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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
FORM 10-K/A
(Amendment No. 1)
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
(Mark One)
    ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020
OR
    TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from              to             
Commission File Number 001-33963
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
Iridium Communications Inc.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
DE26-1344998
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)

1750 Tysons Boulevard, Suite 1400, McLean, VA 22102
(Address of principal executive offices, including zip code)
703-287-7400
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act: 
Title of Each ClassTrading Symbol Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered
Common Stock, $0.001 par valueIRDM The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
(Nasdaq Global Select Market)
Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
_________________________________________________

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    Yes       No  
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.   Yes       No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    Yes       No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    Yes       No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Large Accelerated FilerAccelerated Filer
Non-Accelerated Filer
Smaller Reporting Company
Emerging Growth Company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management's assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).    Yes       No  
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates computed by reference to the price at which the common equity was last sold as of June 30, 2020, the last business day of the registrant's most recently completed second fiscal quarter, was approximately $2,895.0 million.
The number of shares of the registrant’s common stock, par value $0.001 per share, outstanding as of February 5, 2021 was 134,279,633.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement for its 2021 annual meeting of stockholders to be filed pursuant to Regulation 14A with the Securities and Exchange Commission not later than 120 days after the registrant’s fiscal year end of December 31, 2020, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Form 10-K/A.



EXPLANATORY NOTE
This Amendment No. 1 on Form 10-K/A, or this Amendment, amends the Registrant’s Annual Report on Form 10-K, as filed by the Registrant on February 11, 2021, or the Original Filing, and is being filed solely to include the conformed signatures of Matthew J. Desch and Thomas J. Fitzpatrick on Exhibit 32.1, “Certification of Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer pursuant to Section 906 of The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.” The conformed signatures were inadvertently omitted in the Original Filing. The certification was fully executed on February 11, 2021 and was in the Registrant's possession at the time of the Original Filing. While the Original Filing is not otherwise amended (except in certain cases to clarify references to this Form 10-K/A), the Registrant is refiling the Form 10-K in its entirety. This Form 10-K/A speaks as of the filing date of the Original Filing and has not been updated to reflect events occurring subsequent to such date.





IRIDIUM COMMUNICATIONS INC.

AMENDMENT NO. 1 TO ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K
Year Ended December 31, 2020

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART I  
   
Item 1.
   
Item 1A.
   
Item 1B.
   
Item 2.
   
Item 3.
   
Item 4.
   
PART II  
   
Item 5.
   
Item 6.
   
Item 7.
   
Item 7A.
   
Item 8.
   
Item 9.
   
Item 9A.
   
Item 9B.
   
PART III  
   
Item 10.
   
Item 11.
   
Item 12.
   
Item 13.
   
Item 14.
   
PART IV  
   
Item 15.
   
Item 16.
 




Forward-Looking Statements

This report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. For this purpose, any statements contained herein that are not statements of historical fact may be deemed to be forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements include those that express plans, anticipation, intent, contingencies, goals, targets or future developments or otherwise are not statements of historical fact. Without limiting the foregoing, the words “believes,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “expects,” “intends” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on our current expectations and projections about future events, and they are subject to risks and uncertainties, known and unknown, that could cause actual results and developments to differ materially from those expressed or implied in such statements. The important factors discussed under the caption “Risk Factors” in this Form 10-K/A could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by forward-looking statements made herein. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

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PART I

Item 1. Business

Corporate Background

We were formed as GHL Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, in November 2007, for the purpose of effecting a merger, capital stock exchange, asset acquisition, stock purchase, reorganization or other similar business combination. On February 21, 2008, we consummated our initial public offering. On September 29, 2009, we acquired, directly and indirectly, all the outstanding equity of Iridium Holdings LLC, or Iridium Holdings, and changed our name from GHL Acquisition Corp. to Iridium Communications Inc.

Iridium Holdings was formed under the laws of Delaware in 2000, and on December 11, 2000, Iridium Holdings, through its wholly owned subsidiary Iridium Satellite LLC, or Iridium Satellite, acquired certain satellite assets from Iridium LLC, a non-affiliated debtor in possession, pursuant to an asset purchase agreement.

Business Overview

We are the only commercial provider of communications services offering true global coverage, connecting people, organizations and assets to and from anywhere, in real time. Our unique L-band satellite network provides reliable communications services to regions of the world where terrestrial wireless or wireline networks do not exist or are limited, including remote land areas, open ocean, airways, the polar regions, and regions where the telecommunications infrastructure has been affected by political conflicts or natural disasters.

We provide voice and data communications services to businesses, the U.S. and foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, and consumers via our satellite network, which has an architecture of 66 operational satellites with in-orbit and ground spares and related ground infrastructure. We utilize an interlinked mesh architecture to route traffic across our satellite constellation using radio frequency crosslinks between satellites. This unique architecture minimizes the need for local ground facilities to support the constellation, which facilitates the global reach of our services and allows us to offer services in countries and regions where we have no physical presence.

In February 2019, we completed our Iridium® NEXT program, the replacement of our first-generation satellites with a new satellite constellation that supports higher data speeds for new products, including Iridium Certus® broadband service. The new constellation maintains the same interlinked mesh architecture of our first-generation constellation and is compatible with all end-user equipment.

The Iridium constellation also hosts the Aireon® system, which provides a global air traffic surveillance service through a series of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, or ADS-B, receivers on our satellites. We formed Aireon LLC in 2011, with subsequent investments from the air navigation service providers, or ANSPs, of Canada, Italy, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom, to develop and market this service. Aireon has contracted to provide the service to our co-investors in Aireon and to other ANSPs around the world, including the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA. Aireon has also contracted to pay us a fee to host the ADS-B receivers on our satellites, as well as data service fees for the delivery of the air traffic surveillance data over the Iridium system. In addition, we have entered into an agreement with L3Harris Technologies, Inc., or L3Harris, the manufacturer of the Aireon hosted payload, pursuant to which L3Harris pays us fees to allocate the remaining hosted payload capacity to its customers and data service fees on behalf of these customers.

Our commercial business, which we view as our primary source of long-term growth, is diverse and serves markets such as emergency services, maritime, aviation, government, utilities, oil and gas, mining, recreation, forestry, heavy equipment, construction, railways and other transportation. Many of our end users view our products and services as critical to their daily operations and integral to their communications and business infrastructure. For example, multinational corporations in various sectors use our services for business telephony, e-mail and data transfer, including telematics and personal location tracking, and to provide mobile communications services for employees in areas inadequately served by other telecommunications networks. Commercial enterprises use our services to track assets in remote areas and provide telematics information such as location and engine diagnostics. Ship crews and passengers use our services for ship-to-shore calling, as well as to send and receive e-mail and data files, and to receive electronic media, weather reports, emergency bulletins and electronic charts. Shipping operators use our services to manage operations on board ships and to transmit data, such as course, speed, fuel, weather and other navigation service data. Aviation end users use our services for air-to-ground telephony and data communications for position reporting, flight following, emergency tracking, weather information, electronic flight bag updates, and airline operational communications. Explorers and adventurers use our services as a safety and critical
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communications lifeline to remain in contact with friends and family, as well as for emergency distress signals. We expect that Iridium Certus, launched in January 2019, will continue to drive growth opportunities in our commercial business. With initial broadband services provided for the maritime and land-mobile industries, Iridium Certus offers the flexibility to scale device speeds, sizes and power requirements both up and down based on the needs of the end-user. It provides a platform for our partners to develop specialized broadband, narrowband and midband (a term we use to describe services between our legacy 2.4 Kbps narrowband and our 128 Kbps and higher broadband offerings) applications on our network.

The U.S. government, directly and indirectly, has been and continues to be our largest single customer, generating $130.6 million in service and engineering and support service revenue, or 22% of our total revenue, for the year ended December 31, 2020. This does not include revenue from the sale of equipment that may be ultimately purchased by U.S. or non-U.S. government agencies through third-party distributors, or airtime services purchased by U.S. or non-U.S. government agencies that are provided through our commercial gateway, as we lack specific visibility into these activities and the related revenue. We are operating under a multi-year, fixed-price contract with the U.S. government to provide specified satellite airtime services for an unlimited number of U.S. Department of Defense and other federal government subscribers. This contract has a total value of $738.5 million over its seven-year term, through September 2026. We may provide other services, such as Iridium Certus, to the U.S. government under separate arrangements for an additional fee. In addition, we intend to invest approximately $10-$12 million over the first three years of our Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services, or EMSS, contract in support of the U.S. government to implement enhanced services at its dedicated gateway, which will be accounted for as additional cost of services.

The U.S. government owns and operates a dedicated gateway that is only compatible with our satellite network. The U.S. armed services, State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, Customs and Border Protection, and other U.S. government agencies, as well as other nations’ governmental agencies, use our voice and data services for a wide variety of applications. Our voice and data products are used for numerous primary and backup communications solutions, including logistical, administrative, morale and welfare, tactical, and emergency communications. In addition, our products are installed in ground vehicles, ships, and rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft and are used for command-and-control and situational awareness purposes. Our satellite network provides increased network security to the U.S. government because traffic is routed across our satellite constellation before being brought down to earth through the dedicated, secure U.S. government gateway. The U.S. government has made, and continues to make, significant investments to upgrade its dedicated gateway, to purchase our voice and data devices, and to invest directly and indirectly in research and development and implementation support for additional services on our network, such as Distributed Tactical Communications Services, or DTCS, and Iridium Certus.

We sell our products and services to commercial end users through a wholesale distribution network, encompassing approximately 125 service providers, approximately 285 value-added resellers, or VARs, and approximately 90 value-added manufacturers, or VAMs, which create and sell technology that uses the Iridium network either directly to the end user or indirectly through other service providers, VARs or dealers. These distributors often integrate our products and services with other complementary hardware and software and have developed a broad suite of applications using our products and services to target specific lines of business. We expect that demand for our services will increase as more applications are developed and deployed that utilize our technology.

At December 31, 2020, we had approximately 1,476,000 billable subscribers worldwide, representing a 14% increase compared to December 31, 2019. Total revenue increased from $560.4 million in 2019 to $583.4 million in 2020.

Industry

We compete in the mobile satellite services sector of the global communications industry. Mobile satellite services operators provide voice and data services to people and machines using a network of satellites and ground facilities. Mobile satellite services are intended to meet users’ needs for connectivity in all locations where terrestrial wireless and wireline communications networks do not exist, do not provide sufficient coverage, or are impaired, including rural and developing areas that lack adequate wireless or wireline networks, airways, ocean and polar regions where few alternatives exist, and regions where the telecommunications infrastructure has been affected by political conflicts or natural disasters.

Government organizations, including military and intelligence agencies and disaster response agencies, non-governmental organizations, and industrial operations and support teams depend on mobile and fixed voice and data satellite communications services on a regular basis. Businesses with global operations require reliable communications services when operating in remote locations around the world. Mobile satellite services users span many sectors, including emergency services, maritime,
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aviation, government, utilities, oil and gas, mining, recreation, forestry, heavy equipment, construction, railways and other transportation, among others. Many of our customers view satellite communications services as critical to their daily operations.

We believe that increasing mobile penetration creates additional demand for mobile satellite services. According to a 2020 study by the GSM Association, unique mobile subscribers, excluding cellular Internet of Things, or IoT, reached 5.2 billion throughout the world as of the end of 2019 and are projected to reach 5.8 billion by 2025.

We believe that growth in the terrestrial wireless industry has increased awareness of the need for reliable mobile voice and data communications services. In addition, despite significant penetration and competition, terrestrial wireless systems do not cover a large majority of the earth’s surface and are focused mainly in those areas where people live, excluding oceans and other remote regions where ships, airplanes and other remote assets may travel or be located. By offering mobile communications services with global voice and data coverage, mobile satellite service providers address the demand from businesses, governments and individuals for connectivity and reliability in locations not consistently served by wireline and wireless terrestrial networks.

The mobile satellite services industry also benefits from the continued development of innovative, lower-cost technology and applications integrating mobile satellite products and services, including the continued advancement of IoT. We believe that growth in demand for mobile satellite services is driven in large part by the declining cost of these services, the diminishing size and lower costs of voice, data and IoT devices, the rollout of new applications tailored to the specific needs of customers across a variety of markets, and expansion into new international markets.

Communications industry sectors include:
mobile satellite services, which provide customers with voice and data connectivity to mobile and fixed devices using ground facilities and networks of geostationary, or GEO, satellites, which are located approximately 22,300 miles above the equator, medium earth orbit satellites, which orbit between approximately 6,400 and 10,000 miles above the earth’s surface, or low earth orbit, or LEO, satellites, such as those in our constellation, which orbit between approximately 300 and 1,000 miles above the earth’s surface;
fixed satellite services, which typically use GEO satellites to provide customers with broadband communications links between fixed points on the earth’s surface; and
terrestrial services, which use a network of land-based equipment, including switching centers and radio base stations, to provide wireless or wireline connectivity and are complementary to satellite services.

Within the two major satellite sectors, fixed satellite services and mobile satellite services, operators differ significantly from each other with respect to size of antenna and types of services offered. Fixed satellite services providers, such as Intelsat S.A., Eutelsat Communications S.A. and SES S.A., are characterized by large, often stationary or fixed ground terminals that send and receive high-bandwidth signals to and from the satellite network for video and high-speed data customers and international telephone markets. By contrast, mobile satellite services providers, such as us, Inmarsat Global Limited, Globalstar, Inc., and ORBCOMM Inc. focus more on voice and data services, where mobility and small-sized terminals are essential.

LEO systems, such as the one we operate, generally have lower transmission delays, or latency, than GEO systems, such as that operated by Inmarsat, due to the shorter distance signals have to travel, which also enables the use of smaller antennas on mobile devices. We believe the unique interlinked mesh architecture of our constellation, combined with the global footprint of our satellites, distinguishes us from regional LEO satellite operators such as Globalstar and ORBCOMM, by allowing us to route voice and data transmissions to and from anywhere on the earth’s surface without the need for local ground infrastructure. As a result, we are the only mobile satellite services operator offering real-time, low-latency services with true global coverage, including full coverage of the polar regions.

Our Competitive Strengths
Our Constellation. Our upgraded satellite constellation enables our Iridium Certus offerings, empowers the development of a range of new global products and services, and supports Aireon’s aircraft tracking service, as well as other hosted payload missions.
Attractive and growing markets. We believe that the mobile satellite services industry will continue to experience growth driven by the increasing awareness of the need for reliable mobile voice and data communications services, the lack of coverage of most of the earth's surface by terrestrial wireless systems, and the continued development of innovative, lower-cost technology, applications integrating mobile satellite products and services, and the continued development of the IoT. Only satellite providers can offer global coverage, and the satellite industry is characterized by significant financial, technological and regulatory barriers to entry.
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Strategic relationship with the U.S. government. The U.S. government is our largest single customer, and we have provided airtime services to the U.S. government (particularly the Department of Defense) since our inception. We believe the U.S. government views our encrypted handset, IoT devices, DTCS and other products as mission-critical services and equipment. The U.S. government continues to make significant investments in a dedicated gateway on a U.S. government site to provide operational security and allow U.S. government handset and IoT users to communicate securely with other U.S. government communications equipment. This gateway is only compatible with our satellite network. In September 2019, we entered into a seven-year, fixed-price contract with the U.S. government to provide specific narrowband satellite airtime services for an unlimited number of U.S. government and other federal government subscribers, with a total contract value of $738.5 million. We have seen significant annual increases in the number of federal government subscribers during the last several years, and we expect this trend to continue, increasing the value of our services to U.S. government customers.
Wholesale distribution network. The specialized needs of our global end users span many markets, including emergency services, maritime, aviation, government, utilities, oil and gas, mining, recreation, forestry, heavy equipment, construction, railways and other transportation. We sell our products and services to commercial end users through a wholesale distribution network of service providers, VARs and VAMs, which often specialize in a particular line of business. Our distributors use our products and services to develop innovative and integrated communications solutions for their target markets, embedding our technology in their products or combining our products with other technologies, such as GPS and terrestrial wireless technology. In addition to promoting innovation, our wholesale distribution model allows us to capitalize on the research and development expenditures of our distribution partners, while lowering overall customer acquisition costs and mitigating some risks, such as consumer relationship risks. By supporting these distributors as they develop new products, services and applications, we believe we create additional demand for our products and services and expand our target markets at a lower cost than would a more direct marketing model. We believe our distribution network can continue to grow with us and increase our market penetration. For example, we used our wholesale distribution approach to introduce Iridium Certus, with multiple VAMs developing Iridium CertusTM customer terminals for the maritime, aviation and terrestrial markets at their expense, and agreements with numerous service partners to sell, service and support Iridium Certus terminals and service to global customers across these markets.
True global coverage. Our network provides true global coverage, which none of our competitors, whether LEO or GEO, can offer. Our network design of 66 operational satellites relies on an interlinked mesh architecture to transmit signals from satellite to satellite, which reduces the need for multiple local ground stations around the world and facilitates the global reach of our services. GEO satellites orbit above the earth’s equator, limiting their visibility to far northern or southern latitudes and polar regions. LEO satellites from operators like Globalstar and ORBCOMM use an architecture commonly referred to as “bent pipe,” which requires voice and data transmissions to be immediately routed to ground stations in the same region as the satellite and can only provide real-time service when they are within view of a ground station, limiting coverage to areas near where they have been able to license and locate ground infrastructure. The LEO design of our satellite constellation produces minimal voice and data transmission delays compared to GEO systems due to the shorter distance our signals have to travel, and LEO systems typically have smaller antenna and power requirements. As a result, we believe that we are well-positioned to capitalize on the growth in our industry from end users who require reliable, easy-to-use mobile communications services in all locations.

Our Business and Growth Strategies
Leverage our largely fixed-cost infrastructure by growing our service revenue. Our business model is characterized by high capital costs, primarily incurred every 10 to 15 years, in connection with designing, building and launching new generations of our satellite constellation, like our recently completed Iridium NEXT program, and a low incremental cost of providing service to additional end users. We believe that service revenue will be our largest source of future growth and profits, and we intend to focus on growing both our commercial and government service revenue in order to leverage our largely fixed-cost infrastructure. In particular, we believe that competitive broadband, midband and narrowband data services through Iridium Certus and satellite IoT services, where we are engaging large, global enterprises as long-term customers for data and telematics solutions, represent our greatest opportunities for service revenue growth.
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Expand our target markets through the development of new products and services. We believe that we can expand our target markets by developing and offering a broader range of products and services, including a wider array of cost-effective and competitive broadband, midband and IoT data services using Iridium Certus technology to complement and expand on our existing legacy narrowband services. Iridium Certus is a multi-service platform that can deliver a range of services, from voice to a high-throughput L-band data connection, at a range of competitive price points, data speeds, and terminal dimensions to meet an expanding set of customer requirements. Iridium Certus services will include background IP data, streaming IP data, high quality voice, messaging, and safety services, including Global Maritime Distress Safety System, or GMDSS, and Aeronautical Mobile Satellite (Route) Service, or AMS(R)S. During 2020 we also introduced Iridium Edge Pro®, which allows partners to create and run their own custom-made IoT applications, and Iridium Edge Solar, a self-charging, low-maintenance, long-field-life IoT product with over-the-air configuration capabilities, and launched Iridium GMDSS service.
Accelerate the development of personal communications capabilities. Part of our strategy for the development of personal mobile satellite communications is to allow individuals to connect to our network in more ways, including from devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops through our Iridium GO!® device or a variety of personal communication devices from VAMs and VARs like Garmin. We are making our technology more accessible and cost-effective for our distribution partners to integrate by licensing our core technologies; by adding functionality, such as push-to-talk, or PTT, capability, which allows multiple users to participate in talk groups worldwide; by providing rugged, dependable devices and services; and by developing new services that take advantage of the capabilities of our global constellation.
Continued growth in services provided to the U.S. government. In 2019 we entered into a multi-year, fixed-price contract with the U.S. Space Force for Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services, or the EMSS Contract. Under the terms of this agreement, we provide Iridium airtime services, including unlimited global standard and secure voice, paging, fax, Short Burst Data®, Iridium Burst®, RUDICS and DTCS services for an unlimited number of Department of Defense and other federal government subscribers. The fixed-price rate for the current year of the EMSS contract is $103 million, with increases thereafter. Other services such as Iridium Certus and Satellite Time and Location provide us with opportunities to offer new products and services to the U.S. government for an additional fee.
Continue to expand our distribution network. We believe our wholesale distribution network lowers our costs and risks, and we plan to continue to selectively expand our network of service providers, VAMs and VARs, to expand our sales and distribution efforts geographically, and to add additional industries or lines of business. We expect that our current and future value-added partners will continue to develop customized products, services and applications targeted to the land mobile, IoT, maritime, aviation and government markets. We believe these markets and the new service providers, VAMs and VARs who join our network as a result of new product offerings represent an attractive opportunity for continued subscriber growth.
Continue to support Aireon in the execution of its business plan. Aireon, which we formed in 2011, is our primary hosted payload customer. Aireon received subsequent investments from five ANSPs: NAV CANADA, Enav (Italy), NATS (United Kingdom), Naviair (Denmark) and the Irish Aviation Authority. Aireon developed an ADS-B receiver payload which is hosted on our satellites and gathers ADS-B position information from aircraft to provide a global air traffic surveillance service. Aireon has contracted to offer its service to ANSPs, the FAA, and other commercial customers worldwide. Aireon has also contracted to pay us a fee to host their payloads on our satellites and pays us data service fees for the delivery of the air traffic surveillance data from those payloads over the Iridium system. We will also continue to hold a meaningful equity stake in Aireon.

