Iridium back on track with new market focus

Satellite communications provider Iridium is eight months behind sales targets because it focused on the wrong market, Carlton Jennings, chief executive officer for Iridium South Pacific, has admitted.

"Our focus last year got it wrong. It got it wrong, because we looked at a customer who was going to travel anywhere in the world and needed to go across all those different cellular protocols and have a satellite phone and pager," Jennings told Computerworld.

Last month, Iridium posted a first-quarter loss of $US505 million on revenue of $US1.45 million and announced it had only signed up 10,294 customers, compared with the 100,000 customers the company had promised lenders and investors it would have by now.

The organisation is, however, attempting to claw itself back from the brink with the rollout last week of a series of initiatives for customers, as well as a repositioning in the marketplace.

Iridium is focusing on servicing the industrial market, a market that has the potential for more than one million users, Jennings said.

"The customers that Iridium is focused on are those people who are used to having problems with communications and need an Iridium solution. They're probably current satellite users of some type, whether it be data or voice or combination, and those would be major industrial markets," he said.

Jennings said whilst the immediate focus will be the industrial markets, in time the travelling business-customers market will grow.

"With time, that's actually the biggest market that Iridium will be going after."

In addition to this market focus, Iridium has also introduced a number of value-added offerings for customers. These include changing the company's international satellite call charging structure and call charges and introducing subscriber equipment packages. According to Jennings, the company will adjust its satellite call charging increments to ten seconds and drop the present multiple price zones to one flat rate for all international calls.

To benefit customers Iridium will arrange equipment package deals from Motorola and Kyocera. Satellite Iridium handsets, antenna adapters, portable auxiliary antenna and a high capacity battery will be bundled together in a single package.

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