Long-Term Storage of Your Iridium Satellite Phone Battery

Storing Your Satellite Phone Battery:

Satellite phones are often used under harsh temperature conditions and stored for extended periods of time. This can be stressful to your phone’s battery.  The following guidelines will result in maximum battery performance.

  1. Avoid excessive heat. Don’t store your battery in a vehicle or in an area that is vulnerable to becoming hot.

  2. Unlike older NiCad batteries that had “memory” and needed to be fully discharged, Li-ion batteries can be recharged at any charge level, and you should actually avoid letting them discharge below 20%.

  3. If you intend to store the satellite phone for more than two months, make sure that the Li-Ion battery has about 50% charge remaining and then put the battery in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator or other cool place. Place the phone and its other accessories in a cool dry place.  When you take the battery out of storage, be sure it is back to room temperature before exposing it to moist air. Remove any condensation before putting it back in the phone

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Using the Iridium AxcessPoint on Windows

Using the Iridium AxcessPoint on Windows

Outfitter Satellite's customers have generally given the  Iridium AxcessPoint Wi-Fi Hotspot device great reviews on its email performance for use with the iPhone, iPad,  Blackberry, or Windows computers. If you absolutely need to browse the web, use web sites optimized for low throughput data connections such as 'mobi' sites.  For most applications, web access over the Iridium network is just too slow to visit typical websites such as Google or news sites -- even with the powerful compression provided by the AxcessPoint Mail and Web software.

POWER ISSUES:   You need to charge the AxcessPoint battery for at least  4 hours and the only method is an AC wall charger. The AxcessPoint does not charge from its USB port.  This means that once you are in a remote location, you will need an external power source such as a battery pack with an AC inverter.    The AxcessPoint has an ON/OFF switch so be careful to remember to turn it OFF when not in use.

INITIAL REGISTRATION:    Each AxcessPoint user is assigned an email address which is 'username'@myiridium.net.   To get your username and password you need to register at the Iridium web site and supply the MAC address of your AxcessPoint (found on the device).   You are then given instructions to download the AxcessPoint Mail and Web (APMaW) software for your Windows machine (or iPhone, iPad, or Blackberry). Follow the installation instructions.

WHY YOU SHOULD STICK WITH THE DEFAULT SETTINGS:    Though it is possible to use the AxcessPoint without the APMaW software, Outfitter Satellite's view is that the main benefit of the AxcessPoint is not the WiFi access but the APMaW software itself which keeps your airtime usage costs down by pre-compressing the email and web traffic and automatically turning the Iridium data connection on and off as you actually need it.  This keeps your Iridium airtime costs down.

CONNECTING A WINDOWS COMPUTER TO THE INTERNET THROUGH AN AXCESSPOINT: 

STEP ONE:  Plug the Iridium phone into the AxcessPoint using the USB cable provided.  The AxcessPoint should be switched OFF until step three.

STEP TWO:  Set up your Iridium 9555 or 9575 phone in an outdoor area with open access to the sky and adequate signal strength prior to use.  You will need at least 3 bars of signal on the Iridium phone to have good success.

STEP THREE:  Turn your Iridium AxcessPoint device switch ON.   Open Iridium AxcessPoint Mail & Web on your Windows computer and login with the username and password provided during registration.

When two of three lights on the Iridium AxcessPoint device are green, you can connect your Wi-Fi enabled device and use your Iridium AxcessPoint Mail & Web to send emails and browse the Internet.

ONE PITFALL: If you connect the AxcessPoint (in its default configuration) to the Iridium phone -- without first having gained control of the AxcessPoint from the APMaW software, then the AxcessPoint (by default) will dial out and make a data call.  You will see "USB Data Call in progress..." on the LCD screen of the Iridium phone. This just wastes airtime.   We know because we wasted a bit of airtime during our initial tests of the AxcessPoint.     Recommendation: Don't let much time elapse between switching the AxcessPoint ON and connecting your computer wirelessly to the AxcessPoint and logging into the APMaW software.

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Controlling Costs on an Inmarsat BGAN

Controlling Costs on an Inmarsat BGAN

One of the most common issues that comes up with our Inmarsat BGAN customers is that they use more megabytes (MB) than they expect. The reason for this is that people don't realize that simply going to Google can use around a quarter of a MB.  Most popular news sites have a lot more graphics and even animations which will use up a lot of MBs. When you are using a conventional broadband terrestrial internet service for which you only pay a fixed monthly fee, it doesn't matter how many MBs you download.   When you are using an Inmarsat BGAN in Standard IP data mode, you pay for each MB you transfer.

Here are a few simple ways to reduce unnecessary data usage:

  • Most computers that have been setup for terrestrial broadband internet connections use the internet constantly to check email, run instant messaging, update virus definitions, update the operating system, run backup services,  etc... All of these processes transfer enormous amounts of MBs. So, when you are done with your internet activity, HIT THE DISCONNECT BUTTON on Inmarsat Launchpad to end the internet session.