Distribution Channels
 
We sell our products and services to customers through a wholesale distribution network of approximately 125 service providers, approximately 285 VARs and approximately 90 VAMs. These distributors sell our products and services to end users, either directly or indirectly through service providers, VARs or dealers. Of these distributors, 54 sell primarily to U.S. and international government customers. Our distributors often integrate our products and services with other complementary hardware and software and have developed individual solutions targeting specific lines of business. We also sell airtime services directly to the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, for resale to other government agencies. The U.S. government and international government agencies may purchase additional services as well as our products and related applications through our network of distributors.

We provide our distributors with support services, including assistance with coordinating end user sales and marketing, strategic planning and training, and second-tier customer support, as well as helping them market our products and services and respond to new business opportunities. We have representatives covering three regions around the world to better manage our distributor relationships: the Americas, which includes North, South and Central America; Asia Pacific, which includes
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Australia and Asia; and Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. We have also established a global service program to provide portside service for our maritime customers at major ports worldwide. In addition, we maintain various online management tools that allow us to communicate efficiently with our distributors, and allow them to manage their customers’ Iridium devices from anywhere in the world. By relying on our distributors to manage end user sales, we believe that we reduce some of the risks and costs related to our business, such as consumer relationship risks and sales and marketing costs, while providing a broad and expanding distribution network for our products and services with access to diverse and geographically dispersed niche markets. We are also able to benefit from the specialized expertise of our distributors, who continue to develop innovative and improved solutions and applications integrating our product and service offerings, providing us with an attractive platform to support our growth.

Commercial Markets

We view our commercial business as our primary source of long-term growth. Service providers and VARs serve as our main distribution channel by purchasing our products and services and marketing them directly to their customers or indirectly through independent dealers. They are each responsible for customer billing, end user customer care, managing credit risk and maintaining all customer account information. If our service providers or VARs provide our services through dealers, these dealers will often provide such services directly to the end user. Service providers typically purchase our most basic products and services, such as mobile voice services and related satellite handsets, and offer additional services such as voice mail. Unlike service providers, our VARs typically focus more on data applications and provide a broader array of value-added services specifically targeted to the niche markets they serve, such as IoT, maritime, aviation and government markets, where high-use customers with specialized needs are concentrated. These VARs integrate our handsets, transceivers, high-speed data devices and Short Burst Data, or SBD®, modems with other hardware and software to create packaged solutions for end users. Examples of these applications include cockpit voice and data solutions for use by the aviation sector and voice, data and tracking applications for industrial customers, such as Caterpillar Inc., the Department of Defense, and other U.S. and foreign government agencies. Our service providers include satellite service providers such as Marlink AS, Applied Satellite Technology Limited and Network Innovations, as well as some of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, including Telstra Corporation Limited, KDDI Corporation and Singapore Telecommunications Limited. Our VARs include ARINC Incorporated, Blue Sky Network, LLC, Caterpillar Inc., Garmin Services Inc., General Dynamics Satellite Communication Services, Inc., Gogo Business Aviation LLC, Komatsu Ltd, Kore Telematics Inc., MetOcean Telematics Limited, Mix Telematics International (Pty) Ltd., NAL Research Corporation, OnixSat Rastreamento de Veículos Ltda. and Zunibal S.A.

We also sell our products to VAMs, who integrate our transceivers or chipsets into their proprietary hardware. These VAMs produce specialized end-user equipment, including integrated ship, vehicular and aviation communications systems, and global asset tracking devices, which they offer to end users in IoT, maritime, aviation and government markets. As with our service providers and VARs, VAMs sell their products either directly or through other distributors, including some of our service providers and VARs. Our VAMs include Applied Satellite Engineering, Inc., Beam Communications Pty Ltd., Calamp Wireless Networks Corporation, Cobham plc, Garmin Services Inc., Gilat Telecom Ltd., Honeywell Global Tracking Limited and Quake Global, Inc.

In addition to VARs and VAMs, we maintain relationships with approximately 100 value-added developers, or VADs. We typically provide technical information to these companies on our products and services, which they then use to develop software and hardware that complements our products and services in line with the specifications of our VARs and VAMs. These products include handset docking stations, airline tracking and flight management applications and crew e-mail applications for the maritime industry. We believe that working with VADs allows us to create new platforms for our products and services and increases our market opportunity while reducing our overall research and development, marketing and support expenses. Our VADs include Global Marine Networks, LLC, Maxtena, Inc., TE Connectivity Corporation and Two10degrees Limited.

We maintain a pricing model for our commercial products and services with a wholesale rate structure. Under our distribution agreements, we charge our distributors wholesale rates for commercial products and services, subject to discount and promotional arrangements and geographic pricing. We also charge fixed monthly access fees per subscriber for some of our services. Our distributors are in turn responsible for setting their own pricing to their customers. Our agreements with distributors typically have terms of one year and are automatically renewable for additional one-year terms, subject to termination rights. We believe we benefit from the simplicity of this business model, which reduces back-office complexities and costs and allows distributors to remain focused on revenue generation, while also providing incentives for distributors to focus on selling our commercial product and service portfolio and developing additional applications.

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Government Markets

We provide mission-critical mobile satellite products and services to all military branches of the Department of Defense as well as other U.S. government departments and agencies. These users require voice and two-way data capability with global coverage, low latency, mobility and security and often operate in areas where no other terrestrial or wireless means of communications are available. We believe we are well-positioned to satisfy demand from these users. Our 9575A handset is the only commercial, mobile handheld satellite phone that is capable of Type I encryption accredited by the U.S. National Security Agency for Top Secret voice communications. In addition, the U.S. government continues to make significant investments in a dedicated gateway that provides operational security and allows users of encrypted U.S. government handsets to communicate securely with other U.S. government communications equipment. These investments include upgrading the gateway to take advantage of the enhanced capabilities of our new network, including Iridium Certus and other enhanced services. This U.S. government gateway is only compatible with our satellite network.

We provide airtime and airtime support to U.S. government and other authorized customers pursuant to our seven-year EMSS contract managed by the U.S. Space Force, which we entered into in September 2019. Under the terms of this agreement, authorized customers utilize our airtime services through the U.S. government’s dedicated gateway. These services include unlimited global standard and secure voice, broadcast, netted or DTCS and select other services for an unlimited number of U.S. government subscribers. Other services may be purchased at an additional cost. The fixed-price rate for the current year of the EMSS contract is $103 million, with increases in annual value resulting in a total contract value of $738.5 million over the seven-year term. While we sell airtime directly to the U.S. government for resale to end users, our hardware products are sold to U.S. government customers through our network of distributors, which typically integrate them with other products and technologies. We may provide other services, such as Iridium Certus, to the U.S. government under separate arrangements for an additional fee. In addition, we intend to invest approximately $10-$12 million over the first three years of the EMSS contract in support of the U.S. government to implement enhanced services at its dedicated gateway, which will be accounted for as additional cost of services. Pursuant to federal acquisition regulations, the U.S. government may terminate the EMSS contract, in whole or in part, at any time.

We also provide maintenance services for the U.S. government gateway pursuant to our Gateway Maintenance and Support Services, or GMSS, contract managed by the U.S. Space Force. This agreement, effective April 2019, provides for a six-month base term and four one-year options, the first two of which have been exercised, for a total value of the contract to us of approximately $54 million. Pursuant to federal acquisition regulations, the U.S. government may terminate the GMSS contract, in whole or in part, at any time.

In October 2019, we were also awarded a five-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, or IDIQ, contract managed by the U.S. Space Force to enable ongoing innovation and enhancements for the U.S. government gateway. This contract has a one-year base period and four one-year options, the first of which has been exercised, with a value of up to $76 million to us over the five-year period. Pursuant to federal acquisition regulations, the U.S. government may terminate the IDIQ contract, in whole or in part, at any time.

U.S. government services accounted for approximately 22% of our total revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020. Our reported U.S. government revenue includes airtime revenue derived from the EMSS contract and services provided through the GMSS contract, the IDIQ contract, and other engineering and support contracts with the U.S. government. This revenue does not include airtime services purchased by U.S. or non-U.S. government agencies that are provided through our commercial gateway, which we report as commercial service revenue, or equipment purchased by government customers from third-party distributors. We are unable to determine the specific amount of U.S. government revenue derived from these commercial sources.

Lines of Business

The specialized needs of our global customers span many markets. Our system is able to offer our customers cost-effective communications solutions with true global coverage in areas unserved or underserved by existing telecommunications infrastructure. Our mission-critical communications solutions have become an integral part of the communications and business infrastructure of many of our end users. In many cases, our service is the only connectivity for these critical applications or is used to complement terrestrial communications solutions.

Our current principal vertical lines of business include land mobile, maritime, aviation, IoT, hosted payloads and other data services, and U.S. government. We report commercial voice and data service, IoT data service, commercial broadband, hosted payload and other data service, and government service revenue separately. Land mobile and aviation are the principal contributors to the revenue we report as commercial voice and data, while maritime is primarily reported in commercial
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broadband revenue. Since we introduced Iridium Certus broadband in January 2019, Iridium Certus services have accounted for an increasing portion of our revenue, and we expect that trend to continue.

Commercial Voice and Data and Commercial Broadband

We offer commercial voice and data and commercial broadband services primarily in the land mobile, maritime, and aviation sectors. Beginning in 2020, we separately reported commercial Iridium Certus broadband revenue with Iridium OpenPort® service revenue as commercial broadband revenue, and prior year periods have been conformed to this presentation in our financial information included in this report. Previously, Iridium Certus broadband revenue and Iridium OpenPort service revenue were included in commercial voice and data revenue. Because there is considerable overlap in these sectors, we continue to combine our discussion of these revenue lines in this report, noting within the discussion where our broadband services contribute, particularly in maritime.

Land Mobile

We are the leading provider of mobile satellite communications services to the land mobile sector, providing handset services to areas not served or inconsistently served by existing terrestrial communications networks. In a 2020 report, TMF Associates reported that there were approximately 801,000 land voice satellite units in service in 2019. Mining, forestry, construction, oil and gas, utilities, heavy industry and transport companies as well as the military, public safety and disaster relief agencies constitute the largest portion of our land mobile end users. Sales of Iridium GO! and Iridium PTT services also contribute to the land mobile sector. We believe that demand for mobile communications devices operating outside the coverage of terrestrial networks, combined with our small, lightweight, durable handsets with true global coverage, will allow us to capitalize on growth opportunities among these users.

In addition, we believe Iridium Certus broadband land mobile units are attractive in this market, as the combination of price, speeds, equipment, service costs and durability of equipment addresses a distinct market need. We also expect Iridium Certus midband services to be a source of revenue growth in the coming years.

Our land mobile end users utilize our satellite communications services for:
Voice and data: Multinational corporations in various sectors use our services for business telephony, e-mail and data transfer services, location-based services, broadband and to provide telephony services for employees in areas inadequately served by terrestrial networks. Oil and gas and mining companies, for example, provide their personnel with our equipment solutions while surveying new drilling and mining opportunities and while conducting routine operations in remote areas that are not served by terrestrial wireless communications networks. In addition, a number of recreational, scientific and other outdoor users rely on our mobile handheld satellite phones and services for use when beyond terrestrial wireless coverage. Iridium PTT offers non-governmental organizations (NGOs), military, first responder, oil and gas, civil government and other users the ability to hold group calls using the Iridium Extreme® PTT handset or other devices developed by our VAMs and VARs using the Iridium 9523 PTT core transceiver. The Thales MissionLINK terminal, the first Iridium Certus offering in the land mobile area, allows rapid deployment and on-the-move communications, location tracking and telemetry. We expect to introduce additional offerings, including Iridium Certus midband services in 2021.
Mobile and remote office connectivity: A variety of enterprises use our services to make and receive voice calls and to establish data, e-mail, internet and corporate network connections.
Public safety and disaster relief: Relief agencies, such as FEMA, and other agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, use our products and services in their emergency response plans, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Dorian, Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the 2017 Mexico City area earthquake. These agencies generate significant demand for both our voice and data products, especially in advance of the hurricane season in North America.
Public telephone infrastructure: Telecommunications service providers use our services to satisfy regulatory mandates and government expectations regarding the availability of communications services for rural populations currently not served by terrestrial infrastructure. Telstra Corporation, for example, uses our services to provide communications services in some of Australia’s most remote locations.

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Maritime

We serve the commercial maritime market with a variety of products, including broadband terminals, embedded devices and handsets. This market includes merchant shipping, fishing, leisure research vessels and specialized watercraft. Traditionally, the majority of our revenue from the maritime market has been derived from shipboard data terminals including the Iridium Pilot®, which uses the Iridium OpenPort high-speed voice and data service. Since we introduced Iridium Certus broadband in January 2019, Iridium Certus services have accounted for an increasing portion of our revenue from this market, and we expect that trend to continue. Our products and services targeting the maritime market typically have high average revenue per subscriber. Once one of our maritime systems is installed on a vessel, it often generates a multi-year recurring revenue stream from the customer. As a consequence, from time to time we may offer promotions or rebates to accelerate new customer acquisitions and solidify this expected long-term revenue stream.

We believe demand for higher-speed, low-cost data services will allow us to capitalize on opportunities in this market. We believe Iridium Certus, which offers data speeds of up to 704 Kbps, presents a superior communication solution to L-band users in the maritime market. We expect this offering to increase the addressable market for our maritime services.

Maritime end users utilize our satellite communications services for the following:
Business critical data applications: Ship operators use our services to exchange e-mail and data files and to receive other information such as meteorological reports, emergency bulletins, cargo and voyage data and electronic chart updates. We believe Iridium Certus and Iridium OpenPort provide attractively priced options for shipping operators and fishing fleets seeking increased functionality, as well as for yachts, work boats and other vessels for which traditional marine satellite systems have typically been costly and underperforming.
Voice services: Maritime global voice services are used for both vessel operations and communications for crew welfare. Merchant shipping companies use phone cards for crew use at preferential around-the-clock flat rates.
Vessel management and asset tracking: Shipping operators, such as Briese Schiffahrts GmbH, use our services to manage operations on ships and to transmit data, such as course, speed and fuel stock. Our services are commonly integrated with GPS to provide a real-time position reporting capability. Many fishing vessels are required by law to carry terminals using approved mobile satellite services for tracking purposes as well as to monitor catches and to ensure compliance with geographic fishing restrictions. European Union regulations, for example, require EU-registered fishing vessels of over 15 meters to carry terminals for the purpose of positional reporting of those vessels. Furthermore, new security regulations in some jurisdictions are expected to require tracking of merchant vessels in territorial waters, which would provide an additional growth opportunity for us.
Safety and Security applications: Ships in distress, including as a result of potential piracy, hijack or terrorist activity, rely on mobile satellite voice and data services. The Ship Security and Alert Systems, or SSAS, and Long Range Identification Tracking, or LRIT, regulations were adopted by the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, to enhance maritime security in response to the threat from terrorism and piracy. Most deep-sea passenger and cargo ships must be fitted with a device that can send an alert message containing the ship’s ID and position whenever the ship is under threat or has been compromised. In addition, the IMO and a NATO advisory group have recommended the installation of a safe room equipped with a standalone secure communication link the crew can use from inside the room to communicate with rescuing forces. Our distribution partners have developed several product solutions using our network to meet these requirements for merchant and fishing vessels.

The GMDSS is a maritime service built to alert a maritime rescue coordination center of each vessel’s situation and position, information that can then be used to coordinate search and rescue efforts among ships in the area. GMDSS service is also used to distribute important navigational and meteorological information to vessels. The IMO requires all vessels flagged by signatories to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS, over 300 gross tons and certain passenger vessels, irrespective of size, that travel in international waters to carry distress and safety terminals that provide GMDSS services. We have been recognized by the IMO as a provider for the GMDSS. GMDSS service using our network became available in 2020, and our partners offer maritime terminals that include GMDSS service capabilities to vessel operators.

Aviation

We are one of the leading providers of mobile satellite communications services to the aviation sector. Our services are increasingly used in commercial and global government aviation applications, principally by corporate jets, corporate and government helicopter fleets, specialized general aviation fleets, such as medevac companies and fire suppression fleets, and high-end personal aircraft. Our services are also employed by commercial airline operators for flight deck voice and data link services for aircraft operational and safety communications. As a result of authorizations by the FAA and U.S. Federal
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Communications Commission, or FCC, for us to provide air traffic datalink communications, commercial operators are installing avionics that use the Iridium network on the flight deck to comply with international air navigation communications requirements to operate in oceanic and remote airspace, including polar regions. Voice and data avionics platforms from our VAMs have been adopted as standard equipment and as factory options for a range of airframes in business aviation and air transport, such as Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Bombardier Inc., Cessna Aircraft Company, Boeing and Airbus. Avionics platforms that utilize our network are also retrofitted on thousands of corporate and commercial aircraft already in operation.

The global aviation community in particular has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to combat it. Global flight movements partially recovered during the last three quarters of 2020, gaining back approximately 50% of lost traffic levels from the low point in mid-April by year end. We expect to see continued recovery in the aviation sector in 2021, as COVID vaccine availability increases; however, it is likely that air traffic will not fully recover for a number of years. Charter or private jet usage has increased in this same period, and many commercial aircraft have been converted to cargo aircraft given the demand. In addition, rotorcraft and unmanned aerial vehicle usage has remained relatively flat in this period. We continue to see aviation as an area of growth for us as it recovers from these effects.

Aviation end users utilize our satellite communications services for:
Air traffic control communications and safety applications: The International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, has approved standards and recommended practices allowing us to provide AMS(R)S to commercial aircraft on long-haul routes. This allows member states to evaluate and approve our services for safety communications on flights in oceanic and remote airspace. The FAA has approved Iridium for use in the Future Air Navigation Services, or FANS, including Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Contract, or ADS-C, datalink communications and Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications, or CPDLC, with air traffic control. Aircraft crew and air traffic controllers use our services for data and voice communications between the aircraft flight deck and ground-based air traffic control facilities. We are the only satellite provider capable of offering these critical flight safety applications around the entire globe, including the polar regions. We believe this particular sector of the market provides us with significant growth opportunities, as our services and applications can serve as a cost-effective alternative to systems currently in operation.
Aviation operational communications: Aircraft crew and ground operations use our services for air-to-ground telephony and data communications. This includes the ADS-C automatic reporting of an aircraft’s position and mission-critical condition data to the ground and CPDLC for clearance and information services. We provide critical communications applications for numerous airlines and air transport customers including Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, UPS, Cathay Pacific Airways, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and El Al Airlines. These operators rely on our services because other forms of communication may be unaffordable or unreliable in areas such as the polar regions. Collins Aerospace (ARINC) and SITA, the two leading providers of voice and data link communications services and applications to the commercial airline industry, integrate our products and services into their offerings.
Aviation passenger communications: Corporate and private fleet aircraft passengers use our services for air-to-ground telephony and data communications. We believe our distributors’ small, lightweight, cost-effective solutions offer an attractive option for aircraft operators, particularly small fleet operators; for example, some operators use our services to enable small-cabin passengers to e-mail using their own Wi-Fi-enabled mobile devices, including smartphones, without causing interference with aircraft operation. We expect that users in the corporate aviation market, and original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, for business jets, will increase adoption of our services for in-flight passenger data communications using our network. We believe this presents a significant opportunity to increase market penetration and revenues in this market.
Rotary and general aviation applications: The Iridium network is uniquely suited to these sectors, as we have small antenna designs that work under rotor blades and enable installation on smaller general aviation platforms. We are also a major supplier for rotary aviation applications to end users in a number of markets, including medevac, law enforcement, oil and gas, and corporate work fleets. Companies such as Air Logistics, EagleMed and Air Evac Lifeteam rely on applications from our distributors for traditional voice communications, fleet tracking and management, and real-time flight diagnostics. VARs and VAMs such as Flightcell International Ltd., Garmin Services Inc., Honeywell International, Inc., SkyTrac and Spider Tracks Limited incorporate Iridium products and services into their applications for these markets.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): Our small antennas and system designs support a wide range of UAV platforms. In addition, our global footprint enables reliable beyond-line-of-sight communications for these UAV platforms regardless of their operational range. We operate as the communication link for remote-piloted aircraft for uses such as package delivery, medical supply, law enforcement, corporate surveying and even military applications.
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We believe the benefits of Iridium Certus will enhance our ability to address aviation market needs across these sectors.

