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TECH TIP: Iridium Goes Up, Up and Away with Satellite-Linked Smart Companion

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

Excerpted from the February 7, 2023 edition of Sree's Sunday Note.

It wasn’t a great week to announce a new satellite-linked device due to the overshadowing news coverage of an alleged Chinese spy balloon flying over the US, but Iridium Communications Inc.’s new “smart companion” for mobile devices promises a new level of global communications for those who really need it.

The new Iridium GO! exec smart companion not only allows smartphone, tablet and laptop users to make phone calls and transfer data over satellite connections from any point in the world, but also supports popular apps like WhatsApp, Twitter, Viber, Signal, Gmail and basic email.

During a product launch webinar, Iridium, which operates a large constellation of satellites, said the unit is aimed at airplane pilots, boaters, hikers, farmers, first responders and others who need reliable communications in areas not covered by cell phones. “We’ve been working on this product a long time,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch.

Unlike the older Iridium GO!, a smaller, slower device which also provided satellite connectivity for smartphones, the Iridium GO! exec has a touchscreen in addition to its Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity.

The 8-by-8-by-1-inch weatherized, ruggedized unit weighs 2.65 pounds and provides up to 6 hours talk and data time or 24 hours on standby per charge, according to Iridium. It’s basically used like a Wi-Fi hotspot and can be used wirelessly or via a built-in Ethernet port.

According to a company representative, while the old Iridium GO!, first introduced in 2014 and still available, takes about 45 seconds to establish a satellite connection, the Iridium GO! exec does so in about two seconds. The Iridium GO! exec has a built-in microphone and a speaker, thus allowing it to be used as a smartphone even when not connected to another device.

With data speeds of up to 22 Kbps for uploads and 88 Kbps for downloads (yes, well under 1Mbps), the Iridium GO! exec is meant for essential voice communications and data transfers like GPS locations and weather data, but still offers enough throughput for short social media posts according to the company. While those speeds may seem slow, the Iridium GO! exec’s download speed is actually 40 times faster than the old Iridium GO!, according to Iridium.

Iridium’s data manager app lets users set time and data limits on satellite connections to help keep airtime costs down, the company said. In addition, services optimized for satellite connections like PredictWind’s PredictMail, an email service, compress data before using satellite connections.

The Iridium GO! exec is available now and is sold by retailers, not direct from Iridium. A quick search found outlets selling the unit at prices starting at $1,600.

My tech tips appear regularly in Sree's Sunday Note.

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