Restrictions caused by the global coronavirus pandemic has lifted revenues for a major provider of satellite communications to ships
Crew are increasingly using broadband over L-band for communications and information exchange as their movement is restricted by the worldwide response to the Covid-19 crisis.
This has led to more orders for Iridium Communications’ Certus broadband connectivity and terminals on vessels and use of the company’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. As a result, Iridium has raised its outlook for 2020 as it has seen increasing sales revenues.
Iridium chief executive Matt Desch said the company had a record number of commercial service subscribers across all global sectors due to rising demand for communications.
“Our business model has proven quite resilient given the importance of our services in the face of a global pandemic,” he said. “Subscriber equipment sales also increased by 18% year-over-year, driven by increased demand in Q3,” Mr Desch added.
He said Iridium had raised its full-year guidance for 2020 due to “continued momentum” in Iridium Certus sales. Iridium’s management now anticipates 3% revenue growth in 2020, compared to total service revenue of US$447.2M in 2019.
This forecast was higher than its previous outlook of 1-2% as anticipated when Iridium reported its Q2 results three months ago. Iridium reported higher earnings and lower losses due to higher revenues in Q3 2020.
Its operational EBITDA increased 6% to US$93.4M in Q3 2020, compared to US$88.5M for the prior-year period.
Iridium reported a net loss of US$4M in Q3 2020, compared to a loss of US$18M during the same period in 2019. This was due to lower net interest expenses related to the refinancing of Iridium’s credit facility.
Higher revenues during 2020 enabled Iridium to raise its EBITDA forecast for the whole of 2020 from the previous outlook of US$340M to US$355M, said Mr Desch.
Iridium Certus terminals have been installed on ships to facilitate L-band communications over a LEO constellation that includes 66 orbiting and interconnected satellites that can be seen from Earth by the naked eye.
Iridium Certus can be used for primary ship communications or as a companion to VSAT services. Owners can use Certus for cargo tracking, remote diagnostics of IT systems, fuel and engine monitoring and data exchange with planned maintenance systems.
It can also be used for email and web access, downloading weather and ECDIS updates. Iridium satellites also provide emergency maritime communications and host payloads for tracking vessels at sea.
The terminals, manufactured by Cobham Satcom and Thales, come with smartphone access and multiple high-quality voice lines.
Broadband communications through Cobham Sailor 4300 and Thales VesseLink terminals was increased in Q1 2020 from 352 kbps to 704 kbps after upgrades to terminal firmware.
Thales will explain the services that this higher bandwidth provides during a Riviera-hosted webinar on 11 November.
Thales has now introduced a communications terminal for smaller vessels. VesseLink 200 kbps operates over the Iridium Certus 200 service with lower costs than larger antennas.
During the Thales VesseLink 200: accessing Certus with a smaller antenna webinar, Thales will present the terminal’s capabilities and user experience from official beta testers and first adopters. Use this link for more details and to register for this webinar