Iridium pitches NEXT's coverage, flexibility

John C. Tanner
17 Jun 2010
Daily News

LEOsat operator Iridium isn’t worried about being late to the broadband satellite party with its upcoming next-generation network, saying the real differentiators will be coverage and network flexibility.

Earlier this month, Iridium confirmed plans to build and deploy its Iridium NEXT constellation of 72 low-earth orbit satellites.

It has contracted French firm Thales Alenia Space design and build the system, backed by a guarantee from French export credit agency Coface committing to cover 95% of the $1.8 billion credit for the project, which means the $2.9 billion network will be fully funded by mid-year.

Iridium is vague on the details of what kinds of data speeds Iridium NEXT will support, as Thales Alenia is still designing the network. Greg Ewert, executive VP of global distribution and business development for Iridium, said it will be “as fast or faster” than Inmarsat’s BGAN system. But he noted that Iridium’s key selling point will be building a flexible network that can be upgraded as needed.

“The key is that whatever network you build has to have the flexibility to upgrade to different services and functionalities after the network is in place,” he told CommunicAsia Show Daily.

Ewert said that Iridium’s flat architecture, in which traffic is routed between satellites rather than on the ground, is more flexible than geostationary constellations. “We can upgrade the software so that if we want to add MPLS to the network, for example, we can do that.”

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