Perhaps best known for their line of rugged, work-anywhere satellite phones, Iridium Communications has revealed today that they’re looking to try something new.
Alongside news of a new handset dubbed the Iridium Extreme, Iridium has also unveiled their new AxcessPoint hotspot, which allows users to get online and get their email fix just about anywhere on the planet.
There are, of course, a few caveats. First and foremost, don’t expect to hop between your favorite social media sites with anything resembling speed. Due to the constraints of such a a wide-reaching network, data speeds top out at roughly 2.3 to 2.4 KB/s — slow enough to make the old 56k modem collecting dust in the closet look like a NASCAR engine. With the correct AxcessPoint software in place, though, Iridium claims that effective data speeds can creep as high as “up to 5x, and email transmission up to 15x.”
There is also the issue of cost. While the AxcessPoint itself will only cost about $200, it has to be connected to either an Iridium 9555 or an Iridium Extreme to work. No word on cost for the Extreme yet, but the older 9555 retails for a little over $1,000. The data connection itself costs around $1.35 per minute, so it’s in your wallet’s best interest not to get sidetracked on Wikipedia.
Of course, if you’re the type to start pulling hair at the first sign of a slow connection and high prices, the AxcessPoint (and Iridium service, naturally) aren’t for you. Iridium’s service has been historically geared toward people and situations where a connection to civilization, however limited, could mean the difference between life and death.
However, if Iridium has their way, that may soon change. The AxcessPoint is part of a larger initiative called Iridium Force that’s meant to make mobile satellite communications more relevant to modern needs. In addition making the AxcessPoint compatible with Android, iOS, and BlackBerry OS, Iridium also hopes that it can make its satellite technology easier to integrate into other products. While it’ll likely be some time before a “Powered by Iridium” logo appears on the back of your new phone, it’s sure to come in handy for whenever you wander into the wilderness unprepared.