retail, and they’ll probably be some
variability on that depending on where
in the world it’s being sold and by
which partner. And the service itself is
pretty variable based on the size of the
bundles people want to take. At the low
end, it’s comparable to what people are
paying for Iridium service, in terms of
the standard monthly fee. What I will
say is that we have created some really
aggressively priced bundles. … It will
probably be fully 50 percent lower than
what it has been in the past. You will
probably have a range that begins at $30
a month at the low end to super heavy
users who expect to make a lot of voice
calls. For them it easily could be over
$100 a month.
PassageMaker: That doesn’t seem too
crazy out of line with what people spend
on phones on land.
Johnson: They’ll be some neat twists
we haven’t offered before in some plans,
like unlimited text messaging. We know
there’s a large number of users in the
handheld community that like using
text messaging as a way of keeping up.
You’ll also see location-based services
with position reports at regular intervals.
PassageMaker: Will you have the
ability for people to go online and see
where the users are on a map of the
Johnson: When we rolled out the
Iridium Extreme a couple of years ago
that was the first thing we made that had
location-based services built in. So there
are partners who work with us who have
developed portals that will do things like
show locations on a map, enable people
to communicate back through the web to
the handset with the same technology as
the Iridium Extreme. … Like the Iridium
Extreme, it also has an SOS button that
links back to the GEOS, the emergency
PassageMaker: Will the device itself
have the “panic button” on it so you
don’t have to use your telephone to
activate that feature?
Johnson: GO is highly ruggedized to
Mil- 65 specs. The SOS button is on the
side, so if you’re looking down on it—the
picture with the antenna popped up—the
SOS button is on the far side.
PassageMaker: How is GO powered?
Johnson: It can be line powered.
However, it’s got a built-in battery.
PassageMaker: Do you have any idea
how long the battery lasts?
Johnson: Stand-by time on this device
is 18 hours. Talk time is four hours.
PassageMaker: I was just thinking
about that in terms of the SOS button.
Johnson: It’s going to put you
somewhere between the four hours and
the 18, less than the 18 hours depending
on the rate at which you are sending
PassageMaker: Is there a menu of
canned messages or is it just SOS?
Johnson: You can actually customize
(canned messages) similar to what you
can do with the Iridium Extreme. You
can also change the destination of the
SOS message if you didn’t want it going
to GEOS, if you had a particular local
Coast Guard number you wanted to use
or a certain search-and-rescue center
that was relevant to your area. It will
send an email or a text or it will make
a voice call.
PassageMaker: What did you say the
size was, a deck of playing cards?
Johnson: It would be a couple of decks
and a little wider. If you were to open
the palm of your hand up, it would
overlap your fingers a little bit, but you
could wrap your fingers around it.
PassageMaker: So there is conceivably
a pocket you could put it in?
PassageMaker: What haven’t I asked
OCENS Is a Satcom Cruising Tool
OCENS supports the new Iridium GO, with “crash and compression” software
for downloading weather forecasts, exchanging email and web browsing.
OCENS compression effectively accelerates download rates tenfold, roughly
equivalent to dial-up web browsing back in the early 1990s, depending on
whose satellite device you’re using.
As painfully slow as this may seem, it is a reliable way of getting crucial
intelligence for passagemaking—weather GRIB files, for example—while
keeping in touch with friends and family and getting news reports.
OCENS sells its WeatherNet software for $99, plus a small fee for each
forecast file downloaded (the forecasts I used while cruising the Bahamas cost
less than $2 a day). Its OCENS Mail costs $59 to activate and $240 a year.
And XWeb data-compression service for accessing the Internet costs $30 to
activate and $96 a year.
Me Too, Globalstar Says
In the days before Iridium Go was announced, a competing satellite service
provider issued a news release of its own, announcing a nearly identical product.
The company is Globalstar, the product is called Sat-Fi. Globalstar says it
expects FCC approval sometime in the spring “with shipments starting shortly
The Globalstar release was short on details, including a description of the
hardware involved. It did assert that, unlike the Iridium Go, customers would be
able to use their existing smartphone number when connecting through Sat-Fi.
Iridium’s Tim Johnson says he doubts that the Globalstar Sat-Fi will come to
market any time soon. “We greeted that press release with great skepticism since
it seemed like an effort on their part to forward-run our product announcement
... an attempt to introduce uncertainty in the marketplace,” Johnson says.