  • Keep emails text based and avoid uploading or downloading large attachments with photos or graphics.  A typical photo using a digital camera may be several MBs or larger.  

  • The overwhelming majority of data transfer that occurs during web browsing is used to download graphics. If you enable Picture Placeholders  in your web browser, it prevents your web browser from downloading the graphics on the web site you are browsing -- unless you specifically right click on a particular graphic that you want to see.  We have included instructions below for Internet Explorer 9.0 but similar capabilities exist on other browsers.

Using Picture Placeholders on Internet Explorer 9.0: 

  1. From the IE 9.0 Web browser, click on the Gear symbol (see right).

  2. Select “Internet Options”.

  3. Click the “Advanced” tab.

  4. In the “Settings” area uncheck the following:  “Show Pictures”, “Play Animations”, “Play Sounds” as shown below:

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How to Receive an Email or Text on your IsatPhone PRO

How to Receive an Email or Text on your IsatPhone PRO

One of the most common technical support requests that we receive for the Inmarsat IsatPhone PRO is how to receive an SMS.  In Inmarsat parlance an SMS stands for Short Message Service. You can receive an unlimited number of 160 character SMS messages on your IsatPhone PRO for FREE, so it is no surprise this is a popular service.  Of course, there is a charge for sending SMS messages from your IsatPhone PRO.

Sending Your IsatPhone PRO an SMS Message:

You can text your IsatPhone PRO in three different ways:

  1. Send a text from your cell phone

  2. Send an email to [email protected]  using the Inmarsat Email-to-Text service

  3. Use the Inmarsat Messaging system web portal

If you have a cell phone configured to allow international text addresses, you can send a text directly to your IsatPhone PRO, but unfortunately, some cell phone rate plans have a significant per event charge for international texts. So, Outfitter Satellite recommends that you use Email-to-Text. It is easy.  Here is how to do it.

Send your email to [email protected]  (where 870xxxxxxxxx is the IsatPhone PRO mobile number). The message will automatically be converted to an SMS message. Our experience is that usually the SMS is received by the IsatPhone PRO in less than a minute. An audio alert and a message appear on your LCD screen to notify you that the new SMS message has arrived.

Usually, an SMS message takes only 30-60 seconds to be transmitted.

Checking for and Replying to Inbound Text Messages on your IsatPhone PRO:

  1. Use the “Left Selection Key” (found in the upper left hand corner of the key pad) to access the IsatPhone PRO “Menu”

  2. Go to the Text Menu by highlighting the “Envelope” icon and pressing the “Center Select Key”.   Highlight the “Inbox” to see the number of messages you have received. To view one of the messages in the Inbox simply highlight that message and press the Center Select key.

  3. Use the “Left Selection Key” to reveal additional choices including:  Reply, Forward, Call, Delete ... Select Reply, then edit your reply message.  Use the Left Selection key and “Send” the reply message.

Sending Text & Email Messages from your IsatPhone PRO: 

  1. Enter the Menu area as in the section above.  Highlight and select the “Envelope” icon. Highlight and select the “New Message” option.

  2. There are two options: Text message and Email message.

    1. To Send a Text Message (max of 160 characters), highlight and select the Text message option.   Enter the mobile number to which you want to send the SMS message. For example, to send an SMS to a U.S. cell phone with mobile number (615)123-4567, you would enter the following number:  “00 + Country code + Area code and Mobile Number”: 0016151234567.

    2. To Send an Email Message, highlight and select the Email message option.   Press the up selection key and enter the Email address to which you want to send the email message. After you have entered your message, use the “Left Selection Key”.   Highlight and select “Send”. The phone should indicate that the message is sent. Message delivery may take several minutes.

  3. After you have entered your message, use the “Left Selection Key”.   Highlight and select “Send”. The phone should indicate that the message is sent.  Message delivery normally takes several minutes. Hint:  if you need special characters like "@" or "," press the "*" key  on the LCD screen which will review the extended character menu. 

You can Text Your current GPS location to a Friend from the IsatPhone PRO:

Enter the Menu as before and select the “GPS application''.  You will be able to see your last GPS fix. Select the option to update to your current GPS location.   To text your GPS information, use the “Left Selection Key” to view “Options” and select “Send GPS location”.  You will be given the option to: Text message or Email message.

Let us know if the instructions on this page are helpful by sending us a comment!

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Iridium AxcessPoint is a Game Changer

Iridium AxcessPoint is a Game Changer

The Iridium AxcessPoint is a game changer accessory for Iridium 9555 and 9575 EXTREME users with iPhone, iPad, or Blackberry devices as well as Windows computers.  Just follow the instructions and setup is amazingly easy.   The AxcessPoint Mail and Web software lets one or more users simultaneously access the internet via the Iridium phone -- anywhere anytime.

