Iridium last month disclosed plans for a future satellite constellation to replace the 66 low-earth-orbit satellites that make up its current satcom network. Speaking at the Satellite 2007 conference in Washington, D.C., company officials said the “Iridium Next” constellation will maintain the current service’s “cross-linked” architecture but will use Internet Protocol technology to deliver broadband data and voice communications services to users.
An all-new, $2 billion satellite network will replace the one that now provides Iridium satcom and low-speed data services to more than 175,000 subscribers worldwide. Officials said the Iridium Next constellation will be compatible with current Iridium satcom hardware, meaning upgrades won’t be necessary for subscribers who want to continue only their voice and low-rate data services. Iridium Next is intended to compete with Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband satcom service.
Iridium soon plans to identify system and customer requirements, define the Next architecture and choose program partners. Originally designed and deployed by Motorola in the 1990s, the current Iridium satellites and spares are expected to run out of fuel by around 2014. The company said it will pursue financing from investors and program partners to build the Next network.