Global satellite company aims at the consumer market with Iridium GO!™ : pack it for camping or world travel (¹).
In all public places where you can connect wirelessly to the Internet today, Wi-Fi is not yet ubiquitous. And if you are a boater, backpacker, pilot, camper or someone who spends a lot of time in nature, the chance to connect to cyberspace in some remote locations is almost impossible. It is not just data. Try making a cellular phone call in such places !
Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium Communications, says that the cellular industry covers only about 10% of the Earth surface, with even less coverage in the skies. Tuesday 4 February, Iridium unveiled its potential solution, a compact (11,4 x 8,3 x 3,2 cm) weight less than 300 gr. called Iridium GO!™ which promises to connect better wherever you may be, from your own phone or tablet, at least as long as Iridium GO! can communicate with the network of Iridium low-orbiting satellite. The unit converts the satellite signal in Wi-Fi. Availability expected in the second quarter of the year.
Matt Desch argues that Iridium GO! is :
" The most attractive first device for consumers
with much more consumer appeal. "
It is not likely to go on a mass market, however, probably not a device likely to cost somewhere around 800$ and subscriptions that may vary 10 to 100$ monthly, depending on usage. Desch won't reveal precise numbers but he says the service will be priced to enable folks to make calls, post tweets and Facebook updates, and share texts, emails and photos, and it may be cheaper in some areas than roaming on cellular network. There are, however limits. Do not expect to use Iridium GO! for heavy use or fast multimedia, all applications will not work, and you can not play online games or watch streaming movies. You will be challenged to get a signal indoors.
Desch considering scenarios in which consumers may rent Iridium GO! rather than buy it, for a long-planned treck to the Himalayas or Antarctica, or the cruise around the world they dreamed about.
Desch also said that Iridium GO! designed not only as a device, but also as a platform for application developers, leading partners including Satcom Direct (mobile applications for in-flight connectivity) et Global Marine Networks (applications for marine use).
The satellite network can be shared in Wi-Fi by up to 5 devices within 30 meters. It is similar to the portable Wi-Fi hotspots sold today. Rather than positioning Iridium GO! like a hotspot, Desch prefer to call it "a cellular antenna into your pocket". You can use it for calls after all. Iridium GO! can be called upon in a disaster. It has an SOS button that you can press that will put you in touch with a bi-directional emergency responder. With built-in GPS you can check or send your location.
The company says that the device has a rugged, rubberized finish and a black and white OLED screen. It is designed to withstand rain, sand and dust. You turn it on by flipping up the antenna, charging is via micro USB, and Desch says it has a big enough battery to last a long time when you're in one of these out of the way regions.
Iridium will continue to sell satellite phones in the range of 1000$ its regular customers, but for the folks it is trying to branch out to with Iridium GO!, such phones are overkill, Iridium Go! maybe not. Assuming that the system works as promised and is not too expensive, Iridium GO! should allow, you and your fellow campers, to share the Internet and make phone calls in areas you never thought possible before.
What can we conclude ?
I see, for my own, that this device could replace on our boats both Iridium phone + Iridium Mail allowing, not only the request of GRIB weather files with a tablet, but also the satellite phoning with any smartphone at a much lower investment. Such as Iridium phones is equipped to him connect an outdoor antenna fixed.
It will take, certainly until the end of spring, for this device and its services are priced and available, and tests to be carried out during the summer.
(¹) Translated and adapted from USA TODAY
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