Tips for Purchasing and
Using Iridium Satellite Phones

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Updated: 03/17/2008

We welcome any feedback or observations from Iridium users. Please contact us at info@humaninet.org with questions or inputs.

Tips for using Iridium phones. These tips do not replace the instructions in the User's Guide. Refer to the User's Guide for the full set of instructions on how to use the phone.

Important: be sure to read the safety information in the Iridium User's Guide! Do not transmit in any area where you think explosive devices may exist.

  • Recharge the battery when you are not using the phone. Also, remember to keep your spare batteries fully charged, and take one along if you will be using the phone for many transmissions or for more than 12 hours on standby.


  • When you are not using the phone, remove the SIM card and keep it in a safe place. You can use the SIM card in another phone, but if you lose the card, we will have to order a replacement and you will not have service in the meantime.


  • Cost. You are charged by the minute for using the phone – this is known as “airtime” -so if possible keep its use to necessary voice communications.


  • For extensive communications, it is less expensive to use email, since it is transmitted relatively quickly. For sending email over Iridium, we recommend the UUPlus mail software – see www.uuplus.com (phone USA 805-534-1425, email support@uuplus.com). Most users can keep their current email address while using UUPlus.


  • Use. To use the phone, go to an area clear of buildings and trees. You can use the post antenna attached to the phone (point it straight up) or the extended antenna (attach magnet to a car or metal object outdoors or near a window).


  • The phone will work at a window, optimally one looking to the east or west. Check the signal strength indicator to see if you have a consistent signal. The signal will vary as the satellites go by, but if your phone can “see” at least one satellite all the time, you should not have a “drop off” problem.


  • Know the password for your phone. You may program a different password; instructions are in the User’s Guide. You may write down the password here: __________


  • We urge you to test the Iridium before your trip!


  • To call from an Iridium phone: think of the Iridium system as the "country of Iridium," with its own country code, 8816. All you do to call the United States is dial 001 and the area code and number, for example: 001-901-424-1000. Watch the signal strength and give it time.
    • To call from Iridium to other countries, dial 00 + country code + number.
    • Callers should wait a full minute for the call to connect. Your phone will vibrate or respond only if it is turned on (standby mode).
    • Speak slowly and clearly, just like an international call. Pause after each transmission. Some users say “over” after each transmission. There is a slight lag, as with international long distance calls, since the voice signal is traveling around the world.


  • For staff, family, and friends to call you: remember that calling an Iridium phone is just like placing an international long distance call. There is no charge to the Iridium phone to receive calls. But see the Caution note below!

    From the U.S., callers should dial:

    011-8816 + _____________________ (your Iridium mobile number).

    Note: the international direct dial access code for the USA/North America is 011; throughout most of Europe (and much of South America) it is 00. If in doubt, inquire locally.

    Caution – expensive calls: be aware that your long distance carrier may charge you a one-time fee of $10 and up to dial Iridium from your phone, and that per-minute rates can also be as high as $5 per minute. For this reason, we recommend calling the Iridium only when it is urgent. (Remember, the call will go through only if the user has the Iridium phone turned on and can hear it.)

    It is not yet possible to reach an Iridium phone from all regular switched telephone networks, since all long distance carriers cannot support these calls. Iridium is working with telecom operators to make it possible to reach an Iridium phone from a growing number of regular telephone networks.
Paging
  • If an Iridium phone is switched on and within reach of a satellite, you have various alternatives to reach it. If a caller can't reach you because your phone is busy or switched off, Iridium Global Page Service automatically prompts the caller to leave a voice mail or numeric message. Your pager notifies you that a message has arrived.

SMS text messaging
An alternative to calling the Iridium phone is to send a page or use the Short Messaging Service, or SMS.

  • SMS inbound: SMS text messages can be sent to an Iridium phone using email, cell phones, Blackberrys and other handheld devices, or from www.iridium.com. The recipient (user of the Iridiium satphone) will be charged the standard data rates for SMS for receiving the message. Typical costs are approximately 45 - 60 cents per incoming text message.
    • By email: for the address, use (12-digit Iridium phone/or pager-number) @msg.iridium.com. Place the text message (maximum 120 characters) in the body of the E-mail.

    • From a cell phone, Blackberry, etc.: Use subscriber's 12-digit Iridium MSISDN phone number, 8816xxxxxxxx, and then write a text message (max. 120 characters). The sender will be charged the data rates for their particular service, and the Iridium user will be charged the standard data rate for SMS messages.

    • Over the Web: Go to www.iridium.com, select Support, and then "Send a satellite message" to send an SMS message of up to 160 characters to any Iridium phone or pager. There is no cost to the sender, but the Iridium user (recipient) will be charged the standard data rate for SMS messages. The Iridium user cannot reply to text messages sent from www.iridiium.com.

    It is less costly to send an SMS text message to the Iridium user, asking that he or she call you back, than to call the Iridium number. Voice calls are charged to the Iridium user at approximately $1.20 - $2.00 per minute. If the Iridium satphone or pager is logged on to the satellite network, the message is normally received within 15 minutes.

  • SMS outbound (9505a and 9555): You can send "outbound" SMS text messages from the 9505a and 9555 models. Outbound SMS is not dependent on the SIM card. The satphone just needs to have the latest firmware and the Service Center Number typed in. You should be able to do outbound SMS with any SIM card. Please check with your service provider for the cost of outbound SMS messages.

Please remember that it is always less costly to make a call FROM an Iridium phone than to place a call TO an Iridium phone. The least costly way to call to an Iridium phone is to place the call from another Iridium phone (known as mobile-to-mobile service).

