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Iridium® – Redefining the L-Band & Safety Services for the 21st Century

With Iridium Certus® 700 offering the fastest L-band speeds and Iridium GMDSS bringing new capabilities to the maritime industry, mariners finally have a superior L-Band connectivity alternative in terms of performance, reliability and value

Wouter Deknopper – Vice President, Maritime, Iridium Communications Inc.

As technology advances, it is important for users to adapt in order to attain the best service. At sea, communication systems are vital in keeping vessels in business and crew members connected. Thanks to higher speed and lower cost connectivity, vessels are becoming increasingly connected. Following a decade-long status quo, the maritime industry can now benefit from a superior connectivity alternative in terms of performance, reliability and value with Iridium Certus L-band and coming soon Iridium Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) service.

Iridium Certus L-band connectivity offers a significant technology refresh to the maritime industry. As the most modern L-band service available, the upgraded Iridium Certus 700 service provides global connectivity with the highest speed L-band available, up to 704 kbps down and 352 kbps up. Iridium Certus terminals, currently available from world-class manufacturers Cobham, Thales and Intellian, are solid state, requiring far less maintenance than stabilized L-band antennas with moving parts. With Iridium Certus, vessel owners and managers now have an unparalleled alternative in global connectivity, with the service performing as either the primary satcom or as an L-band companion to a VSAT system.

Although widely accepted, VSAT remains out of reach for certain segments of maritime due to either the physical size of the antennas or high expense. The highly complex antennas also have many moving parts and can more commonly experience maintenance issues. Additionally, VSAT coverage is not always reliable everywhere a vessel goes. Resistant to weather issues and reliable anywhere at sea, Iridium Certus L-band safety services is delivered through cost-effective, fleet friendly plans.

Following Iridium’s GMDSS recognition by the IMO, the company has been focused on development, testing and planning service introduction. Despite delays caused by COVID-19 and its ongoing uncertainty, Iridium expects GMDSS service to be available in Q3 2020. In the meantime, Iridium is focused on the testing program and ensuring our system is fully ready for launch.

GMDSS testing is progressing well, with equipment installed on vessels at sea that are conducting constant real-world simulations. Included in the testing are several stakeholders including RCCs (Rescue Coordination Centers), NAVAREA Coordinators and METATREA Coordinators. Iridium recently completed the initial field testing, which involved vessels and Maritime Safety Information Providers transmitting broadcasts regarding navigational and meteorological information. This was done for the first time from areas of the world that are not covered by the incumbent GMDSS satellite system. Overall, these tests have gone well, and we continue to get positive feedback on the features of Iridium GMDSS and the new terminal by Lars Thrane (the LT-3100S) from stakeholders and test vessels.

With Iridium’s dedication to maritime safety communications, the next stage after the Iridium GMDSS launch will be the Iridium Certus GMDSS program. The addition of GMDSS to Iridium Certus will combine the world’s widest-reaching GMDSS service with the world’s fastest L-band terminal, providing global coverage over Iridium’s highly resilient network. Iridium Certus is becoming the new standard for maritime core communications, ensuring vessels can continue to operate and get assistance no matter where they are.

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