Iridium's portable hotspot extends satellite coverage to smartphones, tablets

Iridium Communications rolled out the Iridium GO!, a portable satellite hotspot that connects up to five communications devices such as smartphones or tablets to create a satellite-backed Wi-Fi zone anywhere on the globe.

Iridium GO! hotspot

"Iridium GO! enables people to use their own trusted devices--their smartphone or tablet--even when they are off the cellular grid, all while maintaining access to their contacts and applications, as well as reliable voice and data services. It is also the lowest cost device and service offering that Iridium has ever made, making truly global coverage more affordable than ever," said Matt Desch, Iridium's CEO.

The company said its Go device, which will be available during the first half of 2014 through select Iridium distribution partners, will cost around $800.

Iridium hopes to attract developers to create apps that will use the Iridium satellite network through Iridium Go. "Many companies are already working to have Iridium GO! apps built and available this year in the areas of maritime, aviation, outdoor recreation and enterprise solutions," the company said.

Last week, Iridium competitor Globalstar unveiled a similar portable hotspot for its new Sat-Fi service, which will be made available next quarter. Sat-Fi is a voice and data service that enables customers to use their Wi-Fi enabled smartphones, tablets and laptops to connect with Globalstar's satellite network when they are outside of cellular coverage.

A competing though different type of solution is Thuraya Telecommunications' SatSleeve, which can be used to morph a regular smartphone into a satellite phone.

Jose Del Rosario, research director at Northern Sky Research, told Bloomberg Businessweek that some 150,000 portable satellite-compatible hotspots will likely be in use by the end of 2022. Iridium had 377,000 voice-and-data subscribers at the end of September, while Globalstar had more than 85,000, Bloomberg said.

For more:
- see this FierceWireless article for another take
- see this Iridium release
- see this Bloomberg Businessweek article

Related articles:
Globalstar's Sat-Fi to deliver satellite coverage to Wi-Fi enabled devices
Iridium's Matt Desch dishes on the company's future

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