Two-Stage Dialing (the most cost-effective way to place calls from the U.S. to an Iridium phone). If your staff and others need to make frequent voice calls to your Iridium, please contact your service provider about a service that establishes a special long distance number in Arizona, where the Iridium “gateway” is located. Thus callers will be charged only for a long distance call to Arizona. This gets around the high costs of calling your Iridium phone directly. Here are the details, as provided by Telenor Customer Care:

Two-Stage Dialing Platform (PSTN originated dialing) was developed to give PSTN callers the ability to cost effectively call an Iridium mobile terminals. The PSTN caller can call an Iridium switch in Arizona USA number that connects them to the Iridium terminal through the Two-Stage Dialing platform located in the Tempe Gateway.

** Note: Default -- All Telenor customers can automatically receive calls using Two-stage dialing, unless they sign up for restricting these calls using the "Two-Stage Dialing Restrict Form".

How to Dial an Iridium Phone with Two-Stage Dialing:

The PSTN caller dials the Iridium switch in Arizona (+1.480.768.2500)

They will then get prompted to enter the Iridium mobile terminal phone number (e.g.: 8816 xxxx xxxx).

**Note: the caller should just enter the phone number starting with 8816, without any prefixes such as "00"

The switch then connects them to the Iridium terminal through the Two-Stage Dialing platform.

2-stage Dialing Billing:

The PSTN caller pays for the long distance rate to the Arizona USA gateway. The Iridium mobile terminal account is then billed for the call from Arizona to the Iridium Mobile terminal

**Note: Iridium currently does not accommodate calling-party-pays arrangements, nor can a PSTN caller pay by credit card.

How to Restrict or Block Two-Stage Calls:

If the mobile party wants to prevent unwanted calls / charges from Two-Stage Dialing callers, they must fill out and send the "Two-Stage Dialing Restrict Form" to Telenor. There are two ways of restricting calls:

a) Implement a PIN code system and only distribute the PIN # to wanted callers.
b) Block the Iridium phone # from receiving any PSTN originated 2-stage dialing calls

Voicemail. Iridium also has a voicemail feature. See the User’s Guide to set up your voice mailbox.

Tech support. For Tech Support or other assistance, contact the service provider. We recommend that you note down the contact information for your provider:

Phone: ____________________

Email: _____________________

If you cannot reach your service provider, please call or email HumaniNet at (503) 957-2960 or email info@humaninet.org.

Using Iridium for Email

Older model Iridiums
If you plan to use the Iridium for email, you will need a data adapter. A data adapter costs about USD 90 and enables the data connection over the Iridium satellite network. It connects to the Iridium phone, then to a serial cable to your laptop. If your laptop does not have a serial port, you will need a USB-serial adapter.

Note: the newer models, including 9555 and 9575, have an integrated data function and therefore do not need a data adaptor.  They connect directly to a USB port on your laptop.

  • Also note: email over the 9555 and 9575 phones with integrated data functionality only works on Windows (and also Linux if you know what you are doing). The 9555 phone will not transmit data using Apple computers. If you have an Apple computer, you need to buy the 9505A and a compatible USB/Serial adapter (such as the Keyspan).


  • You may buy a serial cable anywhere, e.g. Radio Shack. You may also purchase a full “data kit” from Iridium suppliers for about USD 175, which includes the data adapter, a small stand for the Iridium phone, a serial cable, and the Iridium software. If you use UUPLus for email (which we strongly recommend) you will not need the software.


  • Please note that the data kit requires a serial port. If your laptop does not have a serial port, you will need to purchase a serial-USB adapter to use USB ports. Jeremy Bonnett of UUPlus, who has more experience with Iridium email than anyone we know, recommends the Keyspan usa-19hs. Writes Jeremy: “It can be purchased online from amazon.com for about $30. This adapter works with Mac, Windows XP and VISTA. It is a pretty solid performer and I have not had any problems with it. You can use the Radio Shack adapter in a pinch but if you have a few days I highly recommend getting the Keyspan.”


  • You may also get a USB-serial adapter at Radio Shack (Model: 26-183) but be sure it has the drivers for your operating system (XP, Vista, Mac). Jeremy says that any adapter that uses the ATEN chipset should work, but the Keyspan is still the best.


  • If you already have a USB/Serial adapter and it uses the ATEN chipset use version 5. Version 6 will not work with any ATEN adapters.


  • You will need to have the adapter drivers installed and everything plugged in before you can install the Iridium phone. The com port for the keyspan adapter is only visible when plugged in.


  • Also note that you should use the same USB port on your laptop every time, so that the comm ports don't change. Finally, Jeremy points out that if you hook up a scanner or printer to that USB port after using the Iridium and serial-USB adaptor on the port, it can complicate things (the printer/scanner driver can overwrite the adaptor driver). (Thanks, Jeremy!)

UUPlus
This is by far the most reliable software for emailing over Iridium. Please contact us at info@humaninet.org if you would like more information.

  • The new UUPlus Personal version 6 runs on both Mac and Windows. It works very well with the Iridium phone and the new release has two very useful features. First, it has a signal monitoring function that reads in real time the signal strength of the Iridium phone. This is very useful should you need to hold the Iridium phone out a window to get signal and cannot see the phones LCD.


  • The second new feature is an SMS reader. With the Iridium phone people can send you short messages of less than 160 characters from the Iridium website. These messages are free but reading them off the Iridium phone's LCD screen can be difficult. With the SMS reader the messages are downloaded off the Iridium phone and place in your Inbox. It makes reading them much easier.


  • Receiving these messages are free and if your phone is not on all the time the SMS messages will just sit in Iridium's queue until you reconnect. For people that just want to send you short notes, this function is very useful.

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