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XM Radio Goes Offline - Two Days of No Service

by May 22, 2007
XM Radio goes down

XM Radio goes down

On Monday XM Radio attempted an upgrade and mentioned that some customers may have some disrupted services due to a software issue. Overnight, some subscribers received an e-mail message that anticipated "full signal strength will be restored by early Tuesday morning." Apparently, the delays lasted a bit longer, and some fans at popular forums began to share information about their situations and observations.

From Tom Servo at the XMfan.com forums:

XM apparently tried to do a software update on XM-3, and it failed. In trying to get the satellite back up, they had to move it, which required shutting off the transmitter(s).

It's now "the next day" and it's still not back on. XM is saying it could be this afternoon (Tuesday afternoon, EST) before service is restored.

While there the two "live" satellites both cover the continental US and southern Canada, each throws more signal over one side of the country. In this case, XM-3 is over the Eastern US, and it is here that more outages can be expected.

The higher in latitude you are, the most likely you'll experience problems, since the satellites will be lower in the sky.

All terrestrial repeaters, as far as we know, get their signal from XM-3 only, which means they are all off. Reception in urbanized areas is going to be very tricky.

Since there's not another satellite acting as a buffer, anything that gets between your antenna and XM-4 will cause a dropout.

If you have a home kit / home receiver / portable and aren't getting a signal, try moving your antenna around. If you can get a clear view of the south-southwestern sky, you should get some signal.

People with Roady-type receivers (and I think Commander and SkyFi's too) can access the service menus like this:

  • With the receiver off, press 2-0-7 on the keypad, followed by the "select" or "XM logo" button. To scroll through the menus, press the display button.

Of special interest to aiming antennae is the "BER %" selection. The numbers are a percentage of the block error rate. I think (but don't hold me to this) anything under about 3.0% will get you solid reception. The first number is for XM-3, the second for XM-4 and the third is for terrestrial repeaters. Right now mine says "100 - 0.0 - 100" meaning only one satellite is being received.

What is more odd, is that XM Radio posted NOTHING at all on its website informing users of the issue or any steps being taken to resolve it. As a result, users were forced to figure it out on their own and deduce the situation from other advanced users and troubleshooting methods.

The AP quoted RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank as saying that "We'll have to find out exactly what happened, whether it's a systemic problem or just a fluke." The idea, of course being that any sort of systemic issue would lead to problems with consumer confidence and thus share prices.

What we can take away from this is that companies need to be very quick to respond to problems like this with information - no matter how sparse. In the same way that airplane passengers don't like to be kept in the dark - or on a tarmac for over 8 hours. People want to know whats going on - even if it's bad news or means a disruption in service for an extended period. Hiding the truth or not prioritizing the dissemination of information is a mistake in this day and age when people will simply fill in the blanks for you.

Let's hope that in the future XM Radio is more communicative - and other companies take note as well.

About the author:
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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Recent Forum Posts:

birdonthebeach posts on May 23, 2007 18:04
I didn't notice any problems with my XM….
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