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Iridium launches new handset line, new capabilities


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Iridium today announced a range of new products designed to enhance the functionality of the company’s worldwide satellite communications service, including some aimed at enabling end users to use cellular wireless devices such as Blackberries or iPhones.

On a webcast to announce the new line, dubbed Iridium Force, Iridium CEO Matt Desch noted that Iridium now has 500,000 active subscribers worldwide and noted that “connectivity is no longer something we want, it’s something we expect”—even in remote locations where traditional wireless service is not available.

The Iridium Force line
The new Iridium Force line includes four products:
- Iridium Extreme- This is a ruggedized smartphone that is considerably smaller than Iridium’s previous handsets and which has GPS capability, as well as an SOS function that automatically alerts a support center and sends the user’s location so that the support center can summon help.

- Iridium Core 9523- Desch described this as “the brains of the Iridium Extreme in a voice and data module.” This device is aimed at partners that want to integrate Iridium connectivity into their own offerings. For example, a mining company might create an applications that tracks where numerous employees in a remote area are working and displays their locations on a map—an application that Desch referred to as “virtual bread crumbs.”

- Iridium AxcessPoint- This device works in combination with an Iridum smartphone to create a Wi-Fi hotspot which any Wi-Fi device can use to connect to the Iridium network. This capability could be used, for example, to use a Blackberry, Android or iPhone device to check email or download attachments. According to Desch, users could expect throughput in the range of 26-27 kb/s.

- Iridium AxcessPoint Connect- Targeting people who have both a laptop and an Iridium phone, this is a downloadable application that allows the laptop to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot via a connection to the Iridium network.

Iridium has always been and will continue to be a niche provider, targeting hikers, international aid workers and others who travel outside cellphone coverage areas. But as today’s webcast reminded us, military applications--such as a “geofencing” application to alert commanders when personnel enter or return from enemy territory--could be another important, and potentially lucrative, market for the carrier.


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