Iridium death throes continue

Iridium death throes continue

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

AUG. 24'If you are one of the few people still using the troubled Iridium satellite phone service, your options will become more limited this evening. Motorola Inc. has announced that as of 8 p.m. EST, transfer services will cease between the Iridium satellite system and the North American public switched telephone system.

The announcement is the latest spasm in the lingering death of Iridium LLC, the bankrupt Washington-based global satellite phone service provider that ceased operations in March. Motorola, a founding member of the Iridium consortium, has maintained the company's constellation of 66 low-Earth-orbit satellites while a buyer for the assets was sought. Gateway service providers have continue providing service on a day-to-day basis.

Latest efforts to sell assets failed in July, and Motorola has notified the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York that it is readying a final schedule for decommissioning the system. Decommissioning will involve guiding the satellites into the atmosphere for a controlled burn. Details of the schedule have not been released. The process could take up to nine months, a Motorola spokesman said.

The Defense Department had invested in a secure gateway for the system in Hawaii and had purchased several hundred Iridium handsets, but had not fully fielded the service. The General Services Administration had offered Iridium service through three contracts, but the service saw little use, officials said.

The latest announcement means that after this evening, satellite calls cannot be made between an Iridium phone to the switched telephone systems in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Iridium-to-Iridium calls can still be made as long as gateway operators continue service.

Motorola, at its Website at www.motorola.com/satellite/info, warns users that 'any and all remaining Iridium service could end at any time'without any advance notice.'

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