone battery – The charging function keeps the satellite phone operational without the need to remove the phone from the docking station and thus disconnecting from the satellite network.
  • The desktop stand – The stand will help organize and conveniently place the docking station with the phone on desks or any flat surface
  • Easy installation and portability – The product is easy to install and extremely portable, making it possible to move and install at different locations if necessary.

The rigorous certification process completed by Iridium included testing of all standard features of the Iridium phone and services while installed in the 9555 office docking station: voice calling, dial-up data and RUDICS, text messaging (SMS) and short-burst data (SBD).

SATTRANS’ other docking solutions for Iridium include Vehicle & Marine Docking Station for Iridium 9505A and 9555 satellite phones.

Thuraya updates ThurayaECO prepaid plan

Thuraya, a UAE-based mobile satellite operator, updates one of its prepaid offerings — ThurayaECO plan. The plan, which provides discounted calling from 83 countries, will now have one-year of initial validity (instead of 30 days) and $5 of initial credit (instead of $2). The longer validity term is definitely good news for customers, who now will not need to worry about their SIM expiring within days after the initial use (or sometimes purchase).

It should be mentioned that in return Thuraya introduces a $15 annual renewal fee, which wasn’t present before. And the best news — all existing ThurayaECO subscribers will have their accounts renewed for one year (from July 1, 2010) at no charge!

Calling rates have remained unchanged: $0.75/min. to cell/landline phones, $0.50/min. to Thuraya phones and voicemail.

starting July 1, 2010
Preloaded airtime $5.00 $2.00
Initial SIM validity 12 months 30 days
Annual renewal fee $15.00
Grace period (after SIM expiry) 90 days 60 days
Unused balance is… …retained during the Grace period,
restored if
…lost after SIM expiry

Inmarsat FleetBroadband vs Iridium OpenPort

FleetBroadand 150 vs Iridium OpenPort

Panbo – The Marine Electronics Blog has an excellent post comparing Inmarsat FleetBroadband and Iridium OpenPort equipment and services in real time boating conditions. These two mobile satellite solutions, offering high-speed Internet and voice services, are relatively new on the marine market that makes this review even more valuable. Panbo’s authors has been using both systems on one boat sailing from Northeast US to New Zealand and provided detailed accounts on speed of data transfer, voice quality, service up-time, power usage and use of data compression software.

With the price tag of around $5,000 (installation and airtime not included), both FleetBroadband (150-series) and OpenPort can be an affordable but robust option to satisfy communication requirements and tighter budgets of smaller leisure boats and fishing operators.


Iridium selects Thales Alenia to build its satellites

IridiumNEXT satellite by Thales Alenia

It looks like Iridium’s CEO Matt Desch wasn’t just going to ring the NASDAQ bell for no good reason. Iridium Communications has just announced its selection of the vendor for building of its 81 satellites for the next-generation satellite network, aka IridiumNEXT. After almost two years of consideration, Thales Alenia, a French-Italian aerospace conglomerate, has been selected over the US-based Lockheed Martin Corp. Both companies arguably build great satellites (Lockheed Martin is reported to have participated in creating the  current Iridium satellite fleet), but this deal might have been decided by the French government agreeing to guarantee 95% of the $1.8 billion credit facility required to complete the project.

The plan is to have the first launch in the first quarter of 2015 with total 81 satellites to be built: 66 operating satellites, 6 spare units in orbit for rapid deployment and 9 spares on the ground. The selection of the launch company is yet to be announced.

More information from PRNewsWire.com

Analysis by Tim Farrar (TMF Associates)

Iridium vs Thuraya explained (video)

This short video created by Satcomms, in a funny fashion, compares two latest satellite phones from two key competing mobile satellite operators: Thuraya and Iridium. The Iridium 9555 handset, of course, scores big in critical network features: the global coverage and the speediness of network registration and establishing calls. The Thuraya XT phone is richer in phone features, such as a bright color screen and GPS functionality.

The authors failed to mention that Thuraya XT phone has a better protection from harsh environment, and more importantly — Thuraya phones support up to 25 times faster data transfer via satellite compared to Iridium.

By the way, since the XT phone is “satellite only”, it will not work “in the States” with a cellular network as implied in the video. One will need the Thuraya SG-2520 SAT/GSM hybrid phone to accomplish this task.