Commercial IoT Data

We are one of the leading providers of satellite-based IoT services. We believe this market continues to experience increasing penetration and presents opportunities for future growth. As with land mobile, our largest IoT users include mining, construction, oil and gas, utilities, heavy industry, maritime, forestry and transport companies, as well as the military, public safety and disaster relief agencies. We believe increasing demand for automated data collection processes from mobile and remote assets operating outside the coverage of terrestrial wireline and wireless networks, as well as the continued need to integrate the operation of such assets into enterprise management and information technology systems, will likewise increase demand for our IoT applications. For example, our IoT devices have been adopted as standard equipment and as factory options by heavy equipment manufacturers such as Caterpillar Inc., Hitachi, Komatsu and Doosan to provide telematics solutions for end users.

Our IoT services are used for:
Personal tracking devices and location-based services: Several of our VAMs and VARs, such as Garmin, NAL Research and Somewear Labs, market small, portable devices that provide personal tracking and data communications services to consumers and commercial end users. In addition, Iridium GO! and the Iridium Extreme handsets offer personal tracking and location-based services. These devices use IoT data services to send location information and other data to web-based portals for tracking.
Heavy equipment monitoring: Large, global heavy equipment original equipment manufacturers, such as Caterpillar Inc., Komatsu Limited, Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. Ltd., CNH Global N.V. and AGCO Corporation, use our global IoT services to monitor their off-road heavy equipment in markets such as construction, mining, agriculture and forestry.
Fleet management: Our global coverage permits our products and services to be used to monitor the location of vehicle fleets, hours of service and engine telemetry data, as well as to conduct two-way communications with drivers around the world. Fleet management companies, such as Trimble Transportation & Logistics, Mix Telematics and Zatix, use our service to provide distance drivers with reliable communications to their dispatchers and their destinations to coordinate changing business needs, and our satellite network provides continuous communications coverage while they are in transit. We expect that the need for more efficient, cost-effective and safer fleet operations, as well as the imposition of regulatory mandates related to driver safety, such as drive-time monitoring, will increase demand for our services in this area.
Fixed-asset monitoring: Multinational corporations, such as oil-field service companies like Schlumberger Limited and ConocoPhillips Company, use our services to run applications that allow remote monitoring and operation of equipment and facilities around the globe, such as oil pipelines and offshore drilling platforms.
Asset tracking: Leveraging IoT applications developed by several of our distributors, companies use our services and related devices to track assets, including personnel, for logistics, theft-prevention and safety purposes. Companies and organizations that have fleets of vehicles use IoT solutions from Iridium distributors to improve the efficiency of their operations. For example, customers use Trimble Transportation’s solution to provide global communication to transportation assets, and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Enforcement and Removal uses Fleet Management Solutions’ IoT solution to transmit position, direction, speed and other data for management of its vehicle fleet.
Resource management: Our global coverage and data throughput capabilities support natural resource management applications, such as fisheries management systems. Three of our VARs—CLS, MetOcean Telematics and Rock Seven—have developed applications for the fishing industry that enable regulatory compliance of fishing practices in a number of countries around the world.
Scientific data monitoring: The global coverage of our network supports many scientific data collection applications such as the Argo float program of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, the Global Ocean Observation project Challenger, operated by Rutgers University, and the anti-poaching programs of organizations such as Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Institute, Zoological Society of London, and Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife, or VETPAW. These programs rely on our IoT services to collect scientific data from buoys and ocean gliders located throughout the world’s oceans and from wildlife habitats for monitoring and analysis. We believe the increased need for monitoring climate and environmental data associated with global climate change and human impact on the planet will increase demand for these services.

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In the future, we expect our value-added partners to develop new IoT solutions with increased capabilities based on our Iridium Certus 9770 transceiver and other future midband devices we plan to provide across all of our key IoT vertical markets.

Hosted Payload and Other Data Services

Our Iridium satellites also host customer payloads. We generate revenue from these customers both from the hosted payload capacity and from data service fees. Because these revenues are based on a contractual commitment for the life of the Iridium constellation, we recognize revenue from these customers over the expected life of the system.

In addition to access and usage fees in the vertical lines of business described above, we generate revenue from several ancillary services related to our core service offerings. In conjunction with Satelles, Inc., we offer Satellite Time and Location services, which helps augment GPS and provides reliable location, timing and positioning data. We provide inbound connections from the public switched telephone network, or PSTN, short message services, or SMS, subscriber identity module, or SIM, activation, customer reactivation, and other peripheral services. We also provide research and development services to assist customers in developing new technologies compatible with our system, which we may leverage for use in service and product offerings in the future. We charge our distributors fees for these services.

U.S. Government

We are one of the leading providers of mobile satellite communications services to the U.S. government, principally the Department of Defense. We provide mobile satellite products and services to all branches of the U.S. armed forces. Our voice products are used for a variety of primary and backup communications solutions, including tactical operations, logistical, administrative, morale and welfare, and emergency communications. In addition, our products and related applications are installed on ground vehicles, ships, rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft, embedded in unattended sensors and used for command and control and situational awareness purposes. Global security concerns are among the factors driving demand for our products and services in this sector. See “—U.S. Government Services” for more information.

Seasonality

Our business is subject to seasonal usage changes for commercial customers, and we expect it to be affected by similar seasonality going forward. March through October are typically the peak months for commercial voice traffic and related subscriber equipment sales, given the predominance of population and outdoor activity in the northern hemisphere. U.S. government usage and commercial IoT usage have been less subject to seasonal changes.

Services and Products

At December 31, 2020, we had approximately 1,476,000 billable subscribers worldwide. Our principal services are mobile satellite services, including mobile voice and data services, high-speed data services, IoT services, hosted payload and other data services and engineering services. Sales of our commercial services collectively accounted for approximately 63% of our total revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020. We also sell related voice and data equipment to our customers, which accounted for approximately 15% of our total revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020. In addition, we offer services to U.S. government customers, including the Department of Defense. U.S. government services, including engineering services, accounted for approximately 22% of our total revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020.

Commercial Services

Postpaid Mobile Voice and Data Satellite Communications Services

We sell our mobile voice and data services to service providers and VARs who in turn offer such services to end users, either directly or indirectly through dealers, using various packaged solutions such as seasonal or annual plans with differing price levels that vary depending upon expected usage. In exchange for these services, we typically charge service providers and VARs a monthly access fee per subscriber, as well as usage fees for airtime resources consumed by their respective subscribers.

Prepaid Mobile Voice Satellite Communications Services

We also offer mobile voice services to service providers and VARs through prepaid plans. Service providers and VARs pay us in advance for defined blocks of airtime minutes with expiration periods in various configurations, ranging from 30 days to two years. These services are then generally sold to subscribers in the form of prepaid e-vouchers and scratch cards that enable subscribers to use our services on a per-minute basis. We believe service providers and VARs are drawn to these services
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because they enable greater cost control by eliminating the need for monthly billings and reducing collection costs, and can be sold in countries where credit may not be readily available for end users. Our distributors often offer our prepaid voice services through fixed devices to subscribers in rural villages, at remote industrial, commercial and residential sites, and on ships at sea, among other places. Fixed voice services are in many cases an attractive alternative to handheld mobile satellite communications services in situations where multiple users will access the service within a defined geographic area and terrestrial wireline or wireless service is not available. Fixed phones, for example, can be configured as pay phones that accept prepaid scratch cards and can be installed at a central location, for example in a rural village or on a maritime vessel.

Iridium PTT Service

Building on the foundation of DTCS technology, which provides regional tactical radio service to U.S. government users, our Iridium PTT service enables regional or global PTT calls among users on the same talkgroup in up to 10 customer-defined, geographically disparate locations around the world, providing a fast and robust communication experience. Iridium PTT can be used via the Iridium Extreme PTT satellite phone or the Iridium 9523 PTT core transceiver, which gives our VAMs the ability to build Iridium PTT into existing land mobile, maritime and aviation communications platforms. For example, Icom Inc. of Japan has developed the first purpose-built satellite PTT radio handheld unit for use on the Iridium network. We and our partners are also developing interoperability solutions for existing terrestrial land mobile radio systems, which will further extend the utility of the service. 

Broadband Data Services

Our new broadband data offering, Iridium Certus, was launched in January 2019. Iridium Certus is a new suite of products and services enabled by our upgraded satellite constellation. Iridium Certus is a multi-service platform capable of offering higher quality voice, enterprise-grade broadband functionality, SBD, streaming, PTT and safety services on a global basis, with speeds currently available up to 704 Kbps. Ultimately, Iridium Certus is designed to support a variety of cost points, antenna types and data speeds ranging from midband to broadband speeds as high as 1.4 Mbps. We have licensed the Iridium Certus technology to VAMs who have introduced products for the maritime and land mobile markets and are developing additional products for those markets and the aviation and government markets, as well as distribution partners for the Iridium Certus service in each of these vertical markets. We believe Iridium Certus provides a competitive, cost-effective and reliable range of services to the market, in standalone applications or as a complement to other wireless technologies for critical applications and safety services.

We also offer Iridium OpenPort, which provides maritime, aviation and terrestrial users speeds of up to 134 Kbps and three independent voice lines. For our Iridium OpenPort service, we typically charge service providers usage fees for airtime consumed by the respective subscribers for voice and data communications. In conjunction with our distributors, we also offer additional services that permit service providers and VARs to offer complete integrated solutions for prepaid calling, e-mail and IP-based data communications. For example, one of our distribution partners, KVH Industries, Inc., has been integrating Iridium Pilot with its miniature Very Small Aperture Terminal, or mini-VSATSM, broadband service to provide backup connectivity when the mini-VSAT terminal is out of its coverage area or non-operational. In the future, we expect our distributors to focus on selling Iridium Certus and eventually transition many ships that use Iridium OpenPort services to Iridium Certus services.

Internet of Things Services

Our IoT services are designed to address the market need for a small and cost-effective solution for sending and receiving data, such as location, from fixed and mobile assets in remote locations to a central monitoring station. Most of our IoT services operate through a two-way SBD transmission or circuit-switched data, between our network and a transceiver, which may be located, for example, on a container in transit or a buoy monitoring oceanographic conditions. The small size of our devices and their low-cost, omnidirectional antennas make them attractive for use in applications such as tracking asset shipments and monitoring unattended remote assets, including oil and gas assets, as well as vehicle tracking and mobile security. We sell our IoT services to our distributors, who incorporate them and in turn provide a solution package to commercial and government customers. Increasingly, our IoT transceivers are being built into products for consumer markets, such as personal location devices that provide two-way messaging. In the future, we expect our IoT partners to develop new offerings with increased capabilities based on our Iridium Certus 9770 transceiver and other future midband devices we plan to create that have optimized size, speed, power, and antenna characteristics for various applications. As with our mobile voice and data offerings, we typically charge service providers and VARs a monthly access fee per subscriber as well as usage fees for data used by their respective subscribers.

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U.S. Government Services

We provide U.S. government customers bulk access to our services, including voice, netted voice, data, messaging and paging services, as well as maintenance services for the U.S. government’s dedicated gateway. We provide airtime to U.S. government subscribers through the U.S. government’s gateway under the EMSS contract, which is a fixed-price contract covering voice, low-speed data, paging, broadcast and DTCS services. Additional services, such as broadband capabilities utilizing Iridium Certus technology, would be provided at an additional fee. To comply with U.S. government requirements, we ensure handsets sold for use by the U.S. government are manufactured in the United States. U.S. government customers procure our voice and data devices through specific, approved distributors from our network of service providers and VARs. Our VARs and VAMs typically integrate our products with other products, which they then offer to U.S. government customers as customized products, typically provisioned by Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA. Our voice and data solutions for the U.S. government include:
personnel tracking devices;
asset tracking devices for equipment, vehicles and aircraft;
beyond-line-of-sight aircraft communications applications;
maritime communications applications;
specialized communications solutions for high-value individuals; and
specialized, secure, mobile communications and data devices for the military and other government agencies, such as secure satellite handsets with U.S. National Security Agency Type I encryption capability.

With funding support from the U.S. government, we continue to invest in research and development to develop new products and applications for use by all branches of the U.S. armed forces. For example, in conjunction with DISA, we and select distribution partners offer DTCS, which provides critical, secure, PTT, netted communications using lightweight, handheld tactical radios, or add-ons to existing government tactical radios. In addition, we offer a secure satellite phone based on the Iridium Extreme, which we also developed with funding support from the U.S. government and which has been accredited by the National Security Agency, or NSA, to provide Type-1 encryption, enabling communications up to Top Secret from anywhere in the world.

Our Products

We offer a broad array of voice and data products for customers that work worldwide. In most cases, our devices or an antenna must be located outside and within view of a satellite to be able to access our network.

Satellite Handsets and Iridium GO!

Our principal handset offerings are the Iridium 9555 and Iridium Extreme satellite handsets, which are similar in functionality to ordinary cellular phones but with the solid, durable feel that satellite phone users demand. We believe our reputation for industrial-strength products is critical for customers, many of whom are located in the most inhospitable spots on the planet and require rugged and reliable communications equipment.

Iridium 9555. The Iridium 9555 provides voice, SMS and data connectivity. This model features a large, bright screen, SMS and e-mail capabilities, an integrated antenna and a speakerphone. The Iridium 9555 weighs 9.4 ounces and offers up to 3.1 hours of talk time. The Iridium 9555 has an industrial feel, with a rugged housing to protect its sophisticated satellite transceiver.

Iridium Extreme. The Iridium Extreme adds to the Iridium 9555’s capabilities by providing a rugged exterior that meets Military Standard 810F for durability, a dedicated, two-way emergency SOS button, and fully integrated GPS and location-based services. These extra features are provided in a handset that is even smaller than the Iridium 9555, weighing 8.7 ounces and offering up to four hours of talk time. An emergency response service provided by GEOS Travel Safety Group, or GEOS, is included with the purchase of the phone and airtime usage. The two-way emergency SOS button initiates a phone call and an emergency message via SMS to GEOS, which then coordinates with local emergency responders.

Iridium Extreme PTT. The Iridium Extreme PTT enhances the Iridium Extreme with an intelligently designed push-to-talk mode, expanded speakerphone, reinforced PTT button, and extended capacity battery. The user interface provides access to multiple communication services, including voice calling, SMS and SOS, allowing users to connect to a talkgroup located in up
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to 10 customer-defined geographic regions worldwide. The Iridium Extreme PTT weighs 9.5 ounces and offers up to 6.5 hours of talk time in phone mode and five hours of talk time in PTT mode.

Iridium GO! We also offer Iridium GO!, a small, rugged, personal connectivity device that connects to the Iridium network to create a Wi-Fi hotspot, enabling the use of smartphones and tablets for voice calls, text messages and emails, posts to social networking sites, and limited use of optimized mobile websites. Iridium GO! also has an emergency SOS button and GPS and location-based services. Smartphone or tablet access is provided through special applications downloaded for free from the Apple App Store or through Google Play for Android smartphones or tablets. A software development kit is available to enable the creation of additional applications or integrate Iridium GO! connectivity into existing applications.

We expect these devices to maintain our competitive position as premium offerings in the market due to their capabilities, mobility, reliability and global coverage. In addition to these devices, we offer variants of the Iridium 9555 handset and the Iridium Extreme handset that are qualified for sale to U.S. government customers.

Broadband Data Devices

Iridium Certus terminals are specifically designed for the maritime, aviation, land mobile or government markets and ultimately will offer a variety of significantly enhanced data speeds and antenna types. Iridium Certus terminals provide enterprise-grade broadband functionality alongside high quality voice capabilities that can be used on a global basis, with speeds currently available up to 704 Kbps. Ultimately, Iridium Certus is designed to support a variety of cost points, antenna types and data speeds ranging from midband to broadband speeds as high as 1.4 Mbps. We have licensed the Iridium Certus technology to a group of VAMs who have introduced products for the maritime and land mobile markets and are developing additional products for those markets as well as the aviation and government markets.

Iridium Certus is ideal for maritime operational and safety services. These terminals deliver the satellite communications technology that the industry demands, combining all the benefits of L-band with broadband and truly global coverage. Iridium Certus terminals offer superior connectivity for maritime customers whether used as a standalone service or as a companion to VSAT services. Our principal end users for Iridium Certus in the maritime market are merchant shipping, commercial fishing, large leisure vessels, and work boats. The initial terminals in this market were the Cobham Sailor 4300 and Thales VesseLINK. In addition, Intellian, a Korean maritime terminal manufacturer, introduced an Iridium Certus terminal to the market in 2020.

In aviation, Iridium Certus will deliver critical safety services and in-flight communications. Our principal targeted end users for Iridium Certus in the aviation market will include commercial, corporate and government users, general aviation, rotorcraft and unmanned aircraft. The initial terminal in this market will be the FlytLINK by Thales. A number of other VAMs have been licensed to create aviation terminals using Iridium Certus services as well.

In the land mobile market, we expect enterprises, governments, and individuals that want to extend their use of mobile networks into remote areas without having to deploy ground-based infrastructure or expensive terminals will utilize Iridium Certus. Iridium Certus devices may be integrated with internet, cellular, land mobile radio, and location-based applications to keep users connected, offering global push-to-talk, situational awareness, email, messaging and voice-over-IP. We believe our principal end users for Iridium Certus in the land mobile market will be military users, rail, first responders, non-governmental organizations, oil and gas users, and remote fleets. The initial terminal in this market is the Thales MissionLINK, with additional terminals expected in the near future.

In the government market, Iridium Certus terminals will provide beyond-line-of-sight communications critical to mission
success. The initial terminal in this market is the Thales MissionLINK.

Our legacy terminal, the Iridium Pilot, provides up to three independent voice lines and an internet connection for data communications of up to 134 Kbps, using our Iridium OpenPort service. All voice and data capabilities can be used simultaneously. Our principal customers for Iridium Pilot are service providers who integrate the device with their own hardware and software products to provide a suite of customer-focused voice and IP-based data packages for ship operation, crew calling and e-mail. We believe our Iridium Pilot terminal, with its flexible service options, provides an excellent low-cost option to the maritime market, including market sectors such as luxury yachts, tug boats, and other fishing and cruising vessels. Iridium Pilot also offers a low-cost solution as a companion to maritime Ku- and Ka- Band VSAT systems providing broadband and data services for ships, where Iridium Pilot can fill in coverage gaps and operate during significant rain fade events that impair K-band service, provide services where the VSAT terminal is not licensed to operate, and provide an alternate channel during VSAT maintenance and configuration. We also offer Iridium Pilot Land Station, which allows remote individuals and
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businesses from off-the-grid terrestrial locations to obtain reliable internet connections and voice calling no matter where they are located.

Voice and Data Modems

We also offer a combined voice transceiver and data modem, which our distributors integrate into a variety of communications solutions that are deployed in different applications around the world. Our principal offering in this space is the Iridium Core 9523 L-band transceiver, which utilizes the transceiver core of our Iridium Extreme satellite handset. The Iridium Core 9523 provides a small voice and data module that can be integrated with other components to create a modem tailored for typical VAM applications as well as specific applications, such as a dual-mode terrestrial radio and satellite phone or IoT applications that require more efficient data throughput through circuit-switched data transmission. The Iridium 9523 PTT adds PTT capability, allowing development partners to design and build land mobile, fixed, aviation and maritime devices with Iridium PTT service. In the future, we expect our value-added partners to develop new products based on our Iridium Certus 9770 transceiver and other optimized midband devices. Our principal customers for our L-band transceivers are VAMs and VARs, who integrate them into specialized devices that access our network.

Internet of Things Data Devices

Our principal IoT devices are the Iridium 9602 and 9603 full-duplex SBD transceivers. The Iridium 9602 is a small data device with two-way transmission, capable of sending packet data to and from any point in the world with low latency. The principal customers for our Iridium 9602 data modems are VARs and VAMs, who embed the device into their tracking, sensor, and data applications and systems, such as asset tracking systems. Our partners often combine the Iridium 9602 with a GPS receiver to provide location information to customer applications. We also offer the Iridium 9603, an even smaller transceiver that is functionally identical to the Iridium 9602. In addition, a number of VARs and VAMs include a cellular modem as part of their Iridium applications to provide low-cost cellular data transmission when available. These types of multimode applications are adopted by end users who require the ability to regularly transfer data but operate in areas with inconsistent cellular coverage. We provide gap-filler coverage for these applications, allowing users to operate anywhere on the globe.

We also offer Iridium Burst, our one-to-many global data broadcast service, which enables enterprises to send data to an unlimited number of devices anywhere in the world, even inside buildings, vehicles or aircraft, and Iridium Edge, an off-the-shelf, environmentally sealed, rugged device that complements existing cellular solutions to create dual-mode connectivity for the most remote and inaccessible areas of the world.

