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Iridium: "Invalid battery - matches found, 0"
image story

May 24, 2005 14: 08 EST
This spring, on April 14, Carmen Lloyd, Chairman and CEO of Iridium Satellite LLC happily announced 26% quarterly growth and promised “…continued profitability”. The Iridium management also prided themselves with support to famous adventurers such as Ellen McArthur and Steve Fossett (sponsored by Virgin), and donations to the Red Cross.

A desperate phone call from the ice

In the meantime, a small group of extreme Iridium users fought their way towards the North Pole. Tom Avery's team was trying to make a new speed record on the Arctic ice. That's when ExWeb received a desperate call from Tom – “the phone doesn’t charge – it says 'Invalid Battery' – what shall we do?”.

Iridium: "Never heard about it"

Since we hadn't heard about this specific problem earlier we immediately contacted Iridium for support. The answer was that they had no idea what the problem was, they had never heard about it before and there was nothing to be done, except sending in the phone for repair.

We tried to explain to Iridium that sending in a phone for repair from a position close to the North Pole wasn't possible… But policy is policy and we had to send Tom a new phone ($1500) express, fly it out to the ice and add a couple of extra batteries ($100 each).

On May 17th, almost 2 months after Iridium told us there is nothing wrong with the phones, we received a software update.

Iridium recalls all 9505A – but has done nothing wrong

All of the new 9505A handsets have to be recalled due to a software bug! The bug causes the new phones to flash “Invalid Battery”, and results in a dead and useless phone...

The handsets might work for weeks or even months before the error occurs, so just because the phone works prior to the expedition doesn't mean it will when you need it most - out there.

Other expeditions

And this is precisely the case for loads of expeditions right now. Pat Falvey (the first Irish climber to reach the Everest summit from both sides), told ExWeb just today that he is frantically trying to rent a second phone in Anchorage for his Denali climb.

Also today, in a visit at our office, a team from the recent Polar Challenge, told us that their sat phone too showed "Invalid battery".

Rob Munslow is off to row across the north Atlantic ocean from Canada, he got the problem just this morning - we saved his phone only one day before his departure!

Iridium: Still no problem!

No mentioning from Iridium about the problem, even long after it was recognized. Nothing on the website, nothing under news, nothing under troubleshooting. The fact is that a search for “invalid battery” on Iridium's website gives the following information: “Your searching using 'invalid battery' returns no results. Please try again."

In fact, Iridium is not even sure the bug will be removed with the new download. In an email to ExWeb, they write: "The new version of firmware for the 9505A handset, developed to enhance the accuracy of the 9505A satellite phone battery charge level indicator, is now in final regression test phase. We are confident that this software will successfully complete testing by the end of this week and then be made available to all Service Providers for downloading.

This new version, identified as IS05003, will more accurately depict the level of energy currently stored in the battery and eliminate the ‘Invalid Battery’ state that has occurred with some batteries."

Image screenshot from Iridium.com, compiled by ExplorersWeb.

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