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Iridium to Acquire Satelles to Bolster Alternative PNT Capabilities

By Abbey Weltman | March 4, 2024
The Iridium constellation

Rendering of Iridium’s constellation. Photo: Iridium

Iridium is acquiring longtime partner Satelles for its alternative positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) service. Iridium plans to use Satelles Satellite Time and Location (STL) service to provide a backup for GNSS/GPS. This the company’s first-ever acquisition, full integration is expected to begin April 1. 

Iridium reported a growing need for delivering PNT information that cannot be jammed or spoofed for government, civil, and commercial applications. Satellus aims to solve problems with GPS limitations. Its STL service offers precise time synchronization and trusted location information to various industries. The secure STL service can be spread globally through Iridium’s L-band and crosslink satellites with limited ground support infrastructure. 

“STL is a signal delivered over the Iridium broadcast paging channel. It’s an extremely powerful signal, about 1000 times stronger than GPS, which allows it to work indoors and places where GPS doesn’t reach and get through certain levels of interference.” Satelles CEO Mike O’Connor said in a call with reporters on Monday. “It’s also highly secure, which makes it impervious to certain forms of deliberate attack. It’s separate from GPS, which helps ensure survivability in the event of a GPS disruption.” 

Iridium is a long-standing investor in Satelles. It had an ownership stake of around 20% from three previous investments in the company. For the remaining approximately 80%, Iridium will pay about $115 million, which will be financed through a tack-on to its term loan. Iridium expects to complete the acquisition in the next few weeks. 

Iridium expects to generate over $100 million in service revenues per year from the STL business line by 2030, with additional revenue from equipment and engineering.

Iridium CEO Matt Desch told Via Satellite, “Our aviation business, our maritime business, our IoT business, these are all things that I think will be enhanced by this technology over time. Autonomous vehicles in general need a trusted timing reference signal.”

O’Connor and the core Satelles team will report directly to Iridium to oversee the development and operation of the business. Satelles will now become the STL unit of Iridium. Desch told Via Satellite that two companies have already been “loosely integrated” and Satelles is already familiar with many of Iridium’s existing partners.