Iridium Edge reduces the cost and complications associated with hardware development, manufacture and certification of satellite-specific terminals, which we expect to enable greater adoption of our IoT services. In 2020, we introduced Iridium Edge Pro, a standalone IoT device that offers real-time GPS tracking capabilities, with a flexible programming platform that allows partners to create and run their own custom-made applications, and Iridium Edge Solar, a standalone, programmable, solar-powered device that offers real-time GPS tracking in a self-charging, low-maintenance unit with over-the-air configuration that allows partners to create distinct tracking applications. In the future, we expect our IoT partners to develop new products with increased capabilities based on Iridium Certus midband devices.

Device Development and Manufacturing

We contract with Cambridge Consulting Ltd. and other suppliers to develop our devices, with Benchmark Electronics Inc., or Benchmark, to manufacture most of our devices in a facility in Thailand, and with Hybrid Design Associates to manufacture a portion of our devices in the U.S. Pursuant to our contract with Benchmark, we may be required to purchase excess materials at cost plus a contractual markup if the materials are not used in production within the periods specified in the agreement. Benchmark generally repurchases the materials from us at the same price we paid, as required for the production of the devices. Our agreement with Benchmark is automatically renewable for additional one-year terms unless terminated by either party.

We selected several VAMs to manufacture terminals for use with our Iridium Certus broadband service. Iridium Certus terminals are specifically designed for the maritime, aviation or land mobile markets, and certain of these VAMs were given limited exclusivity in those markets, in exchange for sales commitments.

We generally provide our distributors with a warranty on subscriber equipment for one to two years from the date of activation, depending on the product. We also utilize other suppliers, some of which are the sole source, to manufacture some of the component parts of our devices.

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In addition to our principal products, we also offer a selection of accessories for our devices, including extended-life batteries, holsters, earbud headphones, portable auxiliary antennas, antenna adaptors, USB data cables and charging units, among others. We purchase these products from several third-party suppliers either pursuant to contractual agreements or off the shelf at market prices.

Domestic and Foreign Revenue

We supply services and products to customers in a number of foreign countries. We allocate revenue geographically based on where we invoice our distributors, whom we bill for mobile satellite services and related equipment sales, and not according to the location of the end user. These distributors sell services directly or indirectly to end users, who may be located elsewhere. It is not possible for us to determine the geographical distribution of revenue from end users, as we do not contract directly with them. Substantially all of our revenue is invoiced in U.S. dollars. The table below sets forth the percentage of our revenue by country for the last three years.

Year Ended December 31,
202020192018
United States55 %54 %53 %
United Kingdom%%10 %
Other Countries (1)
36 %37 %37 %
(1)    No single country in this group represented more than 10% of our revenue for any of the periods indicated.

For more information about our revenue from sales to foreign and domestic customers, see Note 15 to our consolidated financial statements included in this annual report.

Traffic Originating Outside the United States

A significant portion of our voice and data traffic originates outside the United States. The table below sets forth the percentage of our commercial voice and data traffic originating outside the United States, excluding Iridium OpenPort and Iridium Certus broadband traffic, for the last three years.
Year Ended December 31,
202020192018
Commercial voice traffic (minutes)91 %90 %90 %
Commercial data traffic (kilobytes)72 %71 %72 %

Our Network

Our satellite network has an architecture of 66 operational LEO satellites in six orbital planes of eleven vehicles each in nearly circular polar orbits, in addition to in-orbit spares and related ground infrastructure, as well as ground spares. In 2019, we completed the process of replacing our first-generation constellation, which we refer to as the Iridium NEXT program. We deployed a total of 75 satellites on eight Falcon 9 rockets launched by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, as part of this program and de-orbited our first generation satellites. These replacement satellites support new services and higher data speeds for new products.

Our operational satellites orbit at an altitude of approximately 483 miles (778 kilometers) above the earth and travel at approximately 16,689 miles per hour, resulting in a complete orbit of the earth approximately every 100 minutes. The design of our constellation ensures that generally at least one satellite is visible to subscribers from any point on the earth's surface, covering all of the world's population. While our constellation offers true global coverage, most of our devices and antennas must have a direct line of sight to a satellite to transmit or receive a signal, and services on those devices are not available in locations where a satellite signal cannot be transmitted or received, which for some devices includes inside a building.

Our constellation is unique among commercial constellations in the usage of radio frequency crosslinks between our satellites, which eliminates the need for local ground infrastructure. These crosslinks enable each satellite to communicate with up to four other satellites in space, two in the same orbital plane and two in adjacent planes. Our traffic is routed on a preplanned route between satellites to a predetermined satellite that is in contact with one of the Iridium teleport network, or TPN, locations. The TPN sites then transmit and receive the traffic to and from the gateways, which in turn provide the interface to terrestrial-based
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networks such as the PSTN, a public land mobile network, or PLMN, and the internet. The use of a TPN allows grounding traffic at multiple locations within our ground network infrastructure. This and other design elements provide flexibility that allows for rapid reconfiguration of grounding traffic from the satellites in the event of a space, antenna or ground routing anomaly and results in greater reliability of our network. The design of our space and ground control system also facilitates the real-time monitoring and management of the satellite constellation and facilitates service upgrades via software enhancements. We also upgraded our ground infrastructure, including gateway and teleport technology and satellite control systems, in advance of the completion of the Iridium NEXT program.

We believe our interlinked satellite infrastructure provides several advantages over low-earth-orbiting “bent-pipe” satellite networks that rely on multiple terrestrial gateways, such as Globalstar’s and ORBCOMM’s networks. We have the only satellite network with true global coverage, and our constellation is less vulnerable to single points of failure, as traffic can be routed around any one satellite problem to complete the communications path to the ground. In addition, the small number of ground stations increases the security of our constellation, a factor that makes our network particularly attractive to government institutions and large enterprises. The low orbit of our constellation also allows our network to operate with low latency and with smaller antennas due to the proximity of our satellites to the earth.

Our constellation is designed to provide significant coverage overlap for mitigation of service gaps from individual satellite outages, particularly at higher northern and southern latitudes. Each satellite in our constellation was designed with a high degree of on-board subsystem robustness, an on-board fault detection system, and isolation and recovery capabilities for safe and quick risk mitigation. Our ability to reposition our satellites provides us with operating flexibility and enhances our ability to maintain a commercially acceptable level of service. If a satellite should fail or become unusable, in most cases we will be able to reposition one of our in-orbit spare satellites to take over its functions within days, with minimal impact on our services.

Our primary commercial gateway is located in Tempe, Arizona, with a second dedicated commercial gateway located in Russia. A gateway processes and terminates calls and generates and controls user information pertaining to registered users, such as geo-location and call detail records. The U.S. government owns and operates a dedicated gateway for U.S. government users, which provides an interface between voice and data devices and the Defense Information Systems Network and other terrestrial infrastructure, providing U.S. government users with secure communications capabilities. Our network has multiple antennas located at the TPN facilities, including the Tempe gateway, that communicate with our satellites and pass calls and data between the gateway and the satellites as the satellites pass above our antennas, thereby connecting signals from the terminals of end users to our gateways. This system, together with our satellite crosslinks, enables communications that are not dependent on a ground station in the region where the end user is using our services.

We operate our satellite constellation from our satellite network operations center, or SNOC, in Leesburg, Virginia. This facility manages the performance and status of each of our satellites, developing and distributing routing tables for use by the satellites, TPN facilities and gateways, directing traffic routing through the network and controlling the formation of coverage areas by the satellites’ main mission antennas. We also operate TPN facilities in Fairbanks, Alaska and Tempe, Arizona in the United States, in Svalbard, Norway, and in Punta Arenas, Chile, that perform telemetry, tracking and control functions and route commercial services.

From time to time, individual satellites in our constellation experience operating problems that may result in a satellite outage, but due to the overlapping coverage within our constellation and the dynamic nature of our LEO system, the individual satellite outages typically do not negatively affect our customers’ use of our system for a prolonged period. In addition, most system processing related to our service is performed using software on board each satellite instead of on the ground. We believe this provides us with significant flexibility and contributes to the longevity of the constellation by enabling engineers to develop additional functionality and software-based solutions to occasional faults and anomalies in the system.

We selectively replace parts for our gateway and TPN facilities as necessary and maintain an inventory of spare parts, which we continuously monitor. When we do not have necessary spares in inventory or our spares become obsolete, we rely on third parties to develop necessary parts.

We hold a space station license for the launch and operation of our constellation, which expires February 23, 2032. Our U.S. gateway earth station and the U.S. government customer and commercial subscriber earth station licenses expire between October 2021 and 2026. We must file renewal applications for earth station licenses between 30 and 90 days prior to expiration.

The Iridium constellation also hosts the Aireon system. The Aireon system was developed by Aireon LLC, which we formed in 2011, with subsequent investments from the ANSPs of Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland, to provide a global air traffic surveillance service through a series of ADS-B receivers on our satellites. Aireon has contracted to offer this service to our co-investors in Aireon, as well as other ANSPs, including the FAA. These ANSPs will use the service to provide
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improved air traffic control services over the oceans, as well as polar and remote regions. Aireon also plans to market the data to airlines and other users. Under our agreements with Aireon, Aireon will pay us fees of $200.0 million to host the ADS-B receivers on our satellites, of which they have paid us $54.5 million as of December 31, 2020, as well as power and data services fees of approximately $23.5 million per year in the aggregate for the delivery of the air traffic surveillance data over the Iridium system.

While the Aireon ADS-B receivers are the primary hosted payload on our satellites, we have also entered into an agreement with L3Harris for it to utilize the remaining space for payloads it has constructed for its customers. This agreement resulted in an additional $74.1 million in hosting and data service fees, all of which L3Harris has paid as of December 31, 2020.

We do not currently hold any active in-orbit insurance policies covering losses from satellite failures and we do not expect to obtain in-orbit insurance covering losses from satellite failures or other operational problems affecting our constellation.

Regulatory Matters

Our Spectrum

We hold licenses to use 8.725 MHz of contiguous spectrum in the L-band, which operates at 1.6 GHz, and allows for two-way communication between our devices and our satellites. In addition, we are authorized to use 200 MHz of K-Band (23 GHz) spectrum for satellite-to-satellite communications, known as inter-satellite links, and 400 MHz of Ka-Band spectrum (19.4 GHz to 19.6 GHz and 29.1 GHz to 29.3 GHz) for two-way communication between our satellites and our ground stations, known as feeder links. We are also authorized to use the 156.0125-162.0375 MHz spectrum for reception of Automatic Identification System transmissions from maritime vessels and the 1087.7-1092.3 MHz spectrum for reception of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast transmissions from aircraft. Access to this spectrum enables us to design satellites, network and terrestrial infrastructure enhancements cost effectively because each product and service can be deployed and sold worldwide. Our products and services are offered in over 100 countries, and we and our distributors continue to seek authorizations in additional countries.

Our use of spectrum is globally coordinated and recorded by, and subject to the frequency rules and regulations of, the International Telecommunication Union, or ITU. The ITU is the United Nations organization responsible for worldwide co-operation in the telecommunications sector. In order to protect satellite systems from harmful radio frequency interference from other satellite systems, the ITU maintains a Master International Frequency Register of radio frequency assignments. Each ITU administration is required to give notice of, coordinate and record its proposed use of radio frequency assignments with the ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau. The coordination negotiations are conducted by the national administrations with the assistance of satellite operators. When the coordination process is completed, the ITU formally notifies all proposed users of frequencies and orbital locations in order to protect the recorded assignments from subsequent nonconforming or interfering uses by member states of the ITU. Only member states have full standing within this inter-governmental organization. Filings to the ITU were made on our behalf by the United States.

The ITU also controls the assignment of country codes used for placing telephone calls between different countries. Our network has been assigned the 8816 and 8817 country codes and uses these numbers for calling and communications between terminals.

Constellation De-Orbiting Obligations

We have certain de-orbit obligations under our FCC licenses. Specifically, pursuant to an orbital debris mitigation plan incorporated into our FCC satellite constellation license in 2002, we were required to lower each of our first-generation satellites to an orbit with a perigee of approximately 250 kilometers as it reached the end of its useful life and to coordinate these orbit-lowering maneuvers with the U.S. Combined Space Operations Center. In August 2014, we received a license modification from the FCC permitting us to operate up to ten of our first-generation satellites pursuant to the less stringent 25 year de-orbit standards for non-geostationary satellites that the FCC acknowledged in 2004 would serve the public interest and has been utilized for other satellite constellations since that time. All of our new satellites are subject to the less stringent 25 year de-orbit standard.

Our FCC license required us to de-orbit a first-generation satellite following its replacement with a new satellite and to notify the FCC within 30 days following removal of a first-generation satellite from its operational orbit for purposes of de-orbit. We began de-orbiting individual satellites as they were replaced with new satellites. We completed the required de-orbit initiation
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process for our first-generation satellites during 2019. We plan to de-orbit our new satellites pursuant to and within the 25 year de-orbit standard consistent with the FCC authorization of our new constellation.

Aireon LLC and Aireon Holdings LLC Agreement
 
In November 2012, we, through our Iridium Satellite subsidiary, and Aireon entered into an Amended and Restated Limited Liability Company Agreement with NAV CANADA, the ANSP of Canada, and a wholly owned subsidiary of NAV CANADA. In February 2014, we entered into a Second Amended and Restated Limited Liability Company Agreement, or the Aireon LLC Agreement, with NAV CANADA; Enav S.p.A., the ANSP of Italy; Naviair, the ANSP of Denmark; Irish Aviation Authority Limited, the ANSP of Ireland, or IAA; and wholly owned subsidiaries of NAV CANADA, Enav and Naviair. In May 2018, we entered into a Third Amended and Restated Limited Liability Company Agreement, or the Aireon LLC Agreement, with NAV CANADA; Enav; NATS (Services) Limited, the ANSP of the United Kingdom; Naviair; IAA; and wholly owned subsidiaries of NAV CANADA, Enav, NATS, Naviair, and IAA. In December 2018, in connection with Aireon’s entry into a debt facility, we and the other Aireon investors contributed our interests in Aireon into a new holding company, Aireon Holdings LLC, and entered into an Amended and Restated Aireon Holdings LLC Agreement. Aireon Holdings holds 100% of the membership interests in Aireon LLC, which remains the operating entity.

Under the Aireon Holdings LLC Agreement, we hold a common membership interest, and the other investors hold preferred membership interests resulting from their investments in Aireon for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $339 million. If and when funds are available, Aireon Holdings is required to redeem a portion of our ownership interest for a payment of $120 million, following which NAV CANADA’s subsidiary will hold a 45% interest in Aireon Holdings, and the other ANSP subsidiaries will collectively hold a 33% interest, with Iridium retaining a 22% interest. Based on Aireon’s business plan and restrictions under Aireon’s debt facility, we do not expect this redemption of our ownership interest to occur for several years.

The Aireon Holdings LLC Agreement provides for Aireon Holdings to be managed by a board of directors consisting of 11 members. Currently, we may nominate two directors, NAV CANADA may nominate five directors, Enav and NATS may each nominate one director, and Naviair and IAA may together nominate one director. The chief executive officer of Aireon Holdings serves as the eleventh director. The Aireon Holdings LLC Agreement also provides the minority-interest holders with several protective provisions.

In addition, pursuant to a debt facility for Aireon LLC provided by us and the other Aireon investors, we will participate pro-rata, based on our fully diluted current ownership stake, in an investor bridge loan. As such, in December 2020, we invested $0.2 million in Aireon LLC. We expect future funding by us and the other Aireon investors to be required in 2021 and 2022. Our maximum commitment under the investor bridge loan is $10.7 million.
 
Competition
 
The mobile satellite services industry is highly competitive but has significant barriers to entry, including the cost and difficulty associated with obtaining spectrum licenses and successfully building and launching a satellite network. In addition to cost, there is a significant amount of lead time associated with obtaining the required licenses, building and launching the satellite constellation, and deploying the ground network technology. We currently face substantial competition from other service providers that offer a range of mobile and fixed communications options. Currently, our principal mobile satellite services competitors are Inmarsat, Globalstar, ORBCOMM, and Thuraya Telecommunications Co., or Thuraya. We compete primarily on the basis of coverage, quality, mobility and pricing of services and products.
 
Inmarsat owns and operates a fleet of GEO satellites. Unlike LEO satellites, GEO satellites orbit the earth at approximately 22,300 miles above the equator. GEO systems require substantially larger and more expensive antennas, and typically have higher transmission delays than LEO systems. Due to its GEO system, Inmarsat’s coverage area covers most bodies of water except for a majority of the polar regions. Inmarsat is the leading provider of satellite communications services to the maritime sector. Inmarsat also offers land-based and aviation communications services.
 
Globalstar owns and operates a fleet of LEO satellites. Globalstar’s service is available only on a multi-regional basis as a result of its “bent pipe” architecture, which requires that voice and data transmissions be routed from satellites immediately to nearby ground stations. This design requires the use of multiple ground stations, which are impractical in extreme latitudes or over oceans.
 
ORBCOMM also provides commercial services using a fleet of LEO satellites. Like Globalstar, ORBCOMM’s network also has a “bent pipe” architecture, which constrains its real-time coverage area. ORBCOMM’s principal focus is low-cost data and
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IoT services, where it directly competes with our IoT offerings. Because a ground station may not be within view of a satellite, ORBCOMM’s services may have a significant amount of latency, which may limit their use in some mission-critical applications. It does not offer voice service or high-speed data services.
 
We also compete with regional mobile satellite communications services in several geographic markets. In these cases, the majority of our competitors’ customers require regional, not global, mobile voice and data services, so our competitors may present a viable alternative to our services. All of these regional competitors operate or plan to operate GEO satellites. Our regional mobile satellite services competitors currently include Thuraya, principally in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and several countries in Asia. In addition, there are a number of new entrants to the mobile satellite services industry, with varying constellation designs and business models, primarily providing commodity broadband services similar to existing GEO-based fixed satellite services operators. While their announced Ka and Ku-band operations and business plans are different from, and even complementary to, Iridium's L-band services, some may in the future provide services that compete with us.
 
While we view our services as largely complementary to terrestrial wireline and wireless communications networks, we also compete with them indirectly. We provide service in areas that are inadequately covered by these ground systems. To the extent that terrestrial communications companies invest in underdeveloped areas, we will face increased competition in those areas. We believe that local telephone companies currently are reluctant to invest in new switches, landlines and cellular towers to expand their networks in rural and remote areas due to high costs and limited usage. Many of the underdeveloped areas are sparsely populated, making it difficult to generate the necessary returns on the capital expenditures required to build terrestrial wireless networks in those areas. We believe that our solutions offer a cost-effective and reliable alternative to terrestrial-based wireline and wireless systems in these remote regions.
 
Research and Development
 
Our research and development efforts have focused on the development, design and testing of our new constellation and new products, such as Iridium Certus, Iridium Edge, Iridium PTT, Iridium Burst, Iridium GO!, transceiver modules and chipsets. We also develop product enhancements and new applications for our existing products. Our research and development expenses were $12.0 million, $14.3 million and $22.4 million for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
 
Employees and Human Capital Resources
 
Employees

As of December 31, 2020, we had 516 full-time employees and 6 part-time employees, none of whom are subject to any collective bargaining agreement. We consider our employee relations to be good.

Human Capital Resources

Our Company is made up of varied and creative teams, and we are committed to creating an innovative and inclusive environment where our employees are proud to work. We foster this sentiment by focusing on development, employee wellness and social responsibility. This starts with an onboarding process that introduces our core mission and values, policies and procedures, performance review process and background about the company. We support our employees in their career development by providing on-the-job training and education reimbursement to help employees maintain or enhance skills in their current position or help with acquiring new skills to prepare for future opportunities. To measure employee engagement, we conduct an annual survey to assess and track retention and satisfaction. We take responses from our employees seriously and use them to inform specific strategies every year tailored to both the entire company as well as specific teams. We also help our employees stay engaged in other ways, including participation in Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, and other outreach efforts that cover a range of topics and interests. Active ERGs include Iridium Women Connect and the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council.

We formed our Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council in 2020, and it has identified four objectives to make our Iridium community, and the world, a more diverse and inclusive place:
Helping to recruit and retain team members with diverse backgrounds and experiences;
Fostering participation in activities supporting diversity and inclusion within our communities;
Training, educating, and communicating with team members on the importance of diversity and inclusion to our culture and viability; and
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Periodically assessing our continual growth toward greater diversity and inclusion.

We currently have four working groups to put these objectives into practice. Each working group has its own goals, stakeholder relationships, strategy and executive sponsorship.

Response to COVID-19

As for most companies and individuals, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way that we all live and work. From the earliest reports of coronavirus, we closely monitored its spread to understand the potential impact on the health and safety of our workers and our partners. Our COVID-19 task force closely monitors federal and local guidelines and communicates frequently to employees about recent developments and actions.

