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GlobalStar On the Skids, Iridium Aims Higher

Satellite phone company GlobalStar has finally admitted what many of us have suspected for some time, namely that their system has problems and is not reliable. It seems that in their latest SEC filing GlobalStar has essentially told its users that things are bad and getting worse, as this article in Barron’s indicates. Bottom line, don’t bet your life on a GlobalStar phone.

Meanwhile, seeking perhaps to capitalize on its competitors weak position, Iridium is announcing a major effort to improve its service. in a press release today Iridium noted, “it will formally launch its “Iridium NEXT” initiative at the SATELLITE 2007 Show in Washington, D.C. next week. The NEXT launch is the start of an intensive, multi-year design and development program for Iridium’s next-generation satellite constellation…In addition, NEXT will offer significantly enhanced services to the company’s current and new customers. Iridium will deploy NEXT on a schedule supporting a smooth transition from the current constellation.” Well, take that GlobalStar

Meanwhile, Iridium has been beefing up its existing infrastructure including new ground stations in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Svalbard, Norway.

I’ve always recommended Iridium over GlobalStar, just because they have always had better coverage worldwide and better, if not great, customer service. I can’t claim any inside knowledge, but every once in a while I call it right by accident.

Having said all that, I would never bet my life on a sat phone connection. They are great when they work, but a 406 MHz distress beacon is a lot more reliable. Too many times I have been in situations when the sat phone should have worked, no problem, but didn’t.