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Iridium 9505A Sat Phone - Failure

By Sue Richards last modified Dec 30, 2009 05:36 PM

Published: 2009-12-30 17:36:44
Topics: Equipment

My sat phone failed half way through the ARC 2009. It comes up with "Searching" then "Check signal". I have tried the second antenna and checked everything.

I am getting the run around from Iridium and I think this has happened to others. Has anyone had such a problem and if so did they manage to get it fixed?

Andrew Cormack Marshall

Response from Ed Wildgoose of MailASail, an Iridium VAD (one of only a few companies who can talk directly to Iridium about technical issues).

This case is an interesting problem. I suspect that the fault is in the amplifier section of the phone and in practice you can see two quite similar faults:

In one case you can still see full 5 bars signal on the handset, it just doesn't register with the network (this can also be a SIM fault), and in the more normal case you don't see any signal at all on the phone screen. I have seen this fault occur on all types of Iridium including the new 9555 unit - given the 9555 is a re-engineer of the whole board this suggests that it's a failure in one of the complete building blocks, eg the signal amplifier section?

This fault will require a complete new main board for the phone (called the LBT board), it's unfortunately not repairable. Actually in general since the Iridium phone is made mostly from a single internal board, nearly all Iridium faults usually require a complete new LBT board and hence are a "return to Iridium" type of repair... You may or may not get the phone repaired under warranty (it could have been broken due to lightening, static or misuse?), however, there shouldn't be any "run around" from a reputable dealer and it should be easily repaired - however, beware that the repair will cost the dealer $700-900, plus shipping, plus whatever margin is applied for handling charges...

It pays to consider who you purchase from - some retailers can now offer a limited Advanced Warranty Replacement service on the 9555 (not the 9505a), and this means you can get a warranty repair turned around extremely quickly. For example this year MailASail had a customer in Gibraltar report a problem with a 9555 unit on a Wednesday and he received a new unit from us by Friday...

In terms of statistics: I had two other customers had similar faults during the ARC 2009 - one bought a fixed phone from us and it developed this symptom after some months but we were able to just swap out his unit in Las Palmas, the other customer bought an Iridium 9555 from eBay, which turned out to be "dead out of the box", and obviously he couldn't get an instant warranty repair and he decided to buy a second new unit from us to replace the faulty unit. Prior to this year I have seen this fault on perhaps only two other units over something like 6 years...

In general Iridium units stay together fairly well and we don't get many units fail as a percentage of units sold. However, given it's a £1,000+ phone and a marine environment is pretty tough, it's well worth giving it a touch more of the kid gloves than you might desire.

Ed Wildgoose
MailASail - Iridium VAD

MailASail are also an Iridium and Inmarsat retailer and distributor of hardware and airtime. They will be on stand N27-A at the London boatshow.