Ann Price, one very pleased AxcessPoint user, recently gave this description of her experience in Nepal:  " I can't tell how how pleased I have been with using my Iridium Extreme with AxcessPoint and iPad. It's just so easy and simple!  At first, I thought, that can't be it, it just seems like sending data and pictures across the planet should be more complicated. I have sent over 35 emails to a friend who posts my blogs to my website."

Are there any downsides to the AxcessPoint?   Though the AxcessPoint Email software is an excellent tool for basic email or email-based reception of  weather maps or key file transmissions,  in the opinion of this writer, the Iridium 2400 bps data rate is simply too slow for browsing the web -- even with the powerful compression tools included with the AxcessPoint Web software.   So, unless a particular web site is critical for you, Outfitter Satellite suggests you focus on the AxcessPoint Email solution.

Also, if you are an Android user, unfortunately no AxcessPoint Mail and Web ap has been developed yet (as of the writing of this blog).  This means that Android users can use the AxcessPoint for accessing the internet but will not have any of the compression benefits of the AxcessPoint Mail and Web software.

You can use the AxcessPoint device without the benefit of the AxcessPoint Mail and Web  software but be careful.   By default the AxcessPoint device initiates a data call when it is connected to the Iridium phone.  If you are using the AxcessPoint Mail and Web software, the software stops the data call immediately until it is needed again.   Without the software, this automatic call control is not available -- which could easily lead to excessive airtime usage.  For this reason, Outfitter Satellite strongly recommends that users use the AxcessPoint Mail and Web software and avoid other types of applications.

Power Issues:  The AxcessPoint has an internal battery and comes with an AC wall charger.   The Iridium 9555 does not charge through its USB port, but the Iridium 9575 EXTREME does charge itself through the USB cable connection to the AxcessPoint.   Obviously, the EXTREME will discharge the internal battery of the AxcessPoint fairly quickly.   The AxcessPoint can be connected to external power while in use but does not have to be.   Recommendations:  We recommend that users that do not have a conventional AC "wall" power source carry a portable battery and an AC inverter. 

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Globalstar Rising

Globalstar Rising

Globalstar announced major technical problems in early 2007. Since then it has been building its second generation satellites and at the current time has successfully launched 18 of the 24 second generation satellites that it built.

Globalstar quality of service is expected (not promised) to be improving by this summer.  Outfitter Satellite is currently offering a $39.99 per month Evolution II Airtime plan for Globalstar users that allows unlimited voice calling in the Globalstar USA home zone for a fixed $39.99/month fee, (see service contract for complete terms and conditions. Always on data service is not allowed.)  Currently we expect Globalstar to end its Evolution II Airtime promotion on March 31, 2012 because of the expected quality of service improvements coming this year.

Outfitter Satellite will be conducting its own independent tests in May 2012 when one of our staff drives from Tennessee to Washington state using a GSP-1700 in a car kit. We'll let you know how the tests go.

If Globalstar does restore its service to near the quality of service experienced prior to 2006, we expect many Globalstar customers to return to Globalstar.  The Globalstar GSP-1700 is an important reason. It is an extremely compact phone -- smaller than any satellite phone currently available with coverage in the western hemisphere.

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Inmarsat Rate Hike Coming

Inmarsat Rate Hike Coming

Inmarsat is indicating a significant rate increase for its Inmarsat Global Satellite Phone Services (GSPS) and its Inmarsat FleetBroadband (FBB) service; some hardware prices are also expected to rise sharply.  The rate increase is expected to happen between May and July of 2012. Some blogs have speculated that the price increase is related to the new Inmarsat Global Xpress service expected sometime around 2014.

Though the (expected) large FBB rate increase is surprising to us,  the Inmarsat GSPS price increase was expected. Right now, our typical monthly fees to end users are under $15 per month for most plans -- which is common in the marketplace.  When Inmarsat launched the IsatPhone PRO in mid-2010, it deliberately priced it low to make rapid inroads into the market share of its competitor Iridium. Now with the IsatPhone PRO and other GSPS products proven to be effective, Inmarsat appears to be increasing the pricing to be more comparable to the Iridium service costs.

Inmarsat GSPS hardware is also going up.  

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Encryption Used by Some Satellite Phones May have been Broken

Up until now, many users have assumed that satellite communications are intrinsically secure. Evidently, German researchers at Ruhr University Bochum assert that they have been able to break the encryption used to protect certain civilian satellite communications. According to the researchers, inexpensive computer equipment can be used to decipher a satellite call in around 30 minutes, and more powerful computers could potentially eavesdrop on active satellite phone voice calls.

The encryption algorithms that were allegedly broken are the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) GMR-1 and GMR-2 algorithms which are encryption standards used by various satellite phone providers including Thuraya.

