Advanced Television

Iridium extends satellites to 2035

February 16, 2024

By Chris Forrester

Iridium Communications, which provides satellite telephony and data services to the planet’s hard-to-reach areas as well as emergency services, says it is adding 5 years to its current orbital constellation, and has direct-to-smartphone firmly in its sights.

Iridium’s existing mega-constellation of 66 satellites were initially given life-spans of 12.5 years when launched in 2017 or 2019. Those satellite are now expected to serve in orbit for 17.5 years and takes their end-of-life to 2035. CEO Matt Desch said that this date could be further extended, and would save the company CapEx cash on replacements.

Iridium unveiled its Q4 results on February 15 and during the investor call admitted that it had suffered pressure from rival SpaceX and its Starlink service.

Iridium’s global commercial broadband service (Certus) suffered a 6 per cent decline in ARPU during Q4. Iridium said that many commercial vessels had switched from Certus to Starlink.

Iridium is investing R&D in its Project Stardust concept which is designed to allow the network to handle Text messages from smartphones to its satellite network.

However, Desch was very cautious on wider direct-to-device services, saying: “Our experience shows that a 2G or 3G offering that only works outside, or inconsistently inside buildings, will not translate well into the mass-market experience that customers now expect from a 5G/6G world.”

Net income was $38 million for Q4, as compared to net loss of $0.8 million for same period in 2022. of 2022. Iridium reported Q4 total revenue of $194.7 million, which consisted of $148 million of service revenue and $46.7 million of revenue related to equipment sales and engineering and support projects. Total revenue was in line with last year’s comparable period and included an 8 per cent increase in service revenue.

Iridium ended the year with 2,279,000 total billable subscribers, which compares to 1,999,000 for the year-ago period and is up from 2,236,000 for the quarter ended September 30th 2023. Total billable subscribers grew 14 per cent year-over-year, driven by growth in commercial IoT.

Categories: Articles, Business, Results, Satellite

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