Iridium is the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe. Being in business for over 20 years, Iridium delivers an innovative and rich portfolio of reliable solutions for markets that require truly global communications. Telecom Review met with Bryan Hartin, executive vice president of sales & marketing, Iridium at ConnecTechAsia 2019 to talk about the company’s most recent product, the IC-SAT100.
Iridium announced at the show that the “IC-SAT100” device is now commercially available. Can you tell us more about it?
For the last few years, Iridium offered the Push-To-Talk (PTT) service and it was supported by an Iridum handset. However, the IC-SAT100 is much more conducive to the Land-Mobile Radio (LMR) environment.
Land-Mobile Radio users find this handset very appealing for several reasons:
1- It’s very rugged and has the look and feel of a Land-Mobile Radio.
2- The voice quality is excellent. It was tested by end users and they confirmed it would be a hit.
3- If you’re an existing LMR user such as a first responder, an NGO or government military and you have an existing LMR network, this device can interoperate with existing terrestrial users. Thus, they don’t have to change their network or user interface, they can just simply add this to existing talk groups. It extends the coverage so these networks are built with terrestrial networks. With our network, all you need to do is invest in the handset.
Our network is in a low earth orbit which means it’s closer to the earth which allows it to support devices with this small form factor. It allows a complete global coverage through the 66 satellites constantly rotating the earth. In addition, all those satellites are cross-linked so we don’t need to invest in multiple gateways, we can use the network more efficiently with minimum gateway investment.
The announcement we made was in partnership with Icom, a Japanese manufacturer of high quality products. Their Land-Mobile products have reached land, maritime and aviation and they’ve been an excellent partner.
You recently announced as well the first terminal designed to operate on the Iridium network for GMDSS requirements. Why is this terminal important and how is it beneficial to the customers?
Five years ago, we started the process with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to apply for GMDSS service recognition. We successfully worked our way through that process, completed tests with the IMSO, the regulating body for the IMO, and we got the formal recognition last May. However, we had to have a terminal that the end user can use if they get into a situation where they need a GMDSS.
The other advantage that we have, aside from the network, is that our terminal supports both data and voice while others provide two terminals, one for data and one for voice. What’s more interesting in this terminal is that when in distress, the user only has to press the red button and information will go to the rescue coordination center that will alert vessels in the area to come and assist.
How can Iridium address the different needs of the industry?
At Iridium, we’re organized by lines of business to be able to address the different needs of all the verticals, namely the maritime, land-mobile, aviation and IoT. By virtue of the way we’re organized, we can get feedback from the market to make sure that our products and services are relevant to those industries. I think we’ve done a very good job at meeting those needs. In addition, our wholesale partners are very experienced in the different verticals.
Thanks to the way we’re organized, the network that we have, the different products and services and the ecosystem of partners, we’re able to address the needs of the relevant markets.
Do you consider that satellite communication is more important than cellular?
In fact, it’s not us versus cellular, we really complement it. Cellular only has a certain amount of coverage but when a truck for example wanders outside terrestrial coverage, they still want to be able to track that asset and get telematics information of the vehicle and they don’t want to lose that connectivity. This is where we interfere to extend the reach of terrestrial coverage.
Another example is commercial airlines. They might be able to communicate with HF radio when they’re in vicinity but for instance, in a trip from US to China, there’s no terrestrial communication that can serve those needs. So, that cockpit is equipped with Iridium voice and data so that the airplane is never out of touch.
Are you planning on launching more new products by the end of 2019?
Later this year, we will announce developments in IoT and maritime. We will also forge new partnerships that can help us fill some needs in our different markets. We never settle for what we have, that’s why we’re always looking for new partners and solutions that we can launch to the market, and give our partners, in return, something they can offer to their customers.