If you've ever stood at the North Pole and wished you could check your BlackBerry, you might want to look into Iridium Communications' latest product, a satellite-based Wi-Fi hotspot.
Iridium's new AxcessPoint hot spot plugs into an Iridium satellite phone to provide low-speed Wi-Fi connectivity to BlackBerry, Android and iOS devices.
Though the hotspot costs only about $200, the Iridium satellite phones needed to complete the service cost between $400 and $1,200. The AxcessPoint hotspot will be available in the fourth quarter through Iridium distributors.
The connection is slow – about 2.4 kilobits per second – and is only suitable for low-bandwidth uses like e-mail and some Web browsing. Still, if you're a thousand miles away from the nearest cell tower, it's probably the only way you'll be able to use your smartphone.
"It's about enabling the devices that are already in your pocket," Iridium CEO Matthew Desch said during a call with reporters yesterday.
BlackBerry and Android devices will not require an app for the service to work. An app is needed for iOS devices and Iridium is waiting for Apple's approval on the software. The iOS app compresses data so that users can access content over the slow satellite connection.
The company also came out with software for Windows laptop users that allows them to use their Iridium satellite phone as a Wi-Fi connection. Customers install the free Iridium AxcessPoint Connect program onto their laptop and then connect the computer to an Iridium Extreme or Iridium 9555 satellite phone to get Wi-Fi connectivity that can also be used for smartphones and other gadgets. As with the AxcessPoint hotspot, the connection is slow, but still fast enough for e-mail.