If you were planning to lose yourself in the Sahara or shipwreck on a deserted island, and you were at a loss about how to keep your fake friends updated on your status on Facebook, Iridium GO! is going to give you all the Internet you need, anywhere, anytime.
"Iridium GO! expands our portfolio and speaks to both how people use devices today and the growing and changing needs within enterprises," stated Matt Desch, CEO, Iridium. "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."
Iridium is licensing the capability of its platform to app developers so that they can use the Iridium satellite network through Iridium GO! and, essentially, tailor make anywhere, anytime, screw you telecoms companies with your lousy 4G LTE coverage applications.
Before you get too excited and think that you can get your cousin, who builds iOS apps on the weekends, to make you a Satellite app, the fact is that it costs plenty of moolah to get on Iridium's networks. The company really didn't do that great trying to make satellite phones ubiquitous because, they cost plenty of moolah to make a call. In other words, this is not Internet for the faint of heart or weak of wallet.
So, that's why, among the kind of apps that Iridium is touting as already being Iridium GO! ready are a slew of stuff that may be cool, but kind of enterprise-y. Companies like Global Marine Networks (GMN) which is building optimized email services for maritime use. Or, Satcom Direct which is building applications for in-flight connectivity.
Is it simple? Should be. I tried an Iridium satellite phone about six years ago. It was just like a giant, bulky cell phone that I would want to have with me when I set off to walkabout the great Australian outback. So, it goes with Iridium GO! Iridium claims it is also incredibly simple to use - raising the antenna turns on the device, which then automatically connects to the Iridium network and establishes a Wi-Fi connection.
On a serious note, like Iridium's satellite phones, Iridium GO! is tough because, it meant to withstand the elements and life in places where cell towers are not going to go. The hotspot is built to withstand rain, sand, dust and rough use. It has an included SOS function for fast, two-way connection with an emergency provider.
The Iridium GO! hotspot gives you a Wi-Fi network coverage radius of 100 feet. This allows you and your buddies who are hiding from Somalian pirates to still text each other without giving away your location. And, when Iridium upgrades its satellite network to Iridium NEXT satellites in 2015, your hotspot will work. No need to go sign up for a new contract down at your local Verizon store (where it is unlikely to be available anyhow).
Iridium GO! will be available during the first half of 2014 through select Iridium distribution partners. The Iridium GO! developers program is currently available for select partners, and is expected to be commercially available in Q2 2014. The closest competitor seems to be the Thuraya SatSleeve, if you want to comparison shop. Couldn't find it on PriceGrabber so, not sure what to do about it. Hah!
Just a historical background, the original Iridium was founded back in 1998, mostly backed by Motorola. It went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy nine months after its founding because, it could get its satellite phones to work properly.
Iridium satellites were re-started for service in 2001 after they were bought for $25 million by private investors. That's $25 million for an initial $8 billion investment. Right now, it is publicly traded on Nasdaq and is mostly used by the US Department of Defense.
Doesn't mean the company hasn't given up hope of being more mainstream it seems. Who knows, maybe its time has come now.