US government props up Iridium

State Department signs latest contract to help keep satellite service out of bankruptcy

The US government continued its attempt to prop up troubled satellite-based cellphone company Iridium, yesterday. The Department of State signed a $1.4 million cheque for 1000 Motorola-made Iridium handsets. The US government is rather keen on Iridium -- it bought another huge pile of phones back in June. It has its own gateway into the network, and according to the release issued about yesterday's purchase, "other US government agencies" plan to make use of it. While we can understand these departments' interest in Iridium to help them "expand their communications capability", it's the network's role in ehancing "their security posture abroad", that concerns us. Any fool can see the value Iridium might have to the spooks -- we haven't forgotten the claims made earlier this year that at least one Iridium ground station is being used for interceptions. Presumably, Iridium, for all its current financial woes, will stay in orbit thanks to extensive US government contracts, until such time as sufficient numbers of ordinary punters sign up for the service. So Motorola, prime beneficiary of the last government deal, needn't be quite so worried about losing a ton of money if Iridium files for bankruptcy -- the security services (or rather, let's be honest, US taxpayers) will ensure it doesn't make such a filing. ®

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