We developed a health and safety policy specific to COVID-19 that outlines protocols consistent with federal guidelines. We quickly transitioned our workforce to work from home, except for employees needing in-person access to laboratories or other resources onsite. We believe we’ve learned to operate successfully in this new environment, and we remain committed to supporting a more carbon-friendly, hybrid work program for our team once infection rates allow.

For our employees whose duties require on-site work (less than 20% of our workforce), we increased cleaning and sanitation at all locations, installed smart screen questionnaires, installed hand sanitizer stations and had a third party inspector check for air quality improvements and required changes in our facilities. We developed a scenario analysis to guide our employees and are supporting them as needed to ensure they are safe and well-equipped to do their jobs.
 
Intellectual Property
 
At December 31, 2020, we held 31 U.S. patents. These patents cover several aspects of our satellite system, our global network, our communications services, and our devices.
 
In addition to our owned intellectual property, we also license critical intellectual property from Motorola Solutions to operate and maintain our network and related ground infrastructure and services as well as to design and manufacture our devices. This intellectual property is essential to our ability to continue to operate our constellation and sell our services and devices. We maintain our licenses with Motorola Solutions pursuant to several agreements, which can be terminated by Motorola Solutions upon the commencement by or against us of any bankruptcy proceeding or other specified liquidation proceedings or upon our material failure to perform or comply with any provision of the agreements. If Motorola Solutions were to terminate any such agreement, it may be difficult or, under certain circumstances, impossible to obtain the technology from alternative vendors. Motorola Solutions has assigned a portion of the patents covered by some of these licenses to one or more third parties.

We license additional intellectual property and technology from other third parties and expect to do so in the future in connection with our network and related ground infrastructure and services as well as our devices. If any such third party were to terminate its agreement with us or cease to support and service such intellectual property or technology, or if we are unable to renew such licenses on commercially reasonable terms or at all, it may be difficult, more expensive or impossible to obtain substitute intellectual property or technology from alternative vendors. Any substitute intellectual property or technology may also have lower quality or performance standards, which would adversely affect the quality of our devices and services. For more information, see “Risk Factors—We are dependent on intellectual property licensed from third parties to operate our constellation and sell our devices and for the enhancement of our existing devices and services.”
 
