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Author's Opinion

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Thursday, 23 September 2010 14:56

Disclosure sadly lacking in F&S's satphone comparison - UPDATED

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Frost and Sullivan has issued a report that compares the Iridium 9555 handheld satphone extremely favourably against the new Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro, without fessing up that Iridium commissioned the study. (Since being posted, this column has been updated with a comment from Frost & Sullivan at the end).

The IsatPhone Pro was launched with great fanfare at CommunicAsia in April and marked the first serious foray by Inmarsat - which dominates the global maritime satellite communication market - into the handheld satphone market, dominated by Iridium.

F&S's findings held little god news for Inmarsat. F&S found the Iridium phone and services to be superior to Inmarsat "in most areas and metrics."

James Brehm, F&S senior consultant and project leader, said: "Frost & Sullivan recommends that heavy users of satellite phones, and first responders who rely on satellite phones for emergency communications, select the Iridium phone and service. We believe that Iridium is a proven and reliable service that works well in all locations and, therefore, justifies the added premium for the hardware and service."

In its press release F&S said the study had been undertaken "in an effort to provide satellite phone users with information on two of the handset products currently available in the market, and provide an independent evaluation of their service quality."

Iridium was naturally pleased with the results and issued its own press release saying: "Frost & Sullivan found it valuable to compare the features and performance of the latest industry model, Inmarsat's IsatPhone Pro, with those of the market leader and industry standard, the Iridium 9555 satellite phone."

What neither party thought it necessary to reveal was that F&S "found it valuable" to undertake the comparison because Iridium paid it to do so!

Buried in the report itself was a statement that: "This study was commissioned in order to evaluate the design and performance of the new IsatPhone Pro in comparison to Iridium," but the commissioner was not identifed.

When iTWire queried this, all was revealed. A F&S spokesman told us: "Iridium commissioned the study'¦It consisted of an independent assessment of the qualitative and quantitative attributes of each product, as well as network performance in three different test locations. The study is the fourth edition in a series of Mobile Satellite Service comparisons that Frost & Sullivan has published. The first was commissioned by Globalstar and the next three by Iridium."

Independent or not, it is totally unacceptable to publish a study that comes down so heavily in favour of one of two products/services compared without disclosing that the provider of the favoured product/service commissioned the study.

FROST & SULLIVAN RESPONSE

"As you mentioned, Frost & Sullivan was open with you regarding Iridium commissioning the study.  We also wanted your readers to know that Iridium
clearly communicated it commissioned the study on Iridium.com, on its partner portal, on its employee Intranet, and in its related communications, including media correspondence.  It is not customary for Frost & Sullivan to include study commissioners, so we are appreciative of Iridium's full disclosure in its partnership with Frost & Sullivan."

AUTHOR'S COMMENT

It is correct that Iridium stated on a web page promoting the study that it had commissioned the study. I erred in stating that Iridium had issued a press release on the report. What I received was the F&S press release sent from Iridium's PR agency, which I took to be an Iridium press release.

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