ICO to fly high

Satellite communications company ICO Global Communications is confident it will not suffer the hardships that rival Iridium currently faces.

While unable to comment on the future of the struggling competitor, Michael Rugala, regional general manager ICO Asia Pacific, said Iridium is in a "tough situation", but there is room for ICO, Iridium and Globalstar in the marketplace.

"We always thought there was room for three," Rugala said.

"I think Globalstar will be a good competitor, but they will lack things. They will not be a global competitor, they'll be a regional competitor . . . they won't be as tied together on the global side," he said.

"I think Globalstar will be more like ICO than Iridium will be."

According to Rugala, a number of differences exist amongst the three companies.

When launched in Q3, 2000, ICO will operate 12 middle earth orbit satellites, providing 100 per cent global coverage. This compares to Iridium's 66 satellites and Globalstar's 50 or so.

In addition, ICO will be able to offer longer calls, with fewer dropouts at a cheaper price, Rugala said.

However, like the other satellite communications providers, ICO is aiming to provide a service that is complementary to current mobile services.

"We do provide 100 per cent coverage but we complement cellular. We are trying to compete with them. As big as our network is, it is not as large as a global carrier," Rugala said, adding that the ICO network is not built to carry pure bulk traffic like the carriers.

"Cellular is one of our main channels.

"We will not do anything to compete with them."

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