Over the past couple of weeks Iridium has received some questions regarding our efforts to help alleviate the emotional strain of the COVID-19 epidemic on our users, particularly in the hard-hit maritime industry, where many crews have been at sea for extended durations. You may have even heard our CEO, Matt Desch mention some of these efforts in response to questions on our Q1 earnings call.
While we know a press release would serve as a grandiose way to share this information at large, we normally wouldn’t send a press release to announce these types of promotions, and we especially do not believe it is the appropriate medium to use at this time. As a result, we felt it would be more helpful to provide a general overview of the steps we have taken over the past couple of months, in a more simple manner – an email update, and then answer any additional questions you may have.
As many of you know, Iridium operates as a wholesaler and relies on our network of service providers to roll out the programs we offer to customers. Starting in January, Iridium elected to extend what was a limited time commercial offer doubling the amount of data available on popular Iridium Certus® (our L-band broadband service) packages for the maritime industry. The offer is exactly as it sounds — get double the previous amount of data for the same price. You may have seen other companies recently announce similar offers either labeled as 50% off, or “double your data”– in effect these are all basically identical in % savings offered, but perhaps more importantly, it is a strong statement from the industry regarding both our concern and ability to offer the simplest form of relief to those stuck in quarantine at sea – the ability to communicate with loved ones.
Seeing how the situation has evolved, Iridium has decided to go one step further. We are now giving away up to 500 minutes of free crew calling for each vessel equipped with Iridium Certus or Iridium OpenPort as a primary service, currently through the end of September 2020. And as Iridium itself never charges for connections or termination rates, there are no hidden fees. Thousands of ships – and each of these calls is on us.
This has been rolled out to our service provider network, and they are now operationalizing the program for each requesting vessel. Fleets interested in taking advantage of this program should immediately reach out to their service provider, or they can contact Iridium directly to help with coordination.
Additional efforts in other industries are being met on a case-by-case basis, tailored to fit the need. For example, Iridium’s push-to-talk (PTT) service has seen increasing popularity among first responders and NGOs working in remote parts of the world. Our team has committed to providing free PTT talk groups for responding organizations (NGOs, governments, businesses and so forth) that customers can share over identified “hot spots”, ensuring various organizations can easily coordinate relief efforts across separate organizations without worrying about additional costs.
We are also speeding up integration of a new local number dialing capability for all Iridium® satellite phones and Iridium GO!® devices. The goal is to add more than 40 countries’ local numbers, turning what would be an internationally billed call into a local call, helping families control the long-distance costs associated with calling an Iridium® phone, which like other satellite phones is the equivalent of calling another country. This feature already exists in the United States and has worked incredibly well. Once rolled out, families and friends around the world can proactively call loved ones with Iridium equipment without worrying about the cost associated with it from their local telephone company. (FYI, Iridium already offers free incoming SMS standard.)
We think these efforts will be particularly helpful as, despite a bit of a slowdown in new activations as our partners and customers manage local lockdown situations, our network is still getting a lot of use and subscriber numbers continue to grow – somehow there continue to be people in remote places and equipment in operation that need to be tracked and controlled. As lockdowns around the world start to end, flights resume and more crews get on more ships, it is our hope these offers/capabilities help make it easier for those that depend on Iridium to get back to work
To avoid making this email too long, I will stop with the examples here. However, we recognize that Iridium touches virtually every industry in some way, and not all needs during this time will meet a one-size fits all solution. Knowing this we continue to work closely with our partners to address new situations as they arise.
These are unprecedented times, and at Iridium we know the power of keeping people connected no matter the distance. Every precaution is being taken to ensure the teams at our Satellite Network Operations Center, Gateway and related facilities are in good health, maintaining social distance while at the facilities and singing happy birthday at least twice while washing their hands!
We all rely on those that transport the goods that make our economies function, enable essential supplies to keep flowing and serve as the frontline in the battle against COVID-19. Iridium will make sure we are there for them as well.