Available Information
 
Copies of our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments, if any, to those reports filed pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, are available free of charge through our website at www.iridium.com and on the website of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, at www.sec.gov. A request for any of these reports may also be submitted to us by writing: Investor Relations, Iridium Communications Inc., 1750 Tysons Boulevard, Suite 1400, McLean, VA 22102, or by calling our Investor Relations line at 703-287-7570.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors
Risks related to our satellites and network
Our satellites may experience operational problems, which could affect our ability to provide an acceptable level of service to our customers.
From time to time, we experience temporary intermittent losses of signal cutting off calls in progress, preventing completions of calls when made or disrupting the transmission of data. If the magnitude or frequency of such problems increase and we are no longer able to provide a commercially acceptable level of service, our business and financial results and our reputation would be hurt and our ability to pursue our business plan would be compromised.
We may be required in the future to make changes to our constellation to maintain or improve its performance. Any such changes may require prior FCC approval, and the FCC may subject the approval to other conditions that could be unfavorable to our business. In addition, from time to time we may reposition our satellites within the constellation in order to optimize our service, which could result in degraded service during the repositioning period. Although we have some ability to remedy some types of problems affecting the performance of our satellites remotely from the ground, the physical repair of our satellites in space is not feasible.
Our products could fail to perform or could perform at reduced levels of service because of technological malfunctions or deficiencies, regulatory compliance issues, or events outside of our control, which would seriously harm our business and reputation.
Our products and services are subject to the risks inherent in a large-scale, complex telecommunications system employing advanced technology and heavily regulated by, among others, the FCC and similar authorities internationally. Any disruption to our satellites, services, information systems or telecommunications infrastructure, or regulatory compliance issues, could result in the inability or reduced ability of our customers to receive our services for an indeterminate period of time. These customers include government agencies conducting mission-critical work throughout the world, as well as consumers and businesses located in remote areas of the world and operating under harsh environmental conditions where traditional telecommunications services may not be readily available. Any disruption to our services or extended periods of reduced levels of service could cause us to lose customers or revenue, result in delays or cancellations of future implementations of our products and services, result in failure to attract customers, or result in litigation, customer service or repair work that would involve substantial costs and distract management from operating our business. The failure of any of the diverse elements of our system, including our satellites, our commercial gateway, our satellite teleport network facilities or our satellite network operations center, to function as required could render our system unable to perform at the quality and capacity levels required for success. Any system failures, repeated product failures or shortened product life, or extended reduced levels of service could reduce our sales, increase costs, or result in warranty or liability claims or litigation, cause us to extend our warranty period, and seriously harm our business.
We do not maintain in-orbit satellite insurance for our satellites, as a result of which we may be subject to increased costs.
We obtained insurance for our satellites covering launch and in-orbit failures of our satellites for a period of twelve months from the date of launch. All of our satellites were launched more than twelve months ago, and we have no plans to purchase further in-orbit insurance. As a result, a failure of one or more of our satellites, or the occurrence of equipment failures and other related problems, would constitute an uninsured loss and could harm our financial condition.
Our satellites have a limited life and may fail prematurely, which could cause our network to be compromised and materially and adversely affect our business, prospects and profitability, or cause us to incur additional expense to launch replacement satellites.
We have in the past and may in the future experience in-orbit malfunctions of our satellites, which could adversely affect the reliability of their service or result in total failure of the satellite. In-orbit failure of a satellite may result from various causes, including component failure, loss of power or fuel, inability to control positioning of the satellite, solar or other astronomical events, including solar radiation and flares, and space debris. Other factors that could affect the useful lives of our satellites include the quality of construction, gradual degradation of solar panels and the durability of components. Although we do not incur any direct cash costs related to the failure of a single satellite, if a satellite fails, we record an impairment charge in our statement of operations to reduce the remaining net book value of that satellite to zero, and any such impairment charges could depress our net income for the period in which the failure occurs. Further, a large number of such failures could shorten the expected life of our constellation, which would increase our depreciation expense, or require us to launch our ground spare satellites or even replace our constellation sooner than currently planned, either of which would increase our projected capital expenditures.
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If operations at our commercial gateways or operations center were to be disrupted, we may experience interruptions in our ability to provide service to our customers.
Our commercial satellite network traffic is supported by a gateway in Tempe, Arizona, as well as a gateway in Izhevsk, Russia for traffic within Russian boundaries, and we operate our satellite constellation from our satellite network operations center in Leesburg, Virginia. If we are unable to use our primary commercial gateway in Tempe, it could take us from one to eight hours to switch operations to our backup facility for most services, and potentially longer for some services. During this time, our customers would be unable to use those services, and we could suffer a loss of revenue and harm to our reputation. When operating on our backup facility, any further failure could leave us unable to offer services for an extended period. Our gateways and operations center may also experience service shutdowns or periods of reduced service in the future as a result of equipment failures, delays in deliveries or regulatory issues. Any such failure would impede our ability to provide service to our customers.
Our customized hardware and software may be difficult and expensive to service, upgrade or replace.
Some of the hardware and software we use in operating our gateways is significantly customized and tailored to meet our requirements and specifications and could be difficult and expensive to service, upgrade or replace. Although we maintain inventories of some spare parts, it nonetheless may be difficult, expensive or impossible to obtain replacement parts for the hardware due to a limited number of those parts being manufactured to our requirements and specifications. In addition, our business plan contemplates updating or replacing some of the hardware and software in our network as technology advances, but the complexity of our requirements and specifications may present us with technical and operational challenges that complicate or otherwise make it expensive or infeasible to carry out such upgrades and replacements. If we are not able to suitably service, upgrade or replace our equipment, our ability to provide our services and therefore to generate revenue could be harmed.
Rapid and significant technological changes in the satellite communications industry may impair our competitive position and require us to make significant additional capital expenditures.
The satellite communications industry is subject to rapid advances and innovations in technology. We may face competition in the future from companies using new technologies and new satellite systems. New technology could render our system obsolete or less competitive by satisfying customer demand in more attractive ways or through the introduction of incompatible standards. Particular technological developments that could adversely affect us include the deployment by our competitors of new satellites with greater power, flexibility, efficiency or capabilities than ours, as well as continuing improvements in terrestrial wireless technologies. For us to keep up with technological changes and remain competitive, we may need to make significant capital expenditures, including capital to design and launch new products and services. Customer acceptance of the products and services that we offer will continually be affected by technology-based differences in our product and service offerings compared to those of our competitors. New technologies may also be protected by patents or other intellectual property laws and therefore may not be available to us. Any failure on our part to implement new technology within our system may compromise our ability to compete.
Our networks and those of our third-party service providers may be vulnerable to security risks.
We expect the secure transmission of confidential information over public networks to continue to be a critical element of our ability to compete for business, manage our risks, and protect our customers and our reputation. Our network and those of our third-party service providers and our customers may be vulnerable to unauthorized access, computer attacks, viruses and other security problems. Persons who circumvent security measures could wrongfully access and obtain or use information on our network or cause service interruptions, delays or malfunctions in our devices, services or operations, any of which could harm our reputation, cause demand for our products and services to fall, and compromise our ability to pursue our business plans. Recently, there have been reported a number of significant, widespread security attacks and breaches that have compromised network integrity for many companies and governmental agencies, in some cases reportedly originating from outside the United States. In addition, there are reportedly private products available in the market today which may attempt to unlawfully intercept communications made using our network. We may be required to expend significant resources to respond to, contain, remediate, and protect against these attacks and threats, including compliance with applicable data breach and security laws and regulations, and to alleviate problems, including reputational harm and litigation, caused by these security incidents. In addition, in the event of such a security incident, our customer contracts may not adequately protect us against liability to third parties with whom our customers conduct business. Although we have implemented and intend to continue to implement security measures, these measures may prove to be inadequate. These security incidents could have a significant effect on our systems, devices and services, including system failures and delays that could limit network availability, which could harm our business and our reputation and result in substantial liability.
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Our satellites may collide with space debris or another spacecraft, which could adversely affect the performance of our constellation.
In February 2009, we lost an operational satellite as a result of a collision with a non-operational Russian satellite. Although we have some ability to actively maneuver our satellites to avoid potential collisions with space debris or other spacecraft, this ability is limited by, among other factors, uncertainties and inaccuracies in the projected orbit location of and predicted conjunctions with debris objects tracked and cataloged by the U.S. government. Additionally, some space debris is too small to be tracked and therefore its orbital location is completely unknown; nevertheless, this debris is still large enough to potentially cause severe damage or a failure of our satellites should a collision occur. If our constellation experiences additional satellite collisions with space debris or other spacecraft, our service could be impaired.
The space debris created by the February 2009 satellite collision may cause damage to other spacecraft positioned in a similar orbital altitude.
The 2009 collision of one of our satellites with a non-operational Russian satellite created a space debris field concentrated in the orbital altitude where the collision occurred, and thus increased the risk of space debris damaging or interfering with the operation of our satellites, which travel in this orbital altitude, as well as satellites owned by third parties, such as U.S. or foreign governments or agencies and other satellite operators. Although there are tools used by us and providers of tracking services, such as the U.S. Combined Space Operations Center, to detect, track and identify space debris, we or third parties may not be able to maneuver the satellites away from such debris in a timely manner. Any such collision could potentially expose us to significant losses and liability if we were found to be at fault.
Risks related to our business operations
Our business has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, actions taken to mitigate the pandemic, and economic disruptions that have resulted, but we are unable to predict the full extent or nature of these impacts at this time.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many jurisdictions in the United States and around the world ordered their residents to cease traveling to non-essential jobs and to stay in their homes as much as possible. Since March 2020, we have been conducting business with remote work for most employees, prohibition on most employee travel, and remote sales and support activities, among other modifications. The pandemic and the steps taken to respond have also caused substantial domestic and global economic disruption, including similar restrictions on activity among our distributors, which has led to reduced sales and has limited our distributors’ ability to install or service our products. These limitations may continue for the duration of these pandemic-related restrictions, and we or our distributors may take additional actions to respond as the situation evolves.
Further, unemployment has significantly increased, and financial markets are experiencing significant levels of volatility and uncertainty, which could have an adverse effect on consumer and commercial spending and negatively affect demand for our and our distributors’ products and services, particularly in markets such as aviation and recreation. This, in turn, could negatively affect the value of our current agreements with our distributors and their willingness to enter into or renew contracts with us. The pandemic has also negatively affected the payment of accounts receivable and collections. One of our distributors has sought protection in bankruptcy, causing us to reduce the amount we expect to receive from them for past services. If additional distributors seek protection in bankruptcy, it could further harm our cash flows and results of operations.
As a result of the negative effects at the outset of the pandemic, we reduced our initial revenue and earnings outlook for 2020. Other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the modifications we and others have made in response are difficult to assess or predict with certainty at this time but may include risks to employee health and safety, a decline in the market price of our common stock, a prolonged economic downturn, and deterioration of the economy and consumer and commercial spending, any of which could further adversely affect our business, results of operations and/or financial condition in 2021 and beyond.
Aireon, our primary hosted payload customer, has been negatively affected by reduced air traffic as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could reduce or eliminate the value of our agreements with, and ownership interest in, Aireon.
Aireon is our primary hosted payload customer, and we expect annual revenue to us from Aireon hosting, data services and power fees to be approximately $39.5 million. In addition, if and when funds are available following a planned refinancing of its credit facility, Aireon’s parent company, Aireon Holdings, is required to redeem a portion of our ownership interest for a payment of $120.0 million, and we would then retain a common ownership interest of approximately 22% in Aireon Holdings. Based on Aireon’s business plan and restrictions under Aireon’s debt facility, we do not expect this redemption of our ownership interest to occur for several years.
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Aireon provides air traffic surveillance services to ANSPs around the world, as well as other offerings based on its collection of air traffic surveillance data. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in substantially reduced air traffic worldwide, and it is uncertain when air traffic volumes will recover. A portion of Aireon’s customers pay them on a per-flight-hour basis, and even those customers with fixed-fee arrangements may seek to renegotiate their fees in the face of dramatically reduced air traffic. Further, Aireon’s business model requires expansion of its customer base to achieve its projected financial results, which may be substantially more difficult until air traffic volumes recover. While our fee arrangements with Aireon do not depend on traffic volumes, if Aireon’s revenues are substantially reduced, they may not be able to pay us the contractually required hosting, data services and power fees in a timely manner or at all. Further, Aireon may need to seek additional financing. Any sale of equity securities by Aireon would dilute our ownership if and to the extent that we do not invest additional funds to maintain our proportional ownership interest. If additional funding is not available, Aireon may default on its credit facility, which could result in the loss or reduction in value of our investment in Aireon, or be forced out of business, in which case we would not receive any further hosting, data or power fees, or the expected $120.0 million redemption payment, and we would lose the value of our retained investment in Aireon Holdings.
Our business plan depends on increased demand for mobile satellite services, among other factors.
Our business plan is predicated on growth in demand for mobile satellite services. Demand for mobile satellite services may not grow, or may even contract, either generally or in particular geographic markets, for particular types of services or during particular time periods. A lack of demand could impair our ability to sell products and services, develop and successfully market new products and services and could exert downward pressure on prices. Any decline in prices would decrease our revenue and profitability and negatively affect our ability to generate cash to pay down our debt or for capital expenditures, investments and other working capital needs.
Our ability to successfully implement our business plan will also depend on a number of other factors, including:
our ability to maintain the health, capacity and control of our satellite constellation;
the level of market acceptance and demand for our products and services;
our ability to introduce innovative new products and services that satisfy market demand;
our ability to expand our business using our existing spectrum resources both in the United States and internationally;
our ability to sell our products and services in additional countries;
our ability to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, both in the United States and internationally;
our ability to maintain our relationship with U.S. government customers, particularly the Department of Defense;
the ability of our distributors to market and distribute our products, services and applications effectively and their continued development of innovative and improved solutions and applications for our products and services;
the effectiveness of our competitors in developing and offering similar services and products; and
our ability to maintain competitive prices for our products and services and to control our costs.
Our agreements with U.S. government customers, particularly the Department of Defense, which represent a significant portion of our revenue, are subject to termination.
The U.S. government, through a dedicated gateway owned and operated by the Department of Defense, has been and continues to be, directly and indirectly, our largest customer, representing 22% of our revenue for each of the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019. We provide the majority of our services to the U.S. government pursuant to our GMSS and EMSS contracts. We entered into these contracts in April 2019 and September 2019, respectively. The GMSS contract provides for a six-month base term and up to four one-year options exercisable at the election of the U.S. government, two of which have been exercised so far, and the EMSS contract provides for a seven-year term. The U.S. government may terminate these agreements, in whole or in part, at any time for its convenience. Our relationship with the U.S. government is also subject to the overall U.S. government budget and appropriation decisions and processes. U.S. government budget decisions, including with respect to defense spending, are based on changing government priorities and objectives, which are driven by numerous factors, including geopolitical events and macroeconomic conditions, and are beyond our control. If the U.S. government terminates either of these agreements, we would lose a significant portion of our revenue.
We are dependent on intellectual property licensed from third parties to operate our constellation and sell our devices and for the enhancement of our existing devices and services.
We license critical intellectual property and technology to operate and maintain our network and related ground infrastructure and services as well as to design, manufacture, and sell our devices. This intellectual property and technology is essential to our
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ability to continue to operate our constellation and sell our services and devices. In addition, we are dependent on third parties to develop enhancements to our current products and services even in circumstances where we own the intellectual property. If any third-party owner of such intellectual property or technology were to terminate any license agreement with us or cease to support and service such intellectual property or technology or perform development on our behalf, or if we are unable to renew such licenses on commercially reasonable terms or at all, it may be difficult, more expensive or impossible to obtain such intellectual property, technology, or services from alternative vendors. Any substitute intellectual property or technology may also be costly to develop and integrate, or could have lower quality or performance standards, which would adversely affect the quality of our devices and services. In connection with the development of new devices and services, we may be required to obtain additional intellectual property rights from third parties. We can offer no assurance that we will be able to obtain such intellectual property rights on commercially reasonable terms or at all. If we are unable to obtain such intellectual property rights on commercially reasonable terms, we may not be able to develop some new devices and services.
Our failure to effectively manage the expansion of our portfolio of products and services could impede our ability to execute our business plan, and we may experience increased costs or disruption in our operations.
In order to achieve the substantial future revenue growth we have projected, we must develop and market new products and services, such as Iridium Certus. We currently face a variety of challenges, including maintaining the infrastructure and systems necessary for us to manage the growth of our business. As our product and service portfolio continues to expand, the responsibilities of our management team and demands on other company resources also increase. Consequently, we may further strain our management and other company resources with the increased complexities and administrative burdens associated with a larger, more complex portfolio of products and services. For example, we have in the past experienced quality issues and incorrect market assessments in connection with the introduction of new products and services, and we may experience such issues in the future. Our failure to meet these challenges as a result of insufficient management or other resources could significantly impede our ability to execute our business plan, which relies in part on our ability to leverage our largely fixed-cost infrastructure. To properly manage our growth, we may need to hire and retain additional personnel, upgrade our existing operational management and financial and reporting systems, and improve our business processes and controls. Failure to effectively manage the expansion of our portfolio of products and services in a cost-effective manner could result in declines in product and service quality and customer satisfaction, disruption of our operations, or increased costs, any of which would reduce our ability to increase our profitability.
We could lose market share and revenue as a result of increasing competition from companies in the wireless communications industry, including cellular and other satellite operators, and from the extension of land-based communications services.
We face intense competition in all of our markets, which could result in a loss of customers and lower revenue and make it more difficult for us to enter new markets. We compete primarily on the basis of coverage, quality, portability, and pricing of services and products.
The provision of satellite-based services and products is subject to downward price pressure when capacity exceeds demand or as a result of aggressive discounting by some operators under financial pressure to expand their respective market share. In addition, we may face competition from new competitors, new technologies or new equipment, including proposed new LEO constellations. For example, we may face competition for our land-based services in the United States from incipient ancillary terrestrial component, or ATC, service providers who are designing a satellite operating business and a terrestrial component around their spectrum holdings. In addition, some of our competitors have announced plans for the launch of additional satellites. As a result of competition, we may not be able to successfully retain our existing customers and attract new customers.
In addition to our satellite-based competitors, terrestrial voice and data service providers, both wireline and wireless, could further expand into rural and remote areas and provide the same general types of services and products that we provide through our satellite-based system. Although satellite communications services and terrestrial communications services are not perfect substitutes, the two compete in some markets and for some services. Consumers generally perceive terrestrial wireless voice communication products and services as cheaper and more convenient than those that are satellite-based. Many of our terrestrial competitors have greater resources, wider name recognition and newer technologies than we do. In addition, industry consolidation could hurt us by increasing the scale or scope of our competitors, thereby making it more difficult for us to compete.
We depend on third parties to market and sell our products and services, and their inability to do so effectively could impair our revenue and our reputation.
We select third-party distributors, in some cases on an exclusive basis, and rely on them to market and sell our products and services to end users and to determine the prices end users pay. We also depend on our distributors to develop innovative and
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improved solutions and applications integrating our product and service offerings. As a result of these arrangements, we are dependent on the performance of our distributors to generate most of our revenue. Our distributors operate independently of us, and we have limited control over their operations, which exposes us to significant risks. Distributors may not commit the same level of resources to market and sell our products and services that we would, and these distributors may also market and sell competitive products and services. In addition, our distributors may not comply with the laws and regulatory requirements in their local jurisdictions, which could limit their ability to market or sell our products and services. If our distributors develop faulty or poorly performing products using our technology or services, we may be subject to claims, and our reputation could be harmed. If current or future distributors do not perform adequately, or if we are unable to locate competent distributors in particular countries and secure their services on favorable terms, we may be unable to increase or maintain our revenue in these markets or enter new markets, we may not realize our expected growth, and our brand image and reputation could be hurt.
In addition, we may lose distributors due to competition, consolidation, regulatory developments, business developments affecting our distributors or their customers, or for other reasons. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps taken to respond are causing substantial domestic and global economic disruption, including financial difficulties and restrictions on activity among our distributors, which have led to reduced sales and limited our distributors’ ability to install or service our products. These disruptions have also negatively affected the payment of accounts receivable and collections. For example, one of our distributors has sought protection in bankruptcy, causing us to reduce the amount we expect to receive from them for past services. Other distributors could similarly seek to reorganize or seek protection from creditors, including us. These financial disruptions could also result in industry consolidation. In 2009, one of our largest competitors, Inmarsat, acquired our then largest distributor, Stratos Global Wireless, Inc., and in 2014, Inmarsat acquired Globe Wireless, one of our service providers. Following each acquisition, Inmarsat essentially stopped promoting sales of our products and services, and they may further reduce their efforts in the future. Any future consolidation of our distributors would further increase our reliance on a few key distributors of our services and the amount of volume discounts that we may have to give those distributors. Our two largest distributors, Marlink Group and Garmin, together represented approximately 9% of our revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020, and our ten largest distributors represented, in the aggregate, 30% of our revenue for the year ended December 31, 2020. The loss or consolidation of any of these distributors, or a decrease in the level of effort expended by any of them to promote our products and services, could reduce the distribution of our products and services as well as the development of new products and applications, which would negatively impact our revenue.
We rely on a limited number of key vendors for supply of equipment and services, the loss of any of which could cause us to incur additional costs and delays in the production and delivery of our products.
We currently rely on two manufacturers of our devices, including our mobile handsets, L-band transceivers and SBD devices. We also utilize sole source suppliers for some of the component parts of our devices. If any of our suppliers were to terminate its relationship with us, we may not be able to find a replacement supplier in a timely manner, at an acceptable price or at all.
Our manufacturers and suppliers may become capacity-constrained, or could face financial difficulties as a result of a surge in demand, a natural disaster or other event, including the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in 2020, a manufacturer of components used in several Iridium transceiver and handset products suffered a fire at its factory. As a result, we may experience a delay in fulfilling some product orders and are evaluating replacement components and product changes. If we fail to effectively address these issues, we could suffer delays, which could reduce our sales of those products and use of the related services and could harm our reputation. Even if we are successful in these mitigation efforts, we may experience increased costs on the affected products.
In addition, one or more component suppliers may decide to cease production of various components of our products, resulting in a shortage or interruption in supplies or an inability to meet increased demand. Any delay in production or delivery of our products or components by our suppliers due to an extended closure of their plants or other restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic could also adversely affect our business. Although we may be able to replace or supplement sole source suppliers, there could be a substantial period of time in which our products would not be available; any new relationship may involve higher costs and delays in development and delivery, and we may encounter technical challenges in successfully replicating the manufacturing processes. If our manufacturers or suppliers terminate their relationships with us, fail to provide equipment or services to us on a timely basis, or fail to meet our performance expectations, we may be unable to provide products or services to our customers in a competitive manner, which could in turn negatively affect our financial results and our reputation.
Conducting and expanding our operations outside the United States creates numerous risks, which may harm our operations and compromise our ability to expand our international operations.
We have significant operations outside the United States. We estimate that commercial data traffic originating outside the United States, excluding our Iridium OpenPort broadband data service traffic, accounted for 72% and 71% of total commercial
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data traffic for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively, while commercial voice traffic originating outside the United States, excluding Iridium OpenPort traffic, accounted for 91% and 90% of total commercial voice traffic for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019. We cannot provide the precise geographical distribution of revenue from end users because we do not contract directly with them. Instead, we determine the country in which we earn our revenue based on where we invoice our distributors. These distributors sell services directly or indirectly to end users, who may be located or use our products and services elsewhere. We and our distributors are also seeking authorization to sell our services in additional countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has, and we expect will continue to, put pressure on global economic conditions and overall spending, which could negatively affect end user adoption of our products.
Conducting operations outside the United States involves numerous risks and, while expanding our international operations would advance our growth, it would also increase our exposure to these risks. For example, in 2013 we commenced the provision of satellite communications services in Russia through a local subsidiary and its authorized Russian service providers and subsequently constructed a dedicated gateway in Russia. The U.S. government has imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on certain Russian corporations, banks, and citizens and might impose additional sanctions in the future. If such sanctions, or any Russian response to such sanctions, affects our operations in Russia, it could limit our growth in Russia or prevent us from continuing to operate there at all, which would reduce our revenues.
Other risks associated with the proposed expansion of our international operations include:
effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including on international economies, supply chains and travel;
difficulties in penetrating new markets due to established and entrenched competitors;
difficulties in developing products and services that are tailored to the needs of local customers;
lack of local acceptance or knowledge of our products and services;
lack of recognition of our products and services;
unavailability of, or difficulties in establishing, relationships with distributors;
significant investments, including the development and deployment of dedicated gateways, as some countries require physical gateways within their jurisdiction to connect the traffic coming to and from their territory;
instability of international economies and governments;
changes in laws and policies affecting trade and investment in other jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union;
exposure to varying legal standards, including data privacy, security and intellectual property protection in other jurisdictions;
difficulties in obtaining required regulatory authorizations;
difficulties in enforcing legal rights in other jurisdictions;
local domestic ownership requirements;
requirements that operational activities be performed in-country;
changing and conflicting national and local regulatory requirements;
foreign currency exchange rates and exchange controls; and
ongoing compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, U.S. export controls, anti-money laundering and trade sanction laws, and similar anti-corruption and international trade laws in other countries.
If any of these risks were to materialize, it could affect our ability to successfully compete and expand internationally.
Government organizations, foreign military and intelligence agencies, natural disaster aid associations, and event-driven response agencies use our commercial voice and data satellite communications services. Accordingly, we may experience reductions in usage due to changing global circumstances.
The prices for our products and services are typically denominated in U.S. dollars. Any appreciation of the U.S. dollar against other currencies, including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will increase the cost of our products and services to our international customers and, as a result, may reduce the competitiveness of our international offerings and make it more difficult for us to grow internationally. Conversely, in some locations, primarily Russia, we conduct business in the local currency, and a depreciation of the local currency against the U.S. dollar will reduce the U.S. dollar value of our revenues from those countries. In recent years, Russia has experienced significant currency depreciation against the U.S. dollar.
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Pursuing strategic transactions may cause us to incur additional risks.
We may pursue acquisitions, joint ventures or other strategic transactions from time to time. We may face costs and risks arising from any such transactions, including integrating a new business into our business or managing a joint venture. These risks may include adverse legal, organizational and financial consequences, loss of key customers and distributors, and diversion of management’s time.
In addition, any major business combination or similar strategic transaction may require significant additional financing, and our ability to obtain such financing may be restricted by the credit agreement governing our currently outstanding Term Loan. Further, depending on market conditions, investor perceptions of our company and other factors, we might not be able to obtain financing on acceptable terms, in acceptable amounts, or at appropriate times to implement any such transaction. Any such financing, if obtained, may dilute existing stockholders.
Spectrum values historically have been volatile, which could cause the value of our business to fluctuate.
Our business plan is evolving, and it may in the future include forming strategic partnerships to maximize value for our spectrum, network assets and combined service offerings in the United States and internationally. Values that we may be able to realize from such partnerships will depend in part on the value placed on our spectrum authorizations. Valuations of spectrum in other frequency bands historically have been volatile, and we cannot predict at what amount a future partner may be willing to value our spectrum and other assets. In addition, to the extent that the FCC takes action that makes additional spectrum available or promotes the more flexible use or greater availability of existing satellite or terrestrial spectrum allocations, for example by means of spectrum leasing or new spectrum sales, the availability of such additional spectrum could reduce the value of our spectrum authorizations and, as a result, the value of our business.
We may be negatively affected by global economic conditions.
Our operations and performance depend significantly on worldwide economic conditions. Uncertainty about global economic conditions poses a risk as individual consumers, businesses and governments may postpone spending in response to tighter credit, negative financial news, declines in income or asset values, or budgetary constraints. Reduced demand would cause a decline in our revenue and make it more difficult for us to operate profitably, potentially compromising our ability to pursue our business plan. While we expect the number of our subscribers and revenue to continue to grow, we expect the future growth rate will be slower than our historical growth and may not continue in every quarter of every year. We expect our future growth rate will be affected by the condition of the global economy, increased competition, maturation of the satellite communications industry, and the difficulty in sustaining high growth rates as we increase in size. Any substantial appreciation of the U.S. dollar may also negatively affect our growth by increasing the cost of our products and services in foreign countries.
Our ability to operate our company effectively could be impaired if we lose members of our senior management team or key technical personnel.
We depend on the continued service of key managerial and technical personnel and personnel with security clearances, as well as our ability to continue to attract and retain highly qualified personnel. We compete for such personnel with other companies, government entities, academic institutions and other organizations. The unexpected loss or interruption of the services of such personnel could compromise our ability to effectively manage our operations, execute our business plan and meet our strategic objectives.
Risks related to our capital structure
We have a considerable amount of debt, which may limit our ability to fulfill our obligations and/or to obtain additional financing.
As of December 31, 2020, we had $1,637.6 million of consolidated gross indebtedness on an actual basis under our Term Loan. Our capital structure and reliance on indebtedness can have several important consequences, including, but not limited to, the following:
If future cash flows are insufficient, we may not be able to make principal or interest payments on our debt obligations, which could result in the occurrence of an event of default under one or more of those debt instruments.
Our leverage level could increase our vulnerability to adverse economic and industry conditions.
Our indebtedness requires us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to payments on our debt, thereby reducing the availability of our cash flow for operations and other purposes.
Our leverage level could make it more difficult for us to satisfy our obligations to our lenders, resulting in possible defaults on and acceleration of such indebtedness.
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Our leverage level could place us at a competitive disadvantage compared to any competitors that have less debt or comparable debt at more favorable interest rates and that, as a result, may be better positioned to withstand economic downturns.
Our consolidated indebtedness has the general effect of reducing our flexibility to react to changing business and economic conditions insofar as they affect our financial condition. The interest rates at which we might secure additional financings may be higher than our currently outstanding debt instruments or higher than forecasted at any point in time, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Market conditions could affect our access to capital markets, restrict our ability to secure financing to make planned capital expenditures and investments and pay other expenses, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition, cash flows and results of operations.
Further, despite our substantial levels of indebtedness, we and our subsidiaries have the ability to incur substantially more indebtedness, which could further intensify the risks described above.
If we do not generate sufficient cash flows, we may be unable to service all of our indebtedness.
To service our indebtedness, we will require a significant amount of cash. Our ability to generate cash, make scheduled payments or to refinance our debt obligations depends on our successful financial and operating performance, which may be affected by a range of economic, competitive and business factors, many of which are outside of our control and some of which are described elsewhere in the “Risk Factors” section of this Report.
If our cash flows and capital resources are insufficient to fund our debt service obligations, or to repay the Term Loan when it matures, we may have to undertake alternative financing plans, such as refinancing or restructuring our debt, selling assets or operations, reducing or delaying capital investments, or seeking to raise additional capital. We may not be able to refinance our debt, or any refinancing of our debt could be at higher interest rates and may require us to comply with more restrictive covenants that could further restrict our business operations. Our ability to implement successfully any such alternative financing plans will depend on a range of factors, including general economic conditions, the level of activity in capital markets generally, and the terms of our various debt instruments then in effect.
The credit agreement governing our Term Loan contains cross-default or cross-acceleration provisions that may cause all of the debt issued under that instrument to become immediately due and payable because of a default under an unrelated debt instrument.
Our failure to comply with the obligations contained in the credit agreement governing our Term Loan or other current or future instruments of indebtedness could result in an event of default under the applicable instrument, which could result in the related debt and the debt issued under other instruments (together with accrued and unpaid interest and other fees) becoming immediately due and payable. In such event, we would need to raise funds from alternative sources, which funds may not be available to us on favorable terms, on a timely basis, or at all. Alternatively, such a default could require us to sell our assets and otherwise curtail our operations in order to pay our creditors. These alternative measures could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position, results of operations and/or cash flows, which could cause us to become bankrupt or insolvent or otherwise impair our ability to make payments in respect of our indebtedness.
Adverse changes in our credit ratings or withdrawal of the ratings assigned to our debt securities by rating agencies may negatively affect us.
Our ability to access capital markets is important to our ability to operate our business. Increased scrutiny of the satellite industry and the impact of regulation, as well as changes in our financial performance and unfavorable conditions in the capital markets could result in credit agencies reexamining our credit ratings. A downgrade in our credit ratings could restrict or discontinue our ability to access capital markets at attractive rates and increase our borrowing costs. Furthermore, any rating assigned could be lowered or withdrawn entirely by a rating agency if, in that rating agency’s judgment, future circumstances relating to the basis of the rating, such as adverse changes, so warrant. Any future lowering of our ratings likely would make it more difficult or more expensive for us to obtain additional debt financing.
If we default under the Term Loan, the lenders may require immediate repayment in full of amounts borrowed or foreclose on our assets.
The credit agreement governing our Term Loan contains events of default, including cross-default with other indebtedness, bankruptcy, and a change in control (as defined in the credit agreement). If we experience an event of default, the lenders may require repayment in full of all principal and interest outstanding under the Term Loan. If we fail to repay such amounts, the
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lenders may foreclose on the assets we have pledged under the Term Loan, which includes substantially all of the assets of our domestic subsidiaries, including our principal operating subsidiary, Iridium Satellite.
Certain provisions in the credit agreement governing our Term Loan limit our financial and operating flexibility.
The credit agreement governing our Term Loan contains covenants that place restrictions on, among other things, our ability to:
incur liens,
engage in mergers or asset sales,
pay dividends,
repay subordinated indebtedness,
incur indebtedness,
make investments and loans, and
engage in other transactions as specified in the credit agreement.
While the credit agreement provides for exceptions, complying with these restrictions may make it more difficult for us to successfully execute our business plan and compete against companies who are not subject to such restrictions.
The LIBOR calculation method may change, and LIBOR is expected to be phased out after 2021.
Our Term Loan bears interest at a rate based on the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR. On July 27, 2017, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, or the FCA, announced that it will no longer require banks to submit rates for the calculation of LIBOR after 2021. In the meantime, actions by the FCA, other regulators, or law enforcement agencies may result in changes to the method by which LIBOR is calculated. If changes to LIBOR result in an increase in rates, our interest expense under the Term Loan would increase. Further, if LIBOR is no longer available, our Term Loan provides a process to determine a substitute rate, and if such substitute rate is higher than LIBOR, our interest expense under the Term Loan would increase.
The market price of our common stock may be volatile.
The trading price of our common stock may be subject to substantial fluctuations. Factors affecting the trading price of our common stock may include:
failure in the performance of our satellites;
actual or anticipated variations in our operating results, including termination or expiration of one or more of our key contracts, or a change in sales levels under one or more of our key contracts;
failure of Aireon to successfully carry out its business plan;
failure to comply with the terms of the credit agreement governing our Term Loan;
sales of a large number of shares of our common stock or the perception that such sales may occur;
the dilutive effect of outstanding stock options and other equity awards;
changes in financial estimates by industry analysts, or our failure to meet or exceed any such estimates, or changes in the recommendations of any industry analysts that elect to follow our common stock or the common stock of our competitors;
impairment of intangible assets;
actual or anticipated changes in economic, political or market conditions, such as recessions or international currency fluctuations;
actual or anticipated changes in the regulatory environment affecting our industry;
changes in the market valuations of our competitors;
low trading volume; and
announcements by our competitors regarding significant new products or services or significant acquisitions, strategic partnerships, divestitures, joint ventures or other strategic initiatives.
The trading price of our common stock might also decline in reaction to events that affect other companies in our industry even if these events do not directly affect us. If our stock, the market for other stocks in our industry, or the stock market in general
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experiences a loss of investor confidence, the trading price of our common stock could decline for reasons unrelated to our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We may not pay dividends on our common stock in the foreseeable future.
We do not currently pay cash dividends on our common stock, and we may elect to retain all cash we generate to fund the growth of our business, fund acquisitions, pay down our existing debt, or for other purposes. Accordingly, we may not pay dividends on our common stock in the foreseeable future.
Risks related to legal and regulatory matters
Our business is subject to extensive government regulation, which mandates how we may operate our business and may increase our cost of providing services and slow our expansion into new markets.
Our ownership and operation of a satellite communications system and the sale of products that operate on that system are subject to significant regulation in the United States, including by the FCC, the U.S. Department of Commerce and others, and in foreign jurisdictions by similar local authorities. The rules and regulations of these U.S. and foreign authorities may change, and such authorities may adopt regulations that limit or restrict our operations as presently conducted or currently contemplated. Such authorities may also make changes in the licenses of our competitors that affect our spectrum. Such changes may significantly affect our business. Further, because regulations in each country are different, we may not be aware if some of our distribution partners or persons with whom we or they do business do not hold the requisite licenses and approvals. Our failure to provide services in accordance with the terms of our licenses or our failure to operate our satellites or ground stations as required by our licenses and applicable laws and government regulations could result in the imposition of government sanctions on us, including the suspension or cancellation of our licenses. Our failure or delay in obtaining the approvals required to operate in other countries would limit or delay our ability to expand our operations into those countries. Our failure to obtain industry-standard or government-required certifications for our products could compromise our ability to generate revenue and conduct our business in other countries. Any imposition of sanctions, loss of license or failure to obtain the authorizations necessary to use our assigned radio frequency spectrum and to distribute our products in the United States or foreign jurisdictions could cause us to lose sales, hurt our reputation and impair our ability to pursue our business plan.
In addition, one of our subsidiaries, Iridium Carrier Services LLC, holds a common carrier radio license and is thus subject to regulation as a common carrier, including limitations and prior approval requirements with respect to direct or indirect foreign ownership. A change in the manner in which we provide service, or a failure to comply with any common carrier regulations that apply to us or to pay required fees, could result in sanctions including fines, loss of authorizations, or the denial of applications for new authorizations or the renewal of existing authorizations.
Repurposing of satellite spectrum by adjacent operators of L-band spectrum for terrestrial services could interfere with our services.
In February 2003, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, adopted Ancillary Terrestrial Component, or ATC, rules that permit satellite service providers to establish terrestrial wireless networks in previously satellite-only bands, subject to certain requirements intended to ensure that terrestrial services remain ancillary to primary satellite operations and do not interfere with existing operators. In 2011, the FCC granted Ligado Networks (then known as Lightsquared), or Ligado, a waiver to convert its L-band satellite spectrum to terrestrial use, including a 10 MHz band close to the spectrum that we use for all of our services. That waiver was subsequently suspended in 2012 due to concerns about potential interference to GPS operations. Ligado sought another waiver in 2015 to modify the ATC of its L-band mobile satellite service network with a terrestrial-only proposal designed to address GPS industry concerns. In April 2020, the FCC announced that it had approved Ligado’s waiver request. We oppose this waiver out of concern for the interference that we believe Ligado’s proposed operations would cause to our operations in adjacent L-band spectrum.
Ligado’s implementation of these services would result in terrestrial use of L-band spectrum in the 1.6 GHz band, which we use to provide our services, and such implementation may affect the performance of our system for customers of our existing and future services. While the FCC’s decision to approve these services included conditions designed to protect other satellite services that use L-band spectrum from harmful interference, these conditions may prove insufficient, or the level of services provided may exceed those estimated by the FCC, in which case these or future terrestrial services permitted by the FCC could substantially interfere with our satellites and devices, which would adversely affect our services. If other countries permit similar terrestrial use of L-band spectrum in the 1.6 GHz band, the performance of our system may be subject to interference there as well.
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If the FCC revokes, modifies or fails to renew our licenses, or fails to grant a new license or modification, our ability to operate will be harmed or eliminated.
We hold FCC licenses, specifically a license for our satellite constellation, licenses for our U.S. gateway and other ground facilities, and blanket earth station licenses for U.S. government customers and commercial subscribers, that are subject to revocation if we fail to satisfy specified conditions. The FCC licenses are also subject to modification by the FCC. Our satellite constellation license expires on February 23, 2032. Our U.S. gateway earth station and the U.S. government customer and commercial subscriber earth station licenses expire between October 2021 and 2026. There can be no assurance that the FCC will renew the FCC licenses we hold or grant new ones or modifications. If the FCC revokes, modifies or fails to renew the FCC licenses we hold, or fails to grant a new license or modification, or if we fail to satisfy any of the conditions of our respective FCC licenses, we may not be able to continue to provide mobile satellite communications services.
As we and our distributors expand our offerings to include more consumer-oriented devices, we are more likely to be subject to product liability claims, recalls or litigation, which could adversely affect our business and financial performance.
Through our distributors, we offer several devices and services aimed at individual consumers, and we and our distributors continue to introduce additional devices and services. These devices and services, such as satellite handsets, personal locator devices and location-based services, can contain design and manufacturing defects. Defects may also occur in components and devices that we purchase from third parties. There can be no assurance we will be able to detect and fix all defects in the hardware, software and services that we sell. These devices and services may be used in isolated and dangerous locations, including emergency response situations, and users who suffer property damage, personal injury or death while using such devices or services may seek to assert claims or bring lawsuits against us. Further, it is possible that our devices could become the subject of consumer protection investigations, enforcement actions, or litigation, including class actions. We seek to limit our exposure to all of these claims by maintaining a consumer protection compliance program, and through appropriate notices, disclosures, indemnification provisions and disclaimers, but these steps may not be effective. We also maintain product liability insurance, but this insurance may not cover any particular claim or litigation, or the amount of insurance may be inadequate to cover the claims brought against us. Product liability insurance could become more expensive and difficult to maintain and might not be available on acceptable terms or at all. In addition, it is possible that our devices could become the subject of a product recall as a result of a device defect. We do not maintain recall insurance, so any recall could have a significant effect on our financial results. In addition to the direct expenses of product liability claims, investigations, recalls and litigation, a claim, investigation, recall or litigation might cause us adverse publicity, which could harm our reputation and compromise our ability to sell our devices in the future.
The collection, storage, transmission, use and disclosure of user data and personal information could give rise to liabilities or additional costs as a result of laws, governmental regulations, and evolving views of personal privacy rights and information security standards.
We transmit, process, and in some cases store in the normal course of our business, personal information. Many jurisdictions around the world have adopted laws and regulations regarding the collection, storage, transmission, use and disclosure of personal information. The legal standards for processing, storing and using this personal information continue to evolve, impose additional obligations and risk on our business, and have the potential to make some of our business processes more costly or less feasible. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act, or the CCPA, went into effect on January 1, 2020 and gives California residents expanded rights to access and delete their personal information, opt out of certain personal information sharing and receive detailed information about how their personal information is used by requiring companies to provide new disclosures to California consumers (as that term is broadly defined) and provide such consumers new ways to opt out of certain sales of personal information. In Europe, the European Commission enacted the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which became effective in May 2018. The GDPR superseded prior EU data protection legislation, imposes more stringent EU data protection requirements, and provides for greater penalties for noncompliance.
In addition, the interpretation of privacy and data protection laws and regulations regarding the collection, storage, transmission, use and disclosure of such information in some jurisdictions remains unclear. These laws may be interpreted, applied and enforced in conflicting ways from country to country and in a manner that is not consistent with our current business practices. Complying with these varying privacy and data security legal requirements could cause us to incur additional costs and change our business practices. Further, our services are accessible in many foreign jurisdictions, and some of these jurisdictions may claim that we are required to comply with their laws, even where we have no operating entity, employees or infrastructure located in that jurisdiction. We could face direct expenses related to a variety of enforcement actions, government investigations, or litigation, and an interruption to our business and adverse publicity because of such enforcement actions, government investigations, or litigation. Such enforcement actions, government investigations, or litigation could also cause us to incur significant expenses if we were required to modify our products, our services, our
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infrastructure, or our existing security and privacy procedures in order to comply with new or expanded privacy and security regulations.
In addition, if end users allege that their personal information is not collected, stored, transmitted, used or disclosed by us or our business partners appropriately or in accordance with our policies or applicable laws, or that our failure to adequately secure their personal information compromised its security, we could have liability to them or to consumer protection agencies, including claims, investigations and litigation related to such allegations. Any failure on our part to protect end users’ personal information could result in a loss of user confidence, hurt our reputation, result in the loss of users, and cause us to incur significant expenses.
We have been and may in the future become subject to claims that our devices or services violate the patent or intellectual property rights of others, which could be costly and disruptive to us.
We operate in an industry that is susceptible to significant intellectual property litigation. As a result, we or our devices or services may become subject to intellectual property infringement claims or litigation. The defense of intellectual property suits is both costly and time-consuming, even if ultimately successful, and may divert management’s attention from other business concerns. An adverse determination in litigation to which we may become a party could, among other things:
subject us to significant liabilities to third parties, including treble damages;
require disputed rights to be licensed from a third party for royalties that may be substantial;
require us to cease using technology that is important to our business; or
prohibit us from selling some or all of our devices or offering some or all of our services.
We may be unable to offer one or more services in important regions of the world due to regulatory requirements, which could limit our growth.
While our constellation is capable of providing service globally, our ability to sell one or more types of service in some regions may be limited by local regulations. Some countries have specific regulatory requirements such as local domestic ownership requirements or requirements for physical gateways within their jurisdiction to connect traffic coming to and from their territory. In some countries, we may not be able to find an acceptable local partner or reach an agreement to develop additional gateways, or the cost of developing and deploying such gateways may be prohibitive, which could impair our ability to expand our product and service offerings in such areas and undermine our value for potential users who require service in these areas. Also, other countries where we already provide service may impose similar requirements in the future, which could restrict our ability to continue to sell service in those countries. The inability to offer to sell our products and services in all major international markets could impair our international growth. In addition, the construction of such gateways in foreign countries may trigger and require us to comply with various U.S. regulatory requirements that could conflict with or contravene the laws or regulations of the local jurisdiction. Any of these developments could limit, delay or otherwise interfere with our ability to construct gateways or other infrastructure or network solutions around the world.
Security and emergency services regulations in the U.S. and other countries may affect our ability to operate our system and to expand into new markets.
Our operations are subject to regulations of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security relating to the export of satellites and related technical data as well as our subscriber equipment, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control relating to transactions involving entities sanctioned by the United States, and the U.S. State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls relating to satellite launch. We are also required to provide U.S. and some foreign government law enforcement and security agencies with call interception services and related government assistance, in respect of which we face legal obligations and restrictions in various jurisdictions. Given our global operations and unique network architecture, these requirements and restrictions are not always easy to comply with or harmonize. In addition, some countries require providers of telecommunications services to connect specified emergency numbers to local emergency services. We have discussed and continue to discuss with authorities in various countries the procedures used to satisfy our obligations, and have had to, and may in the future need to, obtain amendments or waivers to licenses or obligations in various countries. Countries are not obligated to grant requested amendments or waivers, and there can be no assurance that relevant authorities will not suspend or revoke our licenses or take other legal actions to attempt to enforce the requirements of their respective jurisdictions.
These U.S. and foreign obligations and regulations may limit or delay our ability to offer products and services in a particular country. As new laws and regulations are issued, we may be required to modify our business plans or operations. In addition, changing and conflicting national and local regulatory requirements may cause us to be in compliance with local requirements in one country, while not being in compliance with the laws and regulations of another. If we fail to comply with regulations in
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the United States or any other country, we could be subject to substantial fines or sanctions that could make it difficult or impossible for us to operate in the United States or such other country, or we may need to make substantial additional expenditures to bring our systems, products and services into compliance with the requirements.
We may be unable to obtain and maintain contractually required liability insurance, and the insurance we obtain may not cover all liabilities to which we may become subject.
Under our agreements with Motorola Solutions and the U.S. government, we are required to maintain an in-orbit liability insurance policy with a de-orbiting endorsement. The current policy, together with the de-orbiting endorsement, covers amounts that we and other specified parties may become liable to pay for bodily injury and property damages to third parties related to processing, maintaining, and de-orbiting our first-generation satellites. Our current policy has a one-year term, which expires on December 8, 2021, and excludes coverage for all third-party damages relating to the 2009 collision of our satellite with a non-operational Russian satellite. The price, terms and availability of insurance have fluctuated significantly since we began offering commercial satellite services. The cost of obtaining insurance can vary as a result of either satellite failures or general conditions in the insurance industry. Higher premiums on insurance policies would increase our cost. In-orbit liability insurance policies on satellites may not continue to be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all. In addition to higher premiums, insurance policies may provide for higher deductibles, shorter coverage periods and additional policy exclusions. For example, our current de-orbit insurance covers only twelve months from attachment and therefore would not cover losses arising outside that timeframe. In addition, even if we continue to maintain an in-orbit liability insurance policy, the coverage may not protect us against all third-party losses, which could be material.
Our current in-orbit liability insurance policy contains, and we expect any future policies would likewise contain, specified exclusions and material change limitations customary in the industry. These exclusions may relate to, among other things, losses resulting from in-orbit collisions such as the one we experienced in 2009, acts of war, insurrection, terrorism or military action, government confiscation, strikes, riots, civil commotions, labor disturbances, sabotage, unauthorized use of the satellites, and nuclear or radioactive contamination, as well as claims directly or indirectly occasioned as a result of noise, pollution, electrical and electromagnetic interference, and interference with the use of property.
In addition to our in-orbit liability insurance policy, we are required to purchase product liability insurance to cover the potential liability of Motorola Solutions, as the successor to the manufacturer of our first-generation satellites. We may not in the future be able to renew this product liability coverage on reasonable terms and conditions, or at all. Our failure to maintain this insurance could increase our exposure to third-party damages that may be caused by any of our satellites.
Wireless devices’ radio frequency emissions are the subject of regulation and litigation concerning their environmental effects, which includes alleged health and safety risks. As a result, we may be subject to new regulations, demand for our services may decrease, and we could face liability based on alleged health risks.
There has been adverse publicity concerning alleged health risks associated with radio frequency transmissions from portable hand-held telephones that have transmitting antennas. Lawsuits have been filed against participants in the wireless industry alleging a number of adverse health consequences, including cancer, as a result of wireless phone usage. Other claims allege consumer harm from failures to disclose information about radio frequency emissions or aspects of the regulatory regimes governing those emissions. Although we have not been party to any such lawsuits, we may be exposed to such litigation in the future. While we comply with applicable standards for radio frequency emissions and power and do not believe that there is valid scientific evidence that use of our devices poses a health risk, courts or governmental agencies could determine otherwise. Any such finding could reduce our revenue and profitability and expose us and other communications service providers or device sellers to litigation, which, even if frivolous or unsuccessful, could be costly to defend.
If consumers’ health concerns over radio frequency emissions increase, they may be discouraged from using wireless handsets or other wireless consumer devices. Further, government authorities might increase regulation of wireless handsets and other wireless consumer devices as a result of these health concerns. Any actual or perceived risk from radio frequency emissions could reduce the number of our subscribers and demand for our products and services.
Our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards to offset future taxable income may be subject to certain limitations.
Our ability to utilize U.S. net operating loss carryforwards and other tax attributes may be limited if we experience an “ownership change” under Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, which generally occurs if one or more stockholders or groups of stockholders who own at least 5% of our common stock increase their ownership in the aggregate by more than 50% over their lowest ownership percentage within a rolling period that begins on the later of three years prior to the testing date and the date of the last ownership change. Similar rules may apply under state tax laws. If an “ownership change” were to occur, Section 382 of the Code would impose an annual limit on the amount of pre-ownership change net operating loss carryforwards and other tax attributes we could use to reduce our taxable income. It is possible that
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such an ownership change could materially reduce our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards or other tax attributes to offset taxable income, which could impact our profitability.
We could be subject to adverse determinations by taxing authorities or changes to tax laws.
We are subject to regular review and audit by both domestic and foreign tax authorities. As a result, we have received, and may in the future receive, assessments in multiple jurisdictions on various tax-related assertions, including transfer pricing adjustments or permanent establishment. Any adverse outcome of such a review or audit could have a negative effect on our operating results and financial condition. In addition, the determination of our provision for income taxes and other tax liabilities requires significant judgment, including transactions and calculations where the ultimate tax determination is uncertain. Although we believe our estimates are reasonable, the ultimate tax outcome may differ from the amounts recorded in our financial statements and may materially affect our financial results in the period or periods for which such determination is made. Furthermore, tax policies, laws or rates in various jurisdictions may be subject to significant change, which could materially and adversely affect our financial position and results of operations.
Changes in tax laws could increase our worldwide tax rate and materially affect our financial position and results of operations.
Many U.S. states and foreign countries have adopted or proposed changes to current tax laws. Further, organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have published action plans that, if adopted by countries where we do business, could increase our tax obligations in these countries. Due to our U.S. and international business activities, certain of these enacted and proposed changes to the taxation of our activities could increase our worldwide effective tax rate, which in turn could harm our financial position and results of operations.
If we fail to maintain proper and effective internal controls, our ability to produce accurate financial statements on a timely basis could be impaired.
We are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, and the rules and regulations of the SEC and The Nasdaq Global Select Market. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires, among other things, that we maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures and internal controls over financial reporting. We perform system and process evaluation and testing of our internal controls over financial reporting to allow management to report on the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting in our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, as required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. If we are not able to comply with the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in a timely manner, or if we are unable to maintain proper and effective internal controls, we may not be able to produce timely and accurate financial statements, and we may conclude that our internal controls over financial reporting are not effective. If that were to happen, the market price of our stock could decline, and we could be subject to sanctions or investigations by the Nasdaq Global Select Market, the SEC or other regulatory authorities.
Maintaining effective internal controls over financial reporting is necessary for us to produce reliable financial statements. If we fail to maintain such controls, it could result in a material misstatement of our financial statements that would not be prevented or detected on a timely basis, which could cause investors and other users to lose confidence in our financial statements.

