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Old 23-01-2015, 13:23   #1
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Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing

I started an SSCA thread about a month ago for a friend who is offshore and having issues with Iridium GO. This is someone that has ?25K-40K? nm of Iridium experience on his boat in last handful of years since picking it up in France, ending up in Buenos Aires on way to Cape Town (I got off there) and then up/dwn E coast of SA and single hand to NYC, two trips Greenland, NW Passage and now is doing Pacific things.
All this was with older Iridium phones and and now has the Iridium GO and his connection success rate has dropped from 99% => 50%. What gives?
Tune in now as s/v Issuma is in Easter Island and will be departing soon.
His last message:
"We've moved anchorages four times now. Theres another front coming thru soon. I'm staying aboard today doing maintenance while my crew does the last food shopping and goes surfing. I've now got a zarpe to leave on Sunday, so we're pushing to do that (a stronger front coming thru Friday/Saturday)."

****************************************

SSCA:
SSCA Forum - View topic - Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing

s/v Issuma Blog:
Downwind! | Issuma

Website with interesting ifo on current past boats/voyages.
Sailing Stories

****************************************
Here is the first of 13 SSCA posts:

friend is crossing the Pacific and is experiencing dropout problems with his Sat comm link.
Iriduim-Go and laptop with SatLink(GMN-XGate).

In addition to the blog post that I have copied below, he asked me via email:

"If you could please do a quick google and see if there are Iridium Go! firmware versions higher than 1.0.66 and what bugs they fix, I'd appreciate it (I don't know if that info is available to the public or not)."

I had no luck searching for the Iridium Go firmware info. The Iridium website resource page for the 'Go' does not have any info on firmware.

trying to help,
George


**************************************************
Downwind! | Issuma

Iridium Go! and XGate Connectivity Issues
Richard
Tue Dec 23 11:54:00 EST 2014, 1 6'S:118 32'W,
I am hoping that some people reading this blog have experience using Iridium Go! devices, and/or XGate software. On this trip, I've been using an Iridium Go! (a new satellite communication device) and a version of XGate called SatLink (as I understand it, Global Marine Networks markets their XGate software to other companies to resell/operate).

I get a lot (about 30%) of failures during the call attempts. Retrying sometimes works (I had two successive failures yesterday trying to post this), sometimes doesn't--often trying again the next day is successful, sometimes it takes several days to get a connection.

The timeouts I'm referring to are NOT related to: * battery state of charge * number of bars of signal strength indicated on display or %strength listed in log * time of day * WiFi signal strength (computer and Iridium Go! are within 4m * one specific computer * boat engine (and therefore alternators) running or not

The failures that I see look either like this: CMail[0] 09:34:44 Dialing Iridium GO! at 192.168.0.1:80 CMail[0] 09:34:45 Authenticating CMail[0] 09:34:51 Current signal strength is 100% CMail[0] 09:34:51 Dialing... CMail[0] 09:34:57 WAN Status: Dialing CMail[0] 09:35:13 WAN Status: Negotiating CMail[0] 09:35:36 WAN Status: Terminating CMail[0] 09:35:36 Disconnecting from device... CMail[0] 09:35:38 ERROR: Dialup failed CMail[0] 09:35:38 Finished.

or like this: CMail[0] 23:06:33 Dialing Iridium GO! at 192.168.0.1:80 CMail[0] 23:06:34 Authenticating CMail[0] 23:07:05 Current signal strength is 100% CMail[0] 23:07:05 Dialing... CMail[0] 23:07:10 WAN Status: Dialing CMail[0] 23:07:34 WAN Status: Negotiating CMail[0] 23:07:39 WAN Status: Authenticated CMail[0] 23:07:52 WAN Status: Connected CMail[0] 23:07:52 Connected CMail[1460] 23:09:25 Connect timeout No error - Error #0 - 0 - 0 CMail[1460] 23:09:25 Finished.

The first example fails (by "Terminating") in the "Negotiating" phase, the second (more common) fails via timeout after "Negotiating", "Authenticated" and "Connected".

I recall reading a non-technical press release saying Iridium was going to do some network upgrade in mid-October to fix connction problems for Go! devices. I didn't read anything after that indicating it was successful or not. The symptoms look to me like a problem with the modem that answers the call (as far as I know, the Iridium network is still all voice, so all data goes via modems), but I don't know who controls those modems (who would therefore have the logs to help debugging)--whether it is Iridium, or Global Marine Networks.

I've been working with the SatLink folks (who have escalated to Global Marine Networks Tech Support) on this problem for over a month, but it appears to mystify everyone so far involved.

Is a 30% connection failure rate normal for an Iridium Go (from personal experience, it is definitely not normal for a modem connected to an Iridium phone)? Or for accessing XGate over a satellite connection?

I am unable to directly make blog comment responses while at sea, but they do get emailed to me at sea, so as long as the satellite connection is working, I will receive them. Thanks in advance for any help!

