PARIS – Iridium Communications Inc. will partner with four manufacturers to design, build and distribute satellite terminals compatible with the fleet operator's new Iridium Certus broadband service.

McClean, Virginia-based Iridium says the partnerships with Cobham SATCOM, Rockwell Collins, L-3 Communications and ICG is part of a strategic plan to team with manufacturers and make available a new set of services and capabilities through its $3 billion Iridium NEXT constellation, which is slated to begin launching in 2015.

An enterprise-grade mobile satellite broadband service, Iridium Certus will be able to operate as a standalone system or one complementary to very-small-aperture terminals (VSATs). It is expected to support a portfolio of partner products with a broad range of data speeds eventually as high as 1.4 mbps for a single-user terminal after Iridium NEXT deployment is complete in 2018.

Iridium says the four partners were selected through a competitive process that included more than 30 candidates, and that selections were based on innovation, technical capabilities, market reach and investment.

Each of the companies will have access to Iridium core satellite communications technology, including advanced digital processing and radio frequency designs. Initial products from these manufacturing partners are expected to be commercially available as soon as late 2016, following the availability of prototype transceivers from Iridium in the second quarter of 2015. Iridium will also supply technical support and testing services, as well as terminal reference designs.

Iridium says it hopes licensing key manufacturers to create more of the products that are sold through its distribution channels will drive innovation in terminal technology design. The company plans to seek certification of Iridium Certus terminals for maritime and aviation safety services, and later this year will announce service providers licensed to sell and distribute Iridium Certus to the aeronautical, maritime and terrestrial markets.

“Iridium remains committed to our wholesale distribution strategy, and with Iridium Certus broadband we will be working in close collaboration with—not in competition to— these manufacturing companies,” says Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “Together, we will be able to deliver the first broadband products and services that truly meet the business-critical communications needs of individuals and organizations in the air, on land and at sea who need to reliably share data no matter where they are on the globe.”

As with Iridium's existing constellation of 66 operational satellites in low Earth orbit, the Iridium NEXT system is designed to cover 100% of the globe, including polar regions. Iridium says its mesh architecture will be less susceptible to inclement weather and interference that can affect competing systems.