Iridium OpenPort, a solid state touché!


Doh! Earlier this week I wrote a PMY May column on marine satellite broadband, but despite lots of research only this morning learned that Iridium is also piling into this relatively small, if high dollar, niche…and with what looks like a really interesting new technology. The omni-directional antenna inside that 9″ by 21″ dome above has no moving parts, and yet can supposedly provide three phone lines and “up to” 128 Kbps of mobile Internet connectivity anywhere on the globe. Thats not nearly as fast as what VSAT and Mini-VSAT can do, but it’s darn close to Fleet Broadband 250 abilities, and may be plenty good enough for many offshore yachts and commercial boats. In fact, if Inmarsat’s IsatPhone looks like a competitive lunge at Iridium, this sure looks like the “touché”! The OpenPort press release doesn’t mince words:

Iridium OpenPort offers an unbeatable value proposition…with equipment and airtime costs substantially lower than any competitor. Packaged with our unique 100 percent global coverage and service quality, we’ll be positioned as the service offering to beat. We expect to quickly capture significant market-share gains in the estimated $400 million annual marine MSS {Mobile Satellite Services} market.

However, the press release is pretty vague about actual OpenPort pricing, only tossing out percentages “lower than any other satcom system.” Even the good Doctor Luis Soltero, proprietor of Global Marine Networks and an Iridium expert, doesn’t yet know the pricing. But he did point me at those photos above, and explained a bit about how OpenPort works:

The antenna is a solid state matrix with 64 elements which allows up to 64 concurrent 2400 Bps channels totaling a maximum throughput of 150 Kbps. The unit was operating when we saw it in Sept. {at the Iridium Service Partner meeting}. Iridium has been doing a lot of testing since the technology requires breaking up a data stream into multiple channels and then repackaging the data stream once it reaches the gateway in Arizona. We are all awaiting this product anxiously.

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

4 Responses

  1. Derek says:

    what is the price for the open port

  2. ibsailn says:

    This apparently launched in August or is about to in October (depending on which press release you read). Anybody have any info on the launch and pricing. I did find charts showing voice and data pricing at about $0.58/min and $5.00/mb respectively, but nothing on purchase price of equipment.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Dr. Soltero reports that OpenPort is scheduled to ship on October 15th, with hardware costing $5995. There will be dozens of possible service plans, but here are some examples:
    0 minutes/0 MBytes: $50 month, $1.67 min, $25.71 MB
    100 min/10 MB: $312 month w/extras $1.32 min, $18 MB
    200 min/50 MB: $916 month, extras $1.17 min, $14 MB
    Standard data rate is 32kbps, with 64kbps available for plans over $900 for an extra charge.
    The service pricing seems a lot higher than what’s suggested at Globe Wireless:

  4. Anonymous says:

    They work, but have issues. If you want to use this device for IP connectivity and you don’t consistently use it, it will enter some kind of standby state and not come back until you send some traffic. The end result is a few seconds wait for it to recover. This can get annoying.

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