​Iridium Communications has commercially launched its L-band Iridium Certus broadband service, now that a global testing phase, including beta trials with live customers has been run its course.

The service, which is the first to be delivered via the company’s $3 billion Iridium NEXT satellite replacement programme (which recently celebrated its final launch), provides mobile office functionality for deployed teams and two-way remote communication for assets, autonomous vehicles, trains, aircraft and ships at sea. The company claims that Iridium Certus is uniquely suited for the critical communications needs of teams operating beyond the reach of cellular coverage, including first responders and search and rescue organisations.

The initial service is targeted at maritime and terrestrial applications, with Iridium Certus aviation solutions expected later in 2019, once certified.

Iridium is debuting the service, which will feature a variety of speed classes, with the Iridium Certus 350 (352/352 Kbps) offering, which supports capabilities like internet and high-quality voice services to compact terminals built specifically for maritime, aviation and terrestrial/vehicle applications. Terminals will be upgradable to the next speed class, Iridium Certus 700 (352/704 Kbps), with a firmware update once available. The company states that initial activations of the service occurred in December of 2018 with excellent system performance.

For IoT applications, Iridium Certus will in the future deliver Internet Protocol (IP) data applications what the company claims will be smaller, portable and more cost-effective devices to vertical markets like industrial IoT, forestry, utilities, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), transportation and construction, to name a few. In the coming year, Iridium plans to introduce transceiver that can scale down terminals to the point where they can be used in applications that require very portable form-factors, such as drones, buoys, and endangered animals. These transceivers will then become part of long-lasting battery-powered devices.

Iridium Certus terminals are being built by Cobham (maritime), Thales (maritime, aviation and land-mobile), Collins Aerospace (aviation), L3 (aviation), Gogo (aviation) and Satcom Direct (aviation). And to date, 36 service providers are authorised by Iridium to provide the service around the world. The Iridium Certus service runs over Iridium’s low earth orbit satellite network, which is comprised of 66 crosslinked satellites.

"The debut of Iridium Certus is the start of a new chapter in the Iridium story, one that is set to catapult us and our partners forward. At its core, Iridium Certus is an innovation engine for the future. It will enable us to provide broadband connections to teams, vehicles and the important IoT "things" that are in the 80-plus percent of the world that lacks cellular coverage," said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. "Adoption of this new service by our partners has already begun, and it has been eagerly anticipated by every target industry. The launch of this service is a huge achievement, and it is already disrupting the status-quo through our smaller, faster, lighter and more cost-effective terminals and service."

"Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury tourist train that travels through some very remote parts of the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. Iridium Certus has been everything we could have hoped for, in terms of keeping us in consistent communication, despite the challenging operating environment," said Chris Sepp, senior director, information technology at Rocky Mountaineer. "This is a major upgrade to our existing capabilities with positive effects for safety, tracking and efficiency of our system. We're excited to continue adding the service to our trains."

Author: Sam Fenwick