Exclusive: Iridium to start satellite access to AWS by September

29 July 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Satellite company Iridium will go live with its Amazon cloud deal by the end of September, CEO Matt Desch has told Capacity.

The contract, announced last year, will be aimed mainly at the internet of things (IoT) market, making it available across the 80% of the Earth’s surface without cellular coverage. The partnership between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Iridium will use the same IoT facilities the existing AWS IoT customers use.

“We will be the first satellite company to make a partnership with a cloud company,” Desch (pictured) told Capacity in an interview. “We’ll go live by the end of the third quarter this year.” He confirmed that that means by the end of September.

“Our partners are already planning for it. We’ll start seeing more applications go faster.” He suggested applications will include tracking of goods, such as parcels and containers, and vehicles, such as buses, in areas that have no cellular signal. Users will be able to plug an Iridium antenna into an existing system," he said.

The 66 satellites, plus a number of spares, have inclined orbits so that they provide complete coverage, including the Arctic and Antarctic. Each satellite is 780km above the surface of the Earth, giving a ground-to-satellite latency of 2.6ms. Signals are routed in a mesh from satellite to satellite. 

Desch himself put the last two of Iridium’s new 66-satellite fleet into operation in February, replacing units that were launched in the 1990s. He has been CEO of Iridium for 13 years, leading a drive to raise $3 billion to fund the new, more powerful, satellites. “They should last another 20 years,” he said.

Capacity will publish a full-length interview with Desch in the August-September issue.