******************
Comments on Blog:

Tue Dec 23 14:24:17 EST 2014 | Jocelyn
Sorry, I cannot help you on that, I could not even find anything related on the net.

Wed Dec 24 7:25:56 EST 2014 | Ralitsa
Thank you for this interesting post as well. Searching the net, many people seem to get +/- similar problems. If using Xgate, you may contact directly Luis Soltero (GMN). Other thing I found was at http://davidburchnavigation.blogspot.co ... m-sat.html
It seems that for making "talk calls" you don’t need full signal strength, but for data transfer, you need a good and steady signal for at least 30sec. Even if the phone shows 5-bars signal strength, it could be not truly this way, so the connection fails (and this unfortunately charges as air time is charged even when no success of the call...).

Wed Dec 24 7:27:43 EST 2014 | Ralitsa
I don’t know if applicable for your system, but one advice there was to install a satellite signal strength software module SatMon. It samples the phone every 3 seconds. The phone display can take up to 10 seconds to report the signal strength. If the time it takes to report back signal is long, SatMon will timeout and display 0 - i.e. you have bouncing bars on SatMon even if the phone is not reporting it this way, which means your connection is doubtful. If you don't have the signal strength needed, you will have a timeout and a bad connection. The guy says he had tested cases with a solid 4 bars showing on the phone but SatMon bouncing to 0 periodically, and therefore there was no connection.

Wed Dec 24 7:29:05 EST 2014 | Ralitsa
The bars and monitors are providing the incoming signal strength. For data transfer you need good clean connections in both directions. At open sea the full bars mean you are good to go, but in near-coastal waters or any large ships, interferences are possible, therefore you cannot make good data connections even with 5 bars of reception strength.
Also, when crossing the tropics, the density of usable satellites seems to be lower than at higher latitudes, meaning bad connectivity too.
More on the blog of this guy (given above).

Fri Dec 26 7:06:41 EST 2014 | George Ray
ThankYou for being on the bleeding edge of technology and breaking ground and walking point guard for the rest of us....... I have to hope that the GMN team are working hard on your behalf.


******************
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Old 27-01-2015, 09:49   #2
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Re: Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing

Hello -

I've coordinated with the tech team here at GMN and they're convinced that this is a reception issue. The GO!'s little flip-up antenna is not very good at keeping and maintaining signal which is probably why you're seeing high bars and then the call simply won't connect.

We were never able to ascertain from Richard if he had an external fixed mast antenna.

It's pretty odd to restrict airtime minutes only to data. I would recommend that he try making a voice call - my guess is that he'll be able to. (Perhaps his airtime provider did block voice calls, but this would not be a normal practice in the satellite industry. We don't do it on our Iridium GO! SIM cards).

We welcome any continued questions from Richard or yourself and hope that we can get this resolved.
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Old 08-02-2015, 07:30   #3
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Re: Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing

GMN,
?Can you help with External Antenna details?

First......
Thanks very much for your concern and help with the difficulties experienced by s/v Issuma using their Iridium_Go.

Issuma has departed Easter Island and should be arriving Puerto Montt, Chile in next week+. Richard has been using the Iridium_Go with "NO EXTERNAL ANTENNA". He has an old external Iridium antenna that he used with his previous Iridium phones (N&S Atlantic & NW Passage) but it has a different connector. He would like to use that existing external antenna if it is compatible and and if possible construct an extension cable.

Can you provide Info:
(a) Is the antenna he has compatible if the connector is adapted? (see spec below)
.....Iriduim_GO_?? <=> IR-01-PAA0601/Motorola-SYN7391A_1.5M-RG316_TNC-Female

(b) What is the specification/model/vendor of the connector on the Iridium_Go?

(c) What are the issues/concerns/limitations of lengthening the cable or making an extension-adaptor-cable on this old Iridium IR-01-PAA0601 Antenna?

*******************
Richard's Msg:

George,

Thanks very much for checking on use of the existing Iridium antenna. The antenna that I have has a TNC female connector on it. It was sold as a car-mount Iridium antenna (it has a magnetic base to allow mounting out the window and onto the roof of a car). The specs that Brian D found on it are:
IR-01-PAA0601
also known as old Motorola part# SYN7391A
Diameter: 55mm(2.2 in)
Height: 16mm (0.63in)
Weight: 94g (3.3oz)
Operating Temperature: -40C to +70C(-40F to +158)
Material: Radome ? xenoy, high impact & temp
Colour: Black
Cable Type: RG316
Cable length: 1.5m(60in)
Connector: TNC Female
Axial Ratio: 3db Max
Impedance: 50 OHMS
VSWR: < 2:1
Frequency: 1616 - 1625.5 MHz
Polarization: Right Hand circular
Direction: Omnidirectional
Altitude: 20,000ft

Thanks,
Richard
*********************

Note : This post has been duplicated on the SSCA thread:
Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing => in Communication Forum...
SSCA Forum • View topic - Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing
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Old 09-02-2015, 07:31   #4
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Re: Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing

Hello -

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you are going to need to upgrade your antenna system completely. There are a couple of reasons for this:
  • The magnetic mount antenna was designed to be mounted on a large metal surface with a large grounding plane (such as the roof of the car). Because of this, mounting on a boat is not recommended and generally ineffective for increased reception.
  • You cannot extend the antenna cable because resistance on the cable would put the cable out of spec.
  • We have seen many customers with rusted magnets after some time. Again, this antenna was not designed for marine use.
  • These antennas have very poor angle performance. It can capture the signal if directly above the antenna, but it can't see towards the horizon very well.

