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Re: re: Iridium to de-orbit their satellites?

on 3/12/00 10:09 PM, Eric Rosenberg/Jennifer Gruber at wd3q@erols.com wrote:

> While I agree that technology for its own sake is not worth much
> initially, I disagree with the notion that Iridium failed
> totally because of "terrestrial cellular".  If that's the case,
> Globalstar should soon go down in flames as should Orbcomm, and
> when they are ready to launch,  Teledesic and Skybridge.

Globalstar is having problems making money from what I've read and I really
don't think Teledesic will succeed.  Don't know anything about Skybridge.
> The reality is that there is a market for these products and
> services, just not where the average person (marketing person?)
> thinks.  
> At a meeting in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, a bunch of
> colleagues from Europe showed up with their GSM phones...and
> they didn't work -- Argentina is an AMPS country. Iridium and
> Globalstar did. 

This will be moot in a couple of years.  Argentina is also a CDMA country.
Right now, TDMA and GSM are going to be phased into a platform called EDGE.
Then any TDMA and GSM system can work together.  Eventually they'll all work
in what's called "3G" which is going to be a worldwide cellular standard for
voice and data.

Of course, that's a few years off.

My Nextel phone WILL work in Argentina!  :-)

> I did an Orbcomm demo last month in Greece for their regulatory
> authority. How? By sending email from my Orbcomm handheld data
> terminal to an Iridium pager. If I had a GSM phone with SMS
> activated, I could have done it that way, but as all I have is a
> Bell Atlantic CDMA phone -- which doesn't work in Europe -- I
> couldn't.  The Iridium pager service was never fully exploited
> by their marketing folks, which was a shame. It was
> great...worked everywhere!

Again, good for now, but every new model of phone comes out with more and
more modulation formats and band possibilities.  And with the new formats
coming out, it is just a matter of time.

But even so, is the market for those travelers big enough to support a
service like Iridium?

>   For a user with a
> fixed site requirement to hook up a standalone Globalstar,
> Iridium or Orbcomm device and be immediately tapped into a
> network infrastructure he didn't have to buy or build is a
> significant step.  That's who our users are.

No that IS a practical use.  Being able to give an isolated location an easy
and simple tap into a telephone infrastructure.

But still:  Is the market big enough to enable a satellite provider to make
money?  That is the overriding question.
> About prices, yes, Iridium was initially quite expensive, and
> they paid the price (forgive the pun).  On hte other hand,
> Globalstar appears to have learned that lesson.  But if you were
> to look at Iridium's prices of the past 6 months compared to
> roaming GSM calls, you'd be surprised at the competitive
> difference.  

Well, true.  They blew it there.  But also, lower costs also means lowering
revenues.  Not only did Iridium need to make money to pay for their
infrastructure, they had to pay to keep it there as well.  It ain't cheap.
And without a big enough market lower costs won't necessarily do it.

This is the same way all the little "ma and pa" PCS providers are no longer
in business after paying billions for their spectrum.  There was no way they
could pay for their license, pay for the infrastructure and attract
customers with a low enough price yet still make money.  Couple that with
the fact that the 800 MHz providers have been making money for years and
have recouped all their costs.
> In my view, Iridium's fatal flaw is that they called their user
> terminals telephones.  When you use that term, you put in place
> expectations that no wireless system can meet.  People expected
> there to be no difference when turning on an Iridium phone and
> when picking up the phone on their desk.  And as a result,
> they've paid what appears to be the ultimate price.

I don't think that's their fault.  Global telephone service is what it was
designed to supply.  And it could do the job and do it well...if there was a
viable market for it.



Jon Ogden



"A life lived in fear is a life half lived."

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