Iridium confirms satellite-to-smartphones
January 4, 2023
By Chris Forrester
Constellation operator Iridium has filed with Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) notification that it will introduce a satellite-based direct-to-smartphone service.
Iridium told the SEC on December 30th that it had entered into a service provider agreement which will enable Iridium’s technology to be used in everyday smartphones. It added that it expected to complete a service provider agreement by the end of 2023).
Iridium already offers high-end (and handheld) satellite connectivity, largely for military and emergency/first-responder usage to dedicated handsets. However, its handsets cost around $1,900 per unit.
The new agreements are (said Iridium) contingent upon the successful development of the technology and the agreements provide for development fees, royalties and network usage fees which will be due to Iridium.
“To protect each company’s investment in this newly developed technology, the overall arrangements include substantial recoupment payments from each company for commercializing a similar capability with another party. The agreements also contain termination provisions and other rights, including in the case of a change of control of Iridium,” stated the SEC filing.
Iridium’s current handsets can offer a modest 2.4 kb/s of throughput, but has plans to expand to 88 kb/s and thus add extra data and images to be sent.
Iridium is the latest cellular or satellite operator to get into the satellite telephony market. Apple has already done so (albeit for emergency use only) while Elon Musk’s Starlink says it will offer a service with T-Mobile. Other players include Globalstar and AST Space Mobile.