A properly mounted marine antenna is the only type of antenna we would recommend for this type of installation. For use with the Iridium GO! you would need the following equipment:

External fixed mast antenna
Antenna cable
Iridium GO! antenna adapter

Best regards.
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Old 09-02-2015, 07:58   #5
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Re: Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing

Update to post below:
GMN,
I just realized you included a link the antenna adaptor for the Iridium_Go.
( Adapts TS9 to TNC connector. ) - Thanks!!
and that is required in any event which ever antenna option Richard Chooses .... so the question that remains is if the Mag-Base antenna will work at all with the Iridium_Go and perform better then the built in antenna? Of course it will not be as good as the external fixed mast antenna, and it is not designed for salt water , But it would be mounted on a STEEL CABIN TOP , so the ground plane is there ....




*****original response ************************************

GMN,
Thanks for quick response.
Understand that the cable extension is not an option.

Regarding the mag-base antenna that is currently on s/v Issuma.
IR-01-PAA0601/Motorola-SYN7391A_1.5M-RG316_TNC-Female

Putting aside the fact that it was not designed for marine use,

Issuma is a steel boat, so does that make it a reasonable performance fit if they accept the limitations of the short cable? Richard has sailed two oceans and the NW passage using that mag-base antenna with other Iridium phones so even if it is not ideal, would it work as well with the the Iridium_Go as it did with his two previous Iridium phones? If so, then do you know the connector type o the Iridium_Go or the part number of the adaptor if one is available ?

In Chile there will be somewhat limited options for purchase of such hi-tech gear and there is the possibility of high initial cost and high import duties. So if a simple,small and inexpensive TNC<=>?Iridium_Go? can improve the current reception even if it is not perfect .... but only good ... then that is a help. The likelihood of finding just an adaptor in Chile is good and if one needs to be shipped it can arrive quickly in common post at low cost.

I am passing along all your suggestions to s/v Issuma, and my additional questions are an attempt to give him the widest range of options in terms of (1) reception/performance, (2) speed of parts acquisition , (3) lowest cost.

Thanks,
Again . . .

(post copied to SSCA thread)
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Old 13-02-2015, 13:02   #6
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Re: Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing

Hello -

Using the Iridium GO! antenna adapter, you can connect the Iridium GO! to your current antenna if the following parameters are met:

Using a 50ohm co-ax cable, if the signal drop for the length of the cables - including the TNC connectors - is less than 3db, then the cable will work.

We're also concerned about the number of TNC connectors you'll have on the cabling - this decreases the chances of good connections through the antenna. If you're getting a bad signal with this setup, this may be why.

With a grounding plane and the correct cable length, this external antenna will probably work better than the built-in flip-up antenna on the Iridium GO! (although not as good as a fixed-mast antenna).

Best of luck!
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Old 13-02-2015, 17:26   #7
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Re: Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing

GMN,
Thanks yet again for researching and responding to s/v Issuma's Iridium_Go antenna questions. Issuma's most recent email is copied below and it is clear he is paying close attention to your advice and it seems he is leaning toward the fixed antenna you recommended.

****************************
George,

Thanks very much, that's great information!

Now I am remembering that I replaced that spare antenna with another one, which came with 5m of stiff coax ccable. I moved to the antenna with the stiff cable when I made a permanent antenna install, which I probably did to improve performance (the "good" antenna I have had a short cable, which complicated its use.

I don't think I have a clear enough view of the sky to mount the antenna on deck or on the pilothouse. The permanent mount antenna that I did once mount (now gone--the coax broke off the antenna and after the phone failed, I discarded the antenna and cable) was mounted on the doghouse top (which is plywood over a steel frame).

Brian D mentioned it would be feasible to change the short cable on the antenna I have for a longer one of a better cable type. That does sound appealing, though GMN's statement about that antenna only being good for overhead satellites, would seem to make it problematic when heeled.

Thanks very much, I hope to be able to get on the internet next week in Puerto Montt, Chile and follow those links.

Richard
***********************
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Old 16-02-2015, 11:20   #8
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Re: Iridium Go - problems during Pacific Crossing

Sounds good. Please wish Richard best of luck from us and let him know he's free to contact us directly at support@gmn-usa.com if he needs advice. We're happy to help.

Fair Winds,

- GMN
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