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments

None.

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Item 2. Properties

We own or lease the facilities described in the following table: 
LocationCountryApproximate
Square Feet
FacilitiesOwned/Leased
McLean, VirginiaUSA30,600Corporate HeadquartersLeased
Chandler, ArizonaUSA197,000Technical Support Center, Distribution Center, Warehouse and Satellite Teleport Network FacilityLeased
Leesburg, VirginiaUSA40,000Satellite Network Operations CenterOwned
Tempe, ArizonaUSA31,000System Gateway and Satellite Teleport Network FacilityOwned Building on Leased Land
Tempe, ArizonaUSA25,000Operations and Finance Office SpaceLeased
Fairbanks, AlaskaUSA4,000Satellite Teleport Network FacilityOwned
SvalbardNorway1,800Satellite Teleport Network FacilityOwned Building on Leased Land
Izhevsk, UdmurtiaRussia8,785System Gateway and Satellite Teleport Network FacilityLeased
MoscowRussia2,158Sales and Administration OfficesLeased
Punta ArenasChile3,200Satellite Teleport Network FacilityOwned Building on Leased Land

Item 3. Legal Proceedings

Neither we nor any of our subsidiaries are currently subject to any material legal proceeding, nor, to our knowledge, is any material legal proceeding threatened against us or any of our subsidiaries.

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.

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PART II
 
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

Our common stock is currently listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “IRDM.” As of February 5, 2021 there were 118 holders of record of our common stock.

Dividend Policy

We have not paid any dividends on our common stock to date.

Stock Price Performance Graph

The graph below compares the cumulative total return of our common stock from December 31, 2015 through December 31, 2020 with the comparable cumulative return of three indices, the S&P 500 Index, the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index and the Nasdaq Telecommunications Index. The graph plots the growth in value of an initial investment of $100 in each of our common stock, the S&P 500 Index, the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index and the Nasdaq Telecommunications Index over the indicated time periods. The stock price performance shown on the graph is not necessarily indicative of future price performance. The following stock price performance graph shall not be deemed to be “filed” for purposes of Section 18 of the Exchange Act, nor shall this information be incorporated by reference into any future filing under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act or any other document, except to the extent that we specifically incorporate it by reference into such filing or document.
irdm-20201231_g1.jpg

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Item 6. Selected Financial Data

Iridium Communications Inc.

The following selected historical financial data as of and for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 was derived from our audited financial statements. The selected financial data below should be read in conjunction with our financial statements and related notes, and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included elsewhere in this Report. The selected financial data is historical data and is not necessarily indicative of our future results of operations.

Year Ended December 31,
Statement of Operations Data20202019201820172016
 (In thousands, except per share amounts)
Revenue:
Services$463,095 $447,158 $406,757 $349,735 $334,822 
Subscriber equipment86,119 82,856 97,848 77,119 74,211 
Engineering and support services34,225 30,430 18,403 21,192 24,607 
Total revenue$583,439 $560,444 $523,008 $448,046 $433,640 
Total operating expenses (1)
$547,956 $550,324 $481,355 $346,759 $257,269 
Operating income (2)
$35,483 $10,120 $41,653 $115,476 $176,371 
Net income (loss) (3)
$(56,054)$(161,999)$(13,384)$233,856 $111,032 
Comprehensive income (loss)$(66,367)$(160,069)$(18,385)$235,506 $114,649 
Weighted average shares outstanding - basic133,491 125,167 108,975 97,934 95,967 
Weighted average shares outstanding - diluted133,491 125,167 108,975 128,130 124,875 
Net income (loss) per share - basic$(0.42)$(1.33)$(0.22)$2.23 $1.00 
Net income (loss) per share - diluted$(0.42)$(1.33)$(0.22)$1.82 $0.89 
December 31,
Balance Sheet Data20202019201820172016
 (In thousands)
Total current assets$347,821 $342,935 $390,384 $411,072 $516,770 
Total assets (1)(3)
$3,360,949 $3,623,557 $4,014,271 $3,782,051 $3,499,625 
Total long-term liabilities (3)
$1,828,438 $2,050,524 $2,149,975 $1,971,356 $2,072,673 
Total stockholders' equity$1,419,439 $1,459,282 $1,601,577 $1,596,469 $1,343,758 
(1)     Includes accelerated depreciation of $36.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 associated with the write-off of amounts previously paid to International Space Company Kosmotras (“Kosmotras”) which decreased operating income and total assets by that amount.
(2)    Includes the impact of $14.2 million related to the gain on the transaction with Boeing, effective January 3, 2017.
(3)     Includes the impact of $30.2 million and $111.7 million loss on extinguishment of debt in February 2020 and November 2019, respectively, and the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, or the Tax Act, enacted in December 2017 on our deferred tax assets and liabilities.
Year Ended December 31,
Cash Flow Data20202019201820172016
 (In thousands)
Cash provided by (used in):
Operating activities$249,767 $198,143 $263,709 $259,621 $225,199 
Investing activities$(46,470)$(127,819)$(378,912)$(372,680)$(242,360)
Financing activities$(188,186)$(313,280)$193,503 $16,866 $224,178 

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Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

Background

We were initially formed in 2007 as GHL Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company. In 2009, we acquired all the outstanding equity in Iridium Holdings LLC and changed our name to Iridium Communications Inc.

Overview of Our Business

We are engaged primarily in providing mobile voice and data communications services using a constellation of orbiting satellites. We are the only commercial provider of communications services offering true global coverage, connecting people, organizations and assets to and from anywhere, in real time. Our unique L-band satellite network provides reliable communications services to regions of the world where terrestrial wireless or wireline networks do not exist or are limited, including remote land areas, open ocean, airways, the polar regions and regions where the telecommunications infrastructure has been affected by political conflicts or natural disasters.

We provide voice and data communications services to businesses, the U.S. and foreign governments, non-governmental organizations and consumers via our upgraded satellite network, which has an architecture of 66 operational satellites with in-orbit and ground spares and related ground infrastructure. We utilize an interlinked mesh architecture to route traffic across the satellite constellation using radio frequency crosslinks between satellites. This unique architecture minimizes the need for ground facilities to support the constellation, which facilitates the global reach of our services and allows us to offer services in countries and regions where we have no physical presence. Our upgraded satellite constellation is compatible with all of our end-user equipment and supports more bandwidth and higher data speeds for our new products, including our recently introduced Iridium Certus broadband service.

We sell our products and services to commercial end users through a wholesale distribution network, encompassing approximately 125 service providers, 285 value-added resellers, or VARs, and 90 value-added manufacturers, or VAMs, who either sell directly to the end user or indirectly through other service providers, VARs or dealers. These distributors often integrate our products and services with other complementary hardware and software and have developed a broad suite of applications for our products and services targeting specific lines of business.

