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 Version 5.2.0 has been withdrawn in the meantime.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.

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.

Thuraya XT satellite phone introduced

Thuraya XT Satellite Phone

Thuraya will soon update its line of satellite phones. The current SG-2520 and SO-2510 handsets will be joined by the new rugged Thuraya XT handset, which is promised to be “the only satellite phone in the world to meet the industry’s highest criteria for splash and dust resistance and shock proofing”.

Here is some technical stuff:
System: Thuraya SAT only (no GSM like in SG-2520)
Dimensions: 128 x 53 x 26.5mm
Weight: 193 g
Display: 2” / 262K colors
GmPRS (always-on data): 60/15 kbps (Down/Up)
Fax and Data: 9.6 kbps
Battery Life: Talk time up to 6 hours and standby time up to 80 hours
PC compatibility: Windows Vista, XP/2000, NT
External Interfaces: Data Cable (UDC) with USB connector.
Retail price:: ~$1,000

How successful the new phone is going to be is unclear, since it doesn’t really offer any new features except for its rugged case. But new handsets in the mobile satellite industry are rarity, so we are always pleased to see one on the market.

A solo row across the Atlantic with Iridium

Katie Spotz -- Row for Water

This coming December, Katie Spotz, a young American from Ohio, will undertake a solo row across the Atlantic Ocean. After 2,500 miles and 70-100 days at sea, she will become the youngest person ever to row an ocean solo and the first American to row from Africa to South America. With this endeavor Katie promotes safe drinking water projects around the world, that’s why her row is named Row For Water.

Besides other equipment on the boat, she will have an Iridium 9505A satellite phone for communicating with the land crew, updating her event blog and, of course, for any emergency situation (which we all hope won’t happen). So keep tuned to Katie’s blog and Twitter account for updates! Good luck, Katie!

Inmarsat launches ISatPhone

We have another (an quite powerful!) player in the satellite handheld phone business: Inmarsat. Today the UK-based satellite operator and a provider of maritime and portable high-speed Internet data services has unveiled the ISatPhone, its version of the mobile satellite voice service already provided by competitors Iridium, Thuraya and Globalstar. The satellite phone (manufactured by Solectron) will use the capacity of the new Inmarsat I-4 satellite and provide voice and rudimentary data service in parts of Africa, Asia and Australia. Nothing fancy in the legacy handset itself (compared to the new fancy Thuraya phones), which has been inherited from AcES, but Inmarsat is already working on design of a new handset.

Interested? Get a phone or request more info!