Decision Ends INMARSAT Monopoly
On 21 May Iridium Communications announced that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has approved the company’s satellite communications network to provide Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) services, signalling an end to the decades long monopoly over such services exercised by INMARSAT. The company statement indicates this recognition “for the first time will bring competition and truly global coverage to mariners sailing any of the world’s oceans.”
A great deal of work and coordination remains to be done to ensure the seamless implementation of the service, of which the first step is likely to be the crafting of a Public Services Agreement. Iridium formally began the process to become a recognised GMDSS mobile satellite service provider in April 2013 and the company plans to begin providing such service in early 2020.
The announcement comes one day before Iridium is scheduled to launch its sixth Iridium NEXT mission with SpaceX, delivering five more Iridium NEXT satellites to low-Earth orbit (LEO) as part of the continuing upgrade to its existing satellite network. The Iridium network is a constellation of 66 cross-linked LEO satellites that provide reliable, low-latency satellite communications to the entire world, including the poles.
“This is the dawn of a new era for mariner safety. We’ll bring a new choice and upgraded capabilities for mariners along with our truly global coverage that will for the first time extend the reach of satellite-based GMDSS to even the most remote waterways,” explained Iridium’s Executive Vice President Bryan Hartin.
“This has been a long time coming, and we are ecstatic to gain this very important recognition from the IMO. We are equally proud to ensure mariners will have access to this critical system from anywhere in the world that they sail,” added the company’s CEO, Matt Desch. “Iridium has established itself as a trusted maritime safety provider for over a decade, and this recognition is a testament to both that trust and the capabilities offered by our satellite network.”