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Biggest global satellite operator opens for business in Russia

The world’s largest satellite operator Iridium Communications has opened a new satellite base in the Russian city of Izhevsk. It means the company can access public contracts in the country, which was previously impossible due to legal restrictions.

Earlier this month, Iridium introduced a new direct internet service for owners of Russian SIM cards. The service provides users with access to the internet from personal computers via Iridium satellite phones.

According to the firm, the service had been available only through a gateway based in US state of Arizona. The new gateway allows the streaming all Russian network traffic within the borders of Russia.

The CEO of Iridium Communications Matthew Desch serves on the US National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

“The company plans to supply a service to the country of Russia legally,” Desch told RT.

Iridium began investing in the terrestrial infrastructure a long time ago. The company has the only satellite system in the low Earth orbit and it doesn’t rely on lots of ground stations.

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“It’s only the third one we ever built, in fact it’s the first one we’ve built in 20 years because the system really doesn’t depend upon ground systems in the world,” said the CEO.

The company needed one in Russia to be legal, according to Desch. “So if we’ve finished that this week, we’ve opened it up and we are open for business.”

Traditionally all the processing was done from the US. Russia will be the first country outside North America to have such hubs, he added.

The head of Iridium said the satellite phones produced by the firm work anywhere on the planet, from the North Pole to the middle of the ocean, to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Iridium has 66 satellites travelling about 700 kilometers above the Earth, said Desch, with every satellite going around the Earth every hundred minutes.

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The company’s products are used for emergency services, scientists, and people in remote locations. Its main services are in communication, including voice services, internet connections, tracking and data communicating between machines.

“The fastest growing business today is more what is known as Internet of things: tracking assets putting on heavy equipment machinery, buoys in the ocean or railways or airplanes; and of course, we are used for ships to call home, to get their Facebook updates and for airplane pilots to communicate,” said Desch, stressing that there were applications for both military and civilian use.

“There is no person involved, just a small device on a piece of heavy equipment that will tell you where it is, how it’s operating no matter where it is on the planet,” he said.

Desch says that it’s a good time for the project despite challenging times. “To not have business in Russia would be unthinkable for us,” he said.

The company aims to inspire a lot of innovation and growth around the country, and that works for many companies in Russia who will deliver solutions to local companies and export them to other countries in the world, according to Desch.