Iridium Communications announced a partnership with Amazon Web Services on Thursday, to develop a satellite-based network called CloudConnect for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
“We’re really covering the whole planet … with terrestrial networks today it’s still only 10 percent or 20 percent” of the Earth, Iridium CEO Matt Desch told CNBC. “Everybody today can connect pretty easily with very little effort. Now that Amazon has put our language into the cloud platform, they can extend their applications to the satellite realm.”
CloudConnect, which the company expects to launch in 2019, makes Iridium “the first, and only, satellite provider now connected to” Amazon Web Services, Desch said. The CloudConnect network will focus on “where cellular technologies aren’t,” Desch said, bringing the rest of the world within reach of AWS.
Amazon has been looking to hire people to work on “interconnecting space system networks,” CNBC reported earlier this month. The company has never publicly discussed such a project.
Shares of Iridium rose 7.1 percent in trading, hitting an all-time high of $21.98 a share.
The company is nearly finished putting its Iridium NEXT constellation of 75 satellites into orbit. SpaceX is launching the $3 billion satellite network for Iridium, with the eighth and final launch happening later this year. Desch has called SpaceX “critical” to Iridium’s commercial success, which is now the satellite company’s sole launch provider.
Once online, Iridium NEXT will offer services such as higher broadband communications speeds and global airplane tracking. Iridium describes the IoT aspect of the network as a “catalyst for strong subscriber growth.” Desch said the network hosts “about half a million” active devices, growing at a rate of about 20 percent per year for the last three years. With AWS onboard, Desch gave a very bullish estimates for his IoT services: “Easily this could expand to tens of millions of devices.”
“We have the best bandwidth over anybody,” Desch said. “Our network is super efficient at how it can manage these bytes of information.”
Using the AWS, the most widespread cloud-computing service in the world, applications all speak the same “language,” Desch said. It can take companies months or years to connect their applications into a new cloud suite, Desch explained, saying the IoT devices sometimes “talking in proprietary languages” or “they have to learn to talk from scratch.” Add that to the 80 percent of the world where “it’s still hard to connect things up” and one can see why CloudConnect will be optimized for connecting things very efficiently around the world,” Desch said.
“We’re talking things where a couple dollars can deliver really timely information in seconds from anywhere-to-anywhere in the planet,” Desch said.
Desch expects CloudConnect to initially cater to large things like agricultural equipment or cargo ship in the open sea but said “it will move downwards into smaller and smaller vehicles, such as drones.” Iridium is also looking at partnering with low-cost satellite companies like Myriota, Hiber and Fleet – as those will focus on a different range of IoT data.
“There are eight or 10 of these new networks that people want to develop with new satellites,” Desch said. “We’re more of the high end, when you’ve got to really get the data and it’s got to be real time.”