Iridium GO! Hotspot Promises Wi-Fi Virtually Anywhere

What if you, a consumer or business user, could readily connect your laptop, smartphone or tablet from anywhere to Wi-Fi via a satellite? That's the scenario presented on Tuesday by satellite communications company Iridium Communications, which announced what it described as the first portable satellite hotspot.

The rugged unit, called Iridium GO!, connects with a satellite and generates a Wi-Fi zone for up to five devices within a hundred feet. The company, which noted that cellular coverage only applies to about 10 percent of the planet's surface, said GO! eliminates the need for a satellite phone, and works when terrestrial networks are unavailable.

To operate, the user raises the antenna, which turns the GO! device on. This automatically connects the unit to the Iridium network via one of the company's 66 low-orbit satellites and sets up Wi-Fi. The unit is designed to also work with the new Iridium satellites that are expected to launch next year.

A Platform

A GO! app on the user's smartphone, laptop or computer enables voice calls, text or the transmission of the user's location in emergency conditions. No special equipment for the user's devices are needed. The unit is designed to withstand rain, sand, dust or rough use, and there's a built-in SOS transmission function.

The unit, sized at 4.5 by 3.25 by 1.25 inches and weighing 10.4 ounces, is the company's most consumer-oriented product to date. But, rather than describing it as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, Iridium is pitching it as "a cell tower in your pocket."

Iridium CEO Matt Desch said in a statement that the product "enables people to use their own trusted devices," even when they are off the cellular grid. The company said that the product is not simply a product, but a platform for developers working in such areas as maritime, aviation,...

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