According to a February 8, 2012 article in NetworkWorld, the researchers studied the Thuraya SO-2510. For more information on this story, see the Feb 3, 2012 article in The Telegraph or the Feb 8, 2012 article in NetworkWorld.

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Iridium 9575 EXTREME Charging Problems

The new Iridium 9575 EXTREME phone model was launched in late 2011. Outfitter Satellite initial experience with getting the battery seated was disappointing.  In many cases, we could not get the battery that came with the phone to lock at all. Apparently in order to achieve the IP65 rating, rubberized material was used to surround the seat where the battery is inserted.  It is a very tight fit so small variations in the battery can make a specific battery hard to seat in a specific phone. In several cases, even though the battery connected well enough to power up the phone, we found that simply touching the phone at certain places can cause the phone to turn off temporarily.  The main symptom of the battery problem is that the battery will not fully install and the phone will not power up without being held in place with external pressure. Some customers first notice this as an issue charging the phone.

Iridium placed battery installation instructions with the phone and a sticker on the battery that recommends that you push the battery in with your thumbs. Eventually, Iridium determined that the problem was due to misalignment of the battery casing during ultrasonic welding. The good news is that Iridium is working with the battery manufacturer to correct the problem in the future and is treating existing battery problems as a warranty issue.

OUR SOLUTION:   Our solution was to try different batteries.   We found that swapping the batteries between phones eventually allowed us to find a working battery for every phone.  Outfitter Satellite tests all the phones in this way before shipping them to our clients. If a customer experiences the battery problem, we recommend returning the battery for warranty replacement (during the first 12 month warrant period).

BENEFITS OF THE IRIDIUM 9575 EXTREME:   We don't just want to mention the battery seating problem that we believe will be resolved.   The Iridium 9575 EXTREME does have some very good points too. It has GPS features that let you see your position and easily share it with friends via text.   It also has a shielded "emergency button" feature that lets you initiate a GPS-enhanced text to one or more recipients to signal them that you are in trouble. The Iridium 9575 EXTREME was designed to survive in very bad weather — it can even stand up to jets of water sprayed at it (that is, it is IP65 rated).

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What does the IP Rating of a Satellite Phone Really Mean?

What does the IP Rating of a Satellite Phone Really Mean?

The IP Code often called Ingress Protection Rating (but correctly the International Protection Rating) of a product is a classification that indicates how well the product resists intrusion of solids (such as dust) and liquids (such as water).

The first digit is the rating for Solids:

  • LEVEL 0  -- No protection against ingress of objects, even large objects such as fingers.

  • LEVEL 1  -- Objects larger than 50 mm cannot intrude.

  • LEVEL 2  -- Objects larger than 12.5 mm cannot intrude, e.g. fingers.

  • LEVEL 3  -- Objects larger than 2.5 mm cannot intrude, e.g. most small tools.

  • LEVEL 4  -- Objects larger than 1.0 mm cannot intrude, e.g. most small wires and screws.

  • LEVEL 5  -- Ingress of dust is prevented sufficiently to prevent it from interfering with product operation.

  • LEVEL 6  -- Dust tight.

The second digit is the rating for Liquids:

  • LEVEL 0  -- Not protected against liquids.

  • LEVEL 1  -- Dripping water (vertically falling drops) will have no harmful effect.

  • LEVEL 2  -- Dripping water has no harmful effect even if the product is tilted up to 15% relative to its normal position.

  • LEVEL 3  -- Spraying water(water falling as much as 60 degrees off vertical) has no harmful effect.

  • LEVEL 4  -- Splashing water will have no harmful effect, regardless of the direction it hits the product.

  • LEVEL 5  -- Water jets projected from a 6.3 mm nozzle against the product's enclosure from any direction will have no harmful effects.  The test is done for 3 minutes involving 12.5 litres per minute at 30 kN/m^2 from a distance of 3 meters.

  • LEVEL 6  -- Powerful water jets from a 12.5 mm nozzle will have no harmful effect regardless of the direction of impact on the product enclosure.

  • LEVEL 7  -- The product is protected against immersion in water up to 1 meter below the surface for 30 minutes.

The ratings give the overall idea of the rating  omit some specifics of the precise test conditions.   So, for example, the reader is advised that if the product is rated LEVEL 4 against liquids, it may stand up to water but perhaps not some other liquid.  It may also stand up to water for 15 minutes but not 20 minutes. If the reader has a bad case of insomnia, he/she should look up the specific details of the IP Code for a better understanding than we have been able to present here.

REAL WORLD EXAMPLE:

The IsatPhone PRO is rated IP54.  The first digit 5 means that it is protected against dust and dust may enter its enclosure but cannot interfere with its operation but can enter.  The second digit 4 means it can withstand splashing at least within the bounds of the internationally accepted test conditions.

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