At December 31, 2020 we had approximately 1,476,000 billable subscribers worldwide, an increase of 176,000, or 14%, from approximately 1,300,000 billable subscribers at December 31, 2019. We have a diverse customer base, including end users in land-mobile, Internet of Things, or IoT, maritime, aviation and government.

We recognize revenue from both the provision of services and the sale of equipment. Service revenue represented 79% and 80% of total revenue for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. Voice and data and IoT data service revenues have historically generated higher margins than subscriber equipment revenue, and we expect this trend to continue. We also recognize revenue from our hosted payloads, principally Aireon, including fees for hosting the payloads and fees for transmitting data from the payloads over our network, as well as revenue from other services, such as satellite time and location services.

Services Agreements for Upgrade of Satellite Constellation

In 2019, we completed the full replacement of our first-generation satellites with our upgraded constellation at a cost of approximately $3 billion.

In June 2010, we executed a primarily fixed price full scale development contract, or FSD, with Thales Alenia Space for the design and manufacture of satellites for the upgraded constellation. The total price under the FSD was $2.3 billion. Final payments under this contract were made during the second quarter of 2019. These costs were capitalized as construction in progress within property and equipment, net in the accompanying condensed consolidated balance sheets.

To complete the upgraded constellation, we launched a total of 75 satellites into low earth orbit using eight Falcon 9 rockets under two contracts with Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, with a total price of $510.8 million. Final payments to SpaceX for these launches were made during the second quarter of 2019. These costs were capitalized as construction in progress within property and equipment, net in the accompanying consolidated balance sheets. We shared one launch with GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences for which we received $29.8 million from them.

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Term Loan

On November 4, 2019, pursuant to a new loan agreement, or the Credit Agreement, we entered into a $1,450.0 million term loan, or the Term Loan, and an accompanying $100.0 million revolving loan, or the Revolving Facility. We used the proceeds of the Term Loan along with our debt service reserve account, or DSRA, and cash on hand to repay in full all of the indebtedness outstanding under the credit facility with a syndicate of bank lenders guaranteed by Bpifrance Assurance Export S.A.S., or the BPIAE Facility, as well as related expenses. The Term Loan was issued at a price equal to 99.5% of its face value and initially bore interest at an annual rate of LIBOR plus 3.75%, with a 1.0% LIBOR floor, and has a seven-year maturity.

On February 7, 2020, we closed on an additional $200.0 million under the Term Loan. On February 13, 2020, we used these proceeds, together with cash on hand, to prepay and retire all of the indebtedness outstanding under our senior unsecured notes, or the Notes, including premiums for early prepayment. The additional amount is fungible with the original $1,450.0 million, having the same maturity date, interest rate and other terms, but was issued at a 1.0% premium to face value. To prepay the Notes, we paid a call price equal to the present value at the redemption date of (i) 105.125% of the $360.0 million principal amount of the Notes plus (ii) all interest due through the first call date in April 2020, representing a total call premium of $23.5 million, plus all accrued and unpaid interest to the redemption date.

In January 2021, we repriced the Term Loan in order to reduce the annual interest rate to LIBOR plus 2.75%, with a 1.0% LIBOR floor, with no other material changes to the terms. The Revolving Facility bears interest at LIBOR plus 3.75% (but without a LIBOR floor) if and as drawn, with no original issue discount, a commitment fee of 0.5% per year on the undrawn amount, and a five-year maturity. See Note 7 for further discussion of our Term Loan.

The Credit Agreement, as amended to date, restricts our ability to incur liens, engage in mergers or asset sales, pay dividends, repay subordinated indebtedness, incur indebtedness, make investments and loans, and engage in other transactions as specified in the Credit Agreement, and also contains a mechanism to sweep a portion of our excess cash flow (as defined in the Credit Agreement). The Credit Agreement provides for specified exceptions, baskets measured as a percentage of trailing twelve months of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, and unlimited exceptions in the case of incurring indebtedness and liens and making investments, dividend payments, and payments of subordinated indebtedness, as well as a phase-out of the excess cash flow sweep, based on achievement and maintenance of specified leverage ratios. The Credit Agreement permits repayment, prepayment, and repricing transactions, subject to a 1% penalty in the event the facility is prepaid or repriced within six months after the repricing action noted above.

The Credit Agreement contains no financial maintenance covenants with respect to the Term Loan. With respect to the Revolving Facility, the Credit Agreement requires the maintenance of a consolidated first lien net leverage ratio (as defined in the Credit Agreement) of no greater than 6.25 to 1 if more than 35% of the Revolving Facility has been drawn. The Credit Agreement also contains other customary representations and warranties, affirmative and negative covenants, and events of default.

Derivative Financial Instruments

On November 27, 2019, we executed a long-term interest rate swap, or the Swap, effective through November 2021 to mitigate variability in forecasted interest payments on a portion of our borrowings under our Term Loan. We receive variable interest payments based on one-month LIBOR from the counterparty. We also entered into an interest rate swaption agreement, or the Swaption, that, if executed on November 22, 2021, would extend our Swap through November 2026. We pay a fixed annual rate of 0.50% for the Swaption, and a fixed rate of 1.565% on the Swap. Both the Swap and the Swaption derivative instruments carry a notional amount of $1,000.0 million. We designated both the Swap and Swaption as qualifying hedging instruments and accounted for these derivatives as cash flow hedges. Gains and losses resulting from fair value adjustments to the Swap and Swaption are recorded within accumulated other comprehensive loss within our consolidated balance sheets and reclassified to interest expense on the dates that interest payments become due. Cash flows related to the interest rate swaps are included in cash flows from operating activities on the consolidated statements of cash flows. See Note 8 to our consolidated financial statements included in this report for further discussion of our derivative financial instruments.

Senior Unsecured Notes

On March 21, 2018, we issued $360.0 million in aggregate principal under the Notes, before $9.0 million of deferred financing costs, for a net principal balance of $351.0 million in borrowings from the Notes. The Notes bore interest at 10.25% per annum and were due to mature on April 15, 2023. Interest was payable semi-annually on April 15 and October 15, beginning on October 15, 2018, and principal would have been repaid in full upon maturity. As noted above, the notes were redeemed on February 13, 2020.
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Total Interest on Debt and Loss on Extinguishment

Total interest incurred during the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018 was $98.6 million, $140.1 million and $142.7 million, respectively. Interest incurred includes amortization of deferred financing fees of $3.8 million, $21.6 million and $26.5 million, for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively. Interest capitalized during the year ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 was $3.2 million and $15.1 million, respectively. Interest accrued for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 was $0.2 million and $7.8 million, respectively. As part of the repayment of the BPIAE Facility in November 2019, noted above, we incurred a loss of approximately $111.7 million for the early extinguishment which was recorded within other income (expense) on our consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive loss. Similarly, in February 2020, we incurred a loss of approximately $30.2 million for the early extinguishment of the Notes, also recorded within other income (expense) on our consolidated statements of operations and comprehensive loss.

Material Trends and Uncertainties
 
Our industry and customer base has historically grown as a result of:
demand for remote and reliable mobile communications services;
a growing number of new products and services and related applications;
a broad wholesale distribution network with access to diverse and geographically dispersed niche markets;
increased demand for communications services by disaster and relief agencies, and emergency first responders;
improved data transmission speeds for mobile satellite service offerings;
regulatory mandates requiring the use of mobile satellite services;
a general reduction in prices of mobile satellite services and subscriber equipment; and
geographic market expansion through the ability to offer our services in additional countries.

Nonetheless, we face a number of challenges and uncertainties in operating our business, including:
our ability to maintain the health, capacity, control and level of service of our satellites;
our ability to develop and launch new and innovative products and services;
changes in general economic, business and industry conditions, including the effects of currency exchange rates;
our reliance on a single primary commercial gateway and a primary satellite network operations center;
competition from other mobile satellite service providers and, to a lesser extent, from the expansion of terrestrial-based cellular phone systems and related pricing pressures;
market acceptance of our products;
regulatory requirements in existing and new geographic markets;
rapid and significant technological changes in the telecommunications industry;
our ability to generate sufficient internal cash flows to repay our debt;
reliance on our wholesale distribution network to market and sell our products, services and applications effectively;
reliance on single-source suppliers for the manufacture of most of our subscriber equipment and for some of the components required in the manufacture of our end-user subscriber equipment and our ability to purchase parts that are periodically subject to shortages resulting from surges in demand, natural disasters or other events; and
reliance on a few significant customers, particularly agencies of the U.S. government, for a substantial portion of our revenue, as a result of which the loss or decline in business with any of these customers may negatively impact our revenue and collectability of related accounts receivable.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
 
The discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations is based upon our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States, or U.S. GAAP. The preparation of these financial statements requires the use of estimates and judgments that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses, and related disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities. On an ongoing
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basis, we evaluate our estimates, including those related to revenue recognition, income taxes, useful lives of property and equipment, loss contingencies, and other estimates. We base our estimates on historical experience and on various other assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions.
 
The accounting policies we believe to be most critical to understanding our financial results and condition and that require complex and subjective management judgments are discussed below. Our accounting policies are more fully described in Note 2 in Item 8 “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data” included in this report. Please see the notes to our consolidated financial statements for a full discussion of these significant accounting policies.
 
Revenue Recognition
 
We sell services and equipment through contracts with our customers. We evaluate whether a contract exists as it relates to collectibility of the contract. Once a contract is deemed to exist, we evaluate the transaction price including both fixed and variable consideration. The variable consideration contained within our contracts with customers may include discounts, credits and other similar items. When a contract includes variable consideration, we evaluate the estimate of the variable consideration to determine whether the estimate needs to be constrained. Therefore, we include constrained consideration in the transaction price only to the extent that it is probable that a significant reversal of the amount of cumulative revenue recognized will not occur when the uncertainty associated with the variable consideration or collectibility is subsequently resolved. Variable consideration estimates are updated at the end of each quarter and collectibility assessments are evaluated with new customers, or on an ongoing basis if initially deemed not probable, and updated as facts and circumstances change. 

We sell prepaid services in the form of e-vouchers and prepaid cards. A liability is established equal to the cash paid upon purchase for the e-voucher or prepaid card. We recognize revenue from (i) the prepaid services upon the use of the e-voucher or prepaid card by the customer and (ii) the estimated pattern of use. While the terms of prepaid e-vouchers can be extended by the purchase of additional e-vouchers, prepaid e-vouchers may not be extended beyond three or four years, dependent on the initial term when purchased.

Revenue associated with some of our fixed-price engineering services arrangements is recognized over time using costs incurred to date relative to total estimated costs at completion to measure progress toward satisfying our performance obligation. We recognize revenue on cost-plus-fixed-fee arrangements to the extent of estimated costs incurred plus the applicable fees earned. If actual results are not consistent with our estimates or assumptions, we may be exposed to changes to earned and unearned revenue that could be material to our results of operations.
 
Income Taxes

We account for income taxes using the asset and liability approach. This approach requires that we recognize deferred tax assets and liabilities based on differences between the financial statement bases and tax bases of our assets and liabilities. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are recorded based upon enacted tax rates for the period in which the deferred tax items are expected to reverse. Changes in tax laws or tax rates in various jurisdictions are reflected in the period of change. Significant judgment is required in the calculation of our tax provision and the resulting tax liabilities as well as our ability to realize our deferred tax assets. Our estimates of future taxable income and any changes to such estimates can significantly impact our tax provision in a given period. Significant judgment is required in determining our ability to realize our deferred tax assets related to federal, state and foreign tax attributes within their carryforward periods including estimating the amount and timing of the future reversal of deferred tax items in our projections of future taxable income. A valuation allowance is established to reduce deferred tax assets to the amounts we expect to realize in the future. We also recognize tax benefits related to uncertain tax positions only when we estimate that it is “more likely than not” that the position will be sustainable based on its technical merits. If actual results are not consistent with our estimates and assumptions, this may result in material changes to our income tax provision.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted in December of 2017, or the Tax Act, introduced significant changes to U.S. income tax law that have a meaningful impact on our provision for income taxes. Due to the complexity involved in applying the provisions of the Tax Act, we made reasonable estimates of the effects and recorded these estimates in our financial statements. Accounting for the income tax effects of the Tax Act requires significant judgments and estimates in the interpretation and calculations of the various provisions. During 2019 and 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department, as well as the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, and other standard-setting bodies issued guidance related to certain provisions in the Tax Act. These same standard-setting bodies may issue additional guidance on how the provisions of the Tax Act will be applied or otherwise administered that is different from our interpretation. As we collect and prepare necessary data, interpret the Tax Act
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and analyze any additional guidance issued by the IRS or other standard-setting bodies, we may need to make adjustments to prior estimates, which could materially impact our financial statements in the period in which the adjustments are made.

Property and Equipment
 
Property and equipment are stated at cost, less accumulated depreciation and amortization. Property and equipment are depreciated or amortized over their estimated useful lives. We apply judgment in determining the useful lives based on factors such as engineering data, our long-term strategy for using the assets, the manufacturer's estimated design life for the assets, laws and regulations that could impact the useful lives of the assets and other economic factors. In evaluating the useful lives of our satellites, we assess the current estimated operational life of the satellites, including the potential impact of environmental factors on the satellites, ongoing operational enhancements and software upgrades. Additionally, we review engineering data relating to the operation and performance of our satellite network.
 
We depreciate our satellites over the shorter of their potential operational life or the period of their expected use. The appropriateness of the useful lives is evaluated on a quarterly basis or as events occur that require additional assessment. The upgraded satellites that have been placed into service are depreciated using the straight-line method over their respective estimated useful lives. If the estimated useful lives of our upgraded satellites change, it could have a material impact on the timing of the recognition of depreciation expense.
 
During the construction period for our upgraded satellite constellation, assets under construction primarily consisted of costs incurred associated with the design, development and launch of the upgraded satellites, upgrades to our current infrastructure and ground systems and internal software development costs. We capitalized a portion of the interest on the BPIAE Facility during the construction period of the upgraded satellite constellation. Capitalized interest was added to the cost of the upgraded satellites. Once these assets were placed in service, they are depreciated using the straight-line method over their respective estimated useful lives. During each year end, we evaluate the useful lives of all assets under construction.

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Comparison of Our Results of Operations for the Year Ended December 31, 2020 and the Year Ended December 31, 2019 
Year Ended December 31, 
% of Total
Revenue
% of Total
Revenue
Change
($ In thousands)20202019DollarsPercent
Revenue:      
Service revenue
Commercial$362,208 62 %$350,026 63 %$12,182 %
Government100,887 17 %97,132 17 %3,755 %
Total service revenue463,095 79 %447,158 80 %15,937 %
Subscriber equipment86,119 15 %82,856 15 %3,263 %
Engineering and support services34,225 %30,430 %3,795 12 %
Total revenue583,439 100 %560,444 100 %22,995 %
Operating expenses:      
Cost of services (exclusive of depreciation     
and amortization)91,097 16 %94,958 17 %(3,861)(4)%
Cost of subscriber equipment51,596 %50,186 %1,410 %
Research and development12,037 %14,310 %(2,273)(16)%
Selling, general and administrative90,052 15 %93,165 17 %(3,113)(3)%
Depreciation and amortization303,174 52 %297,705 53 %5,469 %
Total operating expenses547,956 94 %550,324 98 %(2,368)%
Operating income35,483 %10,120 %25,363 251 %
Other income (expense):      
Interest expense, net(94,271)(16)%(115,396)(21)%21,125 (18)%
Loss on extinguishment of debt(30,209)(5)%(111,710)(20)%81,501 (73)%
Other income (expense), net33 %(1,133)%1,166 (103)%
Total other expense(124,447)(21)%(228,239)(41)%103,792 (45)%
Loss before income taxes(88,964)(15)%(218,119)(39)%129,155 (59)%
Income tax benefit 32,910 %56,120 10 %(23,210)(41)%
Net loss$(56,054)(10)%$(161,999)(29)%$105,945 (65)%
 
Commercial Service Revenue
Year Ended December 31,
20202019Change
Revenue
Billable
Subscribers (1)
ARPU (2)
Revenue
Billable
Subscribers (1)
ARPU (2)
RevenueBillable
Subscribers
ARPU
(Revenue in millions and subscribers in thousands)
Commercial services:
Voice and data$168.6 350 $40 $173.1 352 $41 $(4.5)(2)$(1)
IoT data97.0 962 $9.16 96.4 802 $11.10 0.6 160 $(1.94)
Broadband (3)
36.0 11.7 $266 30.5 10.8 $248 5.5 0.9 $18 
Hosted payload and other data60.6 N/A50.0 N/A10.6 N/A
Total commercial services$362.2 1,324  $350.0 1,165  $12.2 159  
 
(1)Billable subscriber numbers are shown as of the end of the respective period.
(2)Average monthly revenue per unit, or ARPU, is calculated by dividing revenue in the respective period by the average of the number of billable subscribers at the beginning of the period and the number of billable subscribers at the end of the
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period and then dividing the result by the number of months in the period. Billable subscriber and ARPU data is not applicable for hosted payload and other data service revenue items.
(3)Commercial broadband consists of Iridium OpenPort and Iridium Certus broadband services, which were previously reported in commercial voice and data revenue. Prior year periods have been conformed to this presentation.

For the year ended December 31, 2020, total commercial revenue increased $12.2 million, or 3%, due to increased hosted payload and other data services revenue and increased commercial broadband revenue. Hosted payload and other data service revenue increased $10.6 million, or 21%, primarily due to increased Aireon data service fees related to a contractual step-up and increased Aireon power fees. Commercial broadband revenue increased $5.5 million, or 18%, from the prior year period, principally due to sales of Iridium Certus broadband services, which were commercially introduced in January 2019. Commercial IoT data revenue also increased slightly, up $0.6 million, or 1%, over the prior year period. This primarily reflects a 20% increase in commercial IoT data billable subscribers, primarily from continued strength in consumer personal communications devices, offset in part by a decrease in ARPU, driven by the decrease in usage revenue related to COVID-19, particularly with aviation customers, and an increase in the proportion of consumer personal communications device users comprising IoT subscribers, as users of these devices typically utilize lower ARPU plans. The increases in revenue were partially offset by a $4.5 million, or 3%, decline in commercial voice and data revenue from the prior year resulting from a decrease in subscribers and decreased usage following mobility restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government Service Revenue 
 Year Ended December 31, 
 20202019Change
Revenue
Billable
Subscribers (1)
Revenue
Billable
Subscribers (1)
RevenueBillable
Subscribers
 (Revenue in millions and subscribers in thousands)
Government service revenue$100.9 152 $97.1 135 $3.8 17 
 
(1)Billable subscriber numbers shown are at the end of the respective period.

We provide airtime and airtime support to U.S. government and other authorized customers pursuant to our Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services contract, or the EMSS Contract. Under the terms of this agreement, authorized customers utilize specified Iridium airtime services provided through the U.S. government’s dedicated gateway. The fee is not based on subscribers or usage, allowing an unlimited number of users access to the services. For the year ended December 31, 2020, government service revenue increased $3.8 million from the prior year period as a result of the higher pricing in the new EMSS Contract.

Subscriber Equipment Revenue

Subscriber equipment revenue increased $3.3 million, or 4%, to $86.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the prior year, primarily due to an increase in the volume and higher average selling price of L-band transceivers and an increase in volume of IoT device sales, partially offset by a decrease in the volume of handset sales.

Engineering and Support Service Revenue
 
 Year Ended December 31, 
 20202019Change
 (In millions)
Commercial$4.5 $2.8 $1.7 
Government29.7 27.6 2.1 
Total$34.2 $30.4 $3.8 
 
Engineering and support service revenue increased by $3.8 million, or 12%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the prior year primarily as a result of an increase in the volume of contracted work to enable services for the U.S. government and an increase in the volume of work for commercial customers, primarily related to the Aireon hosted payload operations center.
 
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Operating Expenses
 
Cost of Services (exclusive of depreciation and amortization)
 
Cost of services (exclusive of depreciation and amortization) includes the cost of network engineering and operations staff, including contractors, software maintenance, product support services, and cost of services for government and commercial engineering and support service revenue.
 
Cost of services (exclusive of depreciation and amortization) decreased by $3.9 million, or 4%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the prior year, primarily as a result of a decrease in in-orbit insurance costs, which were amortized over a one-year period from the in-service date, as we completed the placement of upgraded satellites in-orbit in February 2019. This decrease was offset in part by higher costs to support the new EMSS Contract and an increase in the volume of contracted engineering and support services, as noted above.
 
Cost of Subscriber Equipment

Cost of subscriber equipment includes the direct costs of equipment sold, which consist of manufacturing costs, allocation of overhead, and warranty costs.

Cost of subscriber equipment increased $1.4 million, or 3%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the prior year period primarily due to the increase in the volume of L-band transceivers and IoT device sales, as described above.

