Iridium Communications just announced its new Iridium GO!TM smartphone connectivity device. By itself that is an important announcement, but there is another game changer. Special service plans will be available for the Iridium GO! with unlimited data calling and SMS messaging.* Voice calling costs will be billed on a per minute basis and are expected to be similar to those for traditional Iridium satellite phones.

Outfitter Satellite has never offered unlimited data and text Iridium service plans before. So not surprisingly, we think Iridium GO! will be a game changer for smartphone users trying to maintain email and text connectivity from remote locations beyond the reach of conventional cellular services.

Some limitations do apply to the Iridium GO! unlimited data calling plans.** The unlimited data usage only applies to Iridium Direct Internet services accessed through an approved Iridium Direct Access number using an Iridium GO! device. Other types of data calls are still billed on a per-minute-of-usage basis. Also, the intension of Iridium is that Iridium GO! devices be used only for on-demand data, and their Fair Use Policy strictly prohibits always-on internet connections through the Iridium GO! device while on an unlimited data plan.

Global Satellite Connectivity for Your Smartphone:

Iridium GO! is the most exciting new satellite phone product for 2014. Like the groundbreaking Thuraya SatSleeve+, the Iridium GO! allows iPhone and Android smartphones to access the power of a satellite network for voice and internet access, but while the Thuraya network offers limited regional coverage, the Iridium GO! offers actual global satellite coverage.

Your Own Personal Cell Tower:

The Iridium GO! is a small portable hotspot that creates a Wi-Fi signal for up to 5 mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. The Iridium GO! connects you to a network of 66 satellites and the Iridium terrestrial network infrastructure so that you can make phone calls, access email, and send SMS messages from pretty much anywhere. Your smartphone or tablet can be up to 100 feet from the Iridium GO!. Just load an app for Iridium GO! onto your smartphone or tablet and you are ready to do all the following:

  • Make a voice call
  • Send an SMS (short message service)
  • Setup a data call
  • Send a Twitter post
  • Send your GPS location
  • Send a "check-in" message to a friend
  • Send an emergency SOS message
  • Use the Iridium Mail & Web software to send emails or view compressed web pages
  • Check your Iridium GO! device status and remaining battery life

Some of our staff at Outfitter Satellite were able to see demonstrations of the Iridium GO! at a recent conference. Remarkably, an iPhone using an Iridium GO! actually produces better sound quality during voice calls than traditional stand-alone Iridium satellite phones. The extra voice processing by the iPhone is responsible for the improvement.

Though, sound quality may be superior, the data user needs to realize that data connection speeds are quite slow. The Iridium data service is fine for texts and short emails but is unsuitable for transmitting video or browsing websites or otherwise transferring large files.

Iridium GO! -- Are Stand-Alone Iridium Handsets History?

It has been suggested that this new breed of smartphone satellite connectivity device will replace the old traditional stand-alone satellite phone. At Outfitter Satellite, we expect that there will be little downward impact on the demand for stand-alone satellite phones like the Iridium 9555 or Iridium 9575 EXTREME. These phones will continue to fulfill the need many clients have for a satellite phone that is ready to make that call when a sudden emergency arises. The emergency-use client cannot be concerned with setting up a hotspot, establishing a WiFi connection, and making sure the batteries of both the hotspot and a smartphone are charged and ready to make that critical call. They need a unified solution that is ready all the time. Simplicity is the main requirement for emergency-use applications, and the stand-alone satellite phone will continue to fill that role.

The Iridium GO! unlimited data and text plans will be especially attractive to heavy users of these services, as opposed to emergency-use applications. We expect the Iridium GO! to attract business travelers and recreational users needing connectivity from a remote location without cellular service.

* All hardware and service plan pricing wascorrect as of the time of the original writing of this article (and was corrected again on November 10, 2016). All pricing and the rates, terms and conditions are subject to change without notice. Potential customers should call for complete information. Service fees quoted do not include taxes, USF fees and other fees for which the customer will be responsible.

** Fair Use Policy: Iridium GO! devices are prohibited from enabling an always-on connection with the Iridium network that could negatively affect the available bandwidth for other Iridium subscribers. Iridium reserves the right to actively monitor usage statistics and take proactive measures to regulate and if necessary terminate access to the Iridium network to ensure high quality network performance for all users on an ongoing basis. Iridium reserves the right to make a determination in its sole discretion that a particular device/subscriber is violating this Fair Use Policy and take responsive actions with or with notice including but not limited to the immediate suspension or termination of all or any portion of the service to the device/subscriber as well as other legal and technical actions. Neither Iridium nor its agents nor Outfitter Satellite will have any liability for any of these responsive actions.