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Friday, 09 July 2010 17:18

New telco eyes one million potential satphone customers


A new telco, Indigo Telecom, has entered the market to fill what it perceives to be a huge gap in delivering portable satellite phone and data communications services to rural Australians beyond the reach of terrestrial cellular networks.

The company is reselling services on the Thuraya geostationary L-band satellite, initially via three devices: an A5 sized data terminal capable of downloading at a 444Mbps, a handheld satellite only phone and a handheld dual satellite/GSM phone.

It is up against competition from the well-established Iridium, the soon-to-be introduced Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro and Optus and its resellers who also offer Thuraya services. However they have not offered the handheld phones in Australia to date.

Indigo Telecom claims that the market has been ill-served by incumbents and is larger than conventionally accepted estimates. Telstra claims that Next G covers over 25 percent of the landmass, to almost 100kms off shore and 99 percent of the population - which would leave only about 200,000 people unserved.

However, according to Indigo CEO, David Ruddiman, the reality is rather different. He told ExchangeDaily that Indigo had undertaken extensive research correlating cellular coverage maps against ABS demographic for population distribution and had concluded that "There are almost 5.5 million square kilometres of the country and more than 617,000 people [of working age] in regional, remote and very remote Australia without adequate access to reliable terrestrial mobile network coverage.


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"And the most recent Federal Government mid-term satellite subsidy report estimated there are potentially another 400,000 Australians who live in our cities and regularly travel for extended periods outside of standard mobile coverage."

He added that awareness of the subsidy available under the Australian Broadband guarantee was very low: "Seventy six percent of people in rural Australia have never heard of it."

The Indigo XT handset will sell for $499 if users can take advantage of the Australian Broadband Guarantee subsidy.

Indigo is an Australian-owned company but has shareholders in common with Indigo Telecom companies in the US, UK and Africa on which it relies for some of the intellectual property behind its offerings. It was co-founded by Australian David Ruddiman and South African satellite telco entrepreneur, Peter Henderson, who chairs the company.

Its launch in Brisbane this week told only half the story - nothing was said about distribution channels or strategy. This, the company said, would be revealed shortly.

The data service will be offered in a number of options, starting from $30 per month access and $8 per MB to about $5000 per month for unlimited data.

Voice service prices will also vary depending on the plan. "With the choice of no contract and standard call charges of $1/minute for Indigo-to-Indigo calls, and $1.30/minute for Indigo-to-landline/GSM calls, Indigo's call charges offer our customers pricing that is competitive when viewed against call plans of your traditional GSM mobile network operators," Indigo said.




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