Troubled Iridium expands ISP ties, services

Satellite communications provider Iridium Satellite LLC has partnered with 13 service providers and unveiled a customer-response center Thursday in its bid to resurrect its financially-troubled satellite phone business.

The non-exclusive agreements will enable the providers to sell Iridium services to industrial and government markets in remote areas, according to the company's release. Two of the 13 -- Fibertel in Western Europe, the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, and Russia-based Incomserv Co. Ltd. -- were previous Iridium service providers.

Iridium established a service center at http://www.iridium.com to enable former Iridium satellite phone service users to re-register, the company said in a statement. Iridium also intends the service center to help prospective new customers and service providers find additional information about the company's product and service offerings.

Iridium plans to reintroduce satellite phone service in the spring.

The modern incarnation of Iridium resulted from the bankruptcy of Iridium LLC last year. After falling US$4.4 billion in debt and prepared to decommission its net of 66 low-earth orbiting (LEO) satellites, the Motorola Inc.-backed company transferred its assets to Iridium Satellite in December. Iridium Satellite landed a bailout of sorts provided by a multi-year contract with the US Department of Defense.

Iridium launched its service in 1992, but found too few people willing to pay high prices for global phone service using clunky satellite phones.

Creditors of the original company plan to sue Motorola, Iridium's primary investor, charging the cell phone maker with running Iridium into the ground for Motorola's benefit, according to a Reuters report. In court filings, creditors claim Motorola retained ownership of the valuable computer software necessary for the satellite system's operation, and that it structured contracts that were 'excessively lucrative for Motorola,' by controlling the company's board of directors, according to the report.

The creditors formed a new company, Iridium Litigation LLC, to manage the litigation process against Motorola, the report said.

The US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York resolved a debt recovery dispute between secured bank lenders and unsecured creditors Tuesday, paving the way for the US$2 billion lawsuit against Motorola to proceed.

Iridium, in Washington, D.C., can be reached at http://www.iridium.com/. Motorola, based in Schaumburg, Illinois, can be contacted at +1-847-576-5000 or at http://www.mot.com/.

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