Motorola has advised Iridium that it intends to maintain the Iridium satellite system for a limited period of time to allow subscribers in remote locations to obtain alternative communications.
"I am deeply saddened by this outcome," said Iridium COO Randy Brouckman. "I particularly regret the impact this will have on our customers. Iridium achieved significant milestones, and I want to thank the more than 160 countries that licensed the service and the distribution partners around the world who helped market Iridium. Finally, I have had the honor and privilege to work with a world class team both here at Iridium LLC and at our Gateway partners around the world and I want thank them for all their hard work."
Iridium LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on August 13, 1999. Iridium LLC became the world's first global satellite phone and paging company on November 1, 1998. Its network of 66-low earth orbiting satellites combined with existing terrestrial cellular systems enables customers to communicate around the globe. Iridium World Communications, Ltd. (IRIDQ) is the public investment vehicle of Iridium LLC.
Iridium is a registered trademark and service mark of Iridium IP LLC.
Motorola, Inc. (NYSE:MOT) today issued the following statement:
Motorola will maintain the Iridium satellite system for a limited period of time, while the deorbiting plan is being finalized. During this period, we also will continue to work with subscribers in remote locations to obtain alternative communications. However, the continuation of limited Iridium service during this time will depend on whether the individual gateway companies, which are separate operating companies, remain open.
Motorola is extremely disappointed that Iridium LLC has not succeeded in its effort to emerge from voluntary bankruptcy. Motorola and other Iridium investors have worked very hard to support Iridium LLC's efforts to reorganize and continue operating the business. Unfortunately, that has not happened.
Iridium is an example of a proven, pioneering technology. Many of our finest people worked together worldwide to implement a global communications system that was, from a technology standpoint, an extraordinary achievement. Going forward, Motorola will continue to look for new opportunities that will provide a path to the future. But, as in the case of Iridium, Motorola will continue to absorb the risk through a conservative management of its balance sheet.
In order to support those customers who purchased Iridium service and equipment directly from Motorola, customer support call centers and a website that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week have been established by Motorola. Included in the information for customers is a list of alternative satellite communications services.
Motorola, Inc. (NYSE:MOT) is a global leader in providing integrated communications solutions and embedded electronic solutions. Sales in 1999 were $30.9 billion.
European Science Foundation
Thursday 03 June 1999
Radio astronomers agree to 6 year frequency 'time share' with Iridium LLC The European Science Foundation has signed a second agreement with Iridium LLC, the telecommunications satellite operator, providing a further degree of protection for an important radio astronomy band near to the Iridium operating frequency. Under the new agreement Iridium guarantees that unwanted interference from its flotilla of 66 low-earth orbiting satellites into the 1612 MHz radio astronomy band will be kept to acceptable levels for up to 50% of the time for the next six and half years.
This is the frequency used by astronomers to study the distribution of the hydroxyl radical, one of the most common interstellar molecules, enabling them to investigate a wide range of issues including the evaporation of comets and the birth and death of stars. The hydroxyl emissions come from regions that are hidden from optical telescopes by clouds of dust and gas and are billions of times weaker than the emissions from an Iridium satellite. Consequently, the small amount of power that leaks from an Iridium satellite transmitter outside of its assigned frequency band of 1621.3-1626.5 MHz is strong enough to drown out the faint cosmic emissions studied by radio astronomers.
Under a broader framework agreement signed by the ESF and Iridium in August of last year, Iridium has already pledged to ensure 24 hours a day of 'unpolluted' observation time from 1 January 2006. The new agreement covers interim arrangements until that date and provides a guarantee that Europe's extensive and world-leading 1612 MHz research programmes will be able to continue albeit with a number of operating restrictions.
Led by Dr Titus Spoelstra, Frequency Manager of the ESF Committee on Radio Astronomy Frequencies (CRAF), Europe's radio astronomers have won a number of additional concessions to similar agreements negotiated elsewhere in the world. The clear times during which interference levels are guaranteed to be low include not only overnight periods, but also weekends. These are particularly important to astronomers as they cover full 24-hour periods allowing them to study objects in any part of the accessible sky. Iridium has also agreed to make 'quiet' time available on request to cater for observations of spectacular or unusual events similar to the collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter in July 1994.
However, while Europe's radio astronomers have negotiated a better deal than many of their international counterparts, CRAF chairman Jim Cohen of the UK's Jodrell Bank Observatory argues that the Iridium case has set a bad precedent in several respects, which could threaten the future development of radio astronomy. He points out that the allocation of the frequency band 1616-1626.5 MHz for space-to-earth transmissions was made by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) before technical studies had been concluded on the possible harmful effects on radio astronomy. And while radio astronomy has been given regulatory protection by the ITU, in practice its measurements are now having to be squeezed into those times when Iridium can guarantee low interference levels. "In effect," says Cohen, "radio astronomy is time sharing with the radio waste of Iridium satellites. Given the explosive growth in satellite telecommunications and broadcasting, radio astronomers have to be worried about the long-term threat to their science from the unwanted emissions of all these satellites."
Eighty per cent of frequency bands allocated to radio astronomy on a primary basis are adjacent to a band allocated for space-to-Earth transmissions, although most have not yet been taken up. It is expected that the ITU's World Radio Conference next year will for the first time set limits on unwanted emissions from satellites.
Further information and an updated list of cases of satellite interference to radio astronomy can be found on the web pages of the European Science Foundation's Committee on Radio Astronomy Frequencies ESF-CRAF.
Released simultaneously by the National Science Foundation and Cornell University
March 18, 1998
The agreement, which took five years to hammer out, addresses IRIDIUM's potential interference with reception of faint radio signals at a key frequency for astronomers: 1612 megahertz. Hydroxyl, one of most common interstellar molecules, emits radiation at this frequency. This simple molecule can be produced in the atmospheres of old red giant stars; gas can blow off and eventually be swept up into new stars. Hydroxyl also appears in interstellar clouds, which are seed beds of young stars and solar systems. Tracing the path of this gas is one thread in reconstructing how our own galaxy evolved.
"This agreement is a good compromise in protecting astronomers' ability to observe at this frequency," said Paul Goldsmith, Cornell professor of astronomy and NAIC director. "Some radio astronomers may have felt that they were entitled to 24 hours a day, but I'm happy that both sides could agree to eight. The agreement should help radio astronomy and communications' use of the spectrum to coexist productively."
"We're very pleased that the agreement will help us fully exploit the newly upgraded Arecibo telescope," said Hugh Van Horn, NSF director of astronomy. "The telescope's ability to observe across a much greater range of frequencies, and its enhanced sensitivity will enable a vast new range of astronomical observations of sources from asteroids to distant galaxies. But careful protection of the radio spectrum is absolutely essential to use the telescope to its fullest potential."
The IRIDIUM satellite system, planned to become operational in the fall of 1998, will employ 66 satellites in low earth orbit to enable portable telephone communication anywhere in the world directly by satellite instead of by local cellular networks.
The protected time period of astronomical observation will span the period from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., Eastern time. The agreement also specifies that radio astronomers may be allotted protected slots at other times of the day if special scientific opportunities arise.
Radio interference remains an ongoing and increasing threat to astronomy. "We must worry about interference with observations at other frequencies and at other radio telescopes as well," said Michael Davis, chair of the National Research Council's Committee on Radio Frequencies. "It's vital to protect access to these very faint whispers of natural radiation that tell us so much about the universe."