Iridium unveils Enhanced Marine Bandwidth

Broad-ish band, coming soon to the top end of the marine market
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Iridium® Satellite, has unveiled its new Iridium OpenPort enhanced bandwidth marine communication system at the Satellite 2008 conference and exhibition in Washington, D.C. The vast majority of yacht owners will not be able to take advantage of Iridium's new broad-ish band communications any time soon, but it is getting closer.

“This breakthrough product will bring a fresh element of competition to the marine satcom market,” said Matt Desch, chairman and CEO of Iridium Satellite. “Iridium OpenPort offers an unbeatable value proposition of multiple phone lines, IP connectivity and flexible data speeds up to 128 kilobits per second (kbps), with equipment and airtime costs substantially lower than any competitor. Packaged with our unique 100 percent global coverage and service quality, we’ll be positioned as the service offering to beat. We expect to quickly capture significant market-share gains in the estimated $400 million annual marine MSS market.”

“The rollout of Iridium OpenPort follows a year of unprecedented growth for Iridium and will serve as a springboard for the company to achieve another record year,” said Desch. “During 2007, Iridium’s subscriber base increased 34 percent to reach 234,000 users worldwide. As Iridium OpenPort products hit the market at mid-year, we project even stronger gains in 2008.”

Desch stated that the Iridium OpenPort systems have successfully completed sea trials, and the company has a backlog of more than 2,500 units on order from major service providers. “Iridium OpenPort represents a significant R&D investment in our constellation and ground systems – some of the most extensive development since the system was launched 10 years ago.”

“We have had an overwhelming response from our Service Providers since previewing Iridium OpenPort at our Partners’ Conference in September,” said Greg Ewert, executive vice president of Iridium Satellite. “Globe Wireless, LLC, a leading maritime IT solution provider with over 550 ship operators and 8,600 ships worldwide, has made a major commitment to the program as our charter customer.”

“Iridium OpenPort is fundamentally changing how the maritime industry manages voice and data communications and will provide a cost-effective way to address the severe crew shortage and increased reporting and management requirements in the industry,” said Frank Coles, CEO, Globe Wireless. “Iridium OpenPort also opens up new market segments, specifically luxury yachts, tugs, fishing and cruising vessels for which traditional marine satcom systems have been out of reach. Now, when they evaluate the value/cost tradeoff, the question becomes ‘why not?’”

Iridium will target the new service toward the deep-sea shipping and commercial fishing segments. “Iridium OpenPort provides a complete integrated solution for ship-to-shore crew calling, email and IP-based data communications,” said Ewert. “Our pricing strategy replaces expensive pay-per-minute billing schemes with a straightforward, cost-effective, pay-per-megabyte plan for data transfer. Hardware upgrades from bandwidth packages associated with competing products will be a thing of the past.”

The Iridium OpenPort ship terminal provides dynamic allocation of three independent telephone lines and a high-speed data port configurable from 9.6 to 128 kbps. All voice and data circuits can be used at the same time. The unstabilized, omni-directional antenna array measures just 9 inches (230 millimeters) high and 22.5 inches (570 millimeters) in diameter – about the size of a typical small-boat radar radome. The lightweight antenna can be easily installed during a brief port visit. It contains no moving parts, which greatly reduces cabling, maintenance and repair costs.

“The installed cost of an Iridium OpenPort ship terminal is 50 to 90 percent lower than other marine satcom systems, and our per-megabyte prices for data throughput are at least 30 percent lower than any other marine satcom system on the market today,” said Ewert. “This means a return on investment measured in months rather than years.”