Iridium has entered into preliminary discussions with satellite manufacturers about potential replacements for its network of low-earth-orbit communications satellites. The company is in the early stages of developing a satellite replacement strategy, according to a spokesman, who said the company plans to start serious design work around 2009. During this process, Iridium will explore additional “services, features and functions,” with final decisions about what the “new” Iridium will become planned for closer to 2008, the spokesman added.
Iridium chairman and CEO Carmen Lloyd last month reported that the number of subscribers for the Iridium service has surpassed 114,000 and that first-quarter revenue was up 26 percent over last year’s first quarter. The communications network consists of 66 in-service satellites, in addition to 12 in-orbit spares, but experts predict Iridium will need to replace all of these satellites within the next 10 years or so as they begin to show signs of age.
Motorola built and deployed the Iridium constellation for $5 billion in the late 1990s, but the global communications network failed to attract subscribers and quickly went bankrupt. The privately held company that emerged from bankruptcy, Iridium Satellite, reportedly has achieved annual revenues greater than $100 million.