Iridium is one of a number of highly ambitious MSS operators looking to make an impact across a variety of enterprise and commercial markets. Its long-term buzz circles around its ambitious Iridium Next constellation backed by $1.8 billion in ECA Coface credit, which will be at the centerpiece of the operator’s strategy during the next few years. The first Iridium Next satellites are expected to launch in 2015, following a five-year development plan that started in 2010.
Iridium CEO Matt Desch, a 2010 Via Satellite Executive of the Year nominee who was recently appointed to serve on the U.S. National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC), spoke with Via Satellite about the latest developments for Iridium Next, why the company has increased its handset revenue outlook, MSS opportunities for hosted payloads and what lies ahead for mobile satellite’s most dedicated markets.
Via Satellite: With Iridium one year into its contract with Thales Alena Space for Iridium Next, how is the constellation’s space segment progressing?
Desch: We’re about 20 percent of the way complete toward the first service launch and it’s going very well. I’ve noticed that that when other satellite providers win contracts like this, they will have already lined-up their team and confirmed the subcontracts before they win the initial business so that when the deal is signed, the team building is pretty much done. Thales goes through this process a little differently because of its commercial heritage. They line-up their team and win the business and then go back and start negotiating the final deals with their subcontractors as they go. This way, they have a couple of choices and options in getting that done. At this point, Thales pretty much has the full team assembled. We’re early on in the design phase and we already received some pictures and specs from Thales and we’re moving onto a preliminary design review at the end of this year or early next year.
The space and ground segment together is all part of our two-pronged, $3 billion plan. If you add up all the companies associated with this project, we have about 30 major companies working as sub-contractors that are part of Iridium Next. This is a multi-national, multi-company undertaking. The goal for our ground infrastructure for Next would be that its all in place by early 2014, which supports the current network and gives it about a year of readiness before the service launches.