After conducting extensive beta-testing that included sending five terminals around the world in boats competing in the Vendee Globe single-handed sailboat race, Iridium has launched the world’s only global broadband service.
Called OpenPort, the new service provides three independent phone lines and an Internet connection at anything up to 128 kilobytes per second. The low orbits of Iridium’s 66-satellite constellation mean that this can be achieved with an antenna that’s just 22 inches in diameter and nine inches high.
Like those of ordinary cellphone service, the price of an Openport terminal varies, but on a pay-as-you-go arrangement that would suit most recreational boaters, the cost for a terminal and antenna is about $4,000, with airtime running $0.86 per minute and data $12 per megabyte. A neat trick, though, is to buy a few pre-paid “Crew Cards,” which are $21.20 each. They reduce the rate for voice calls to just $0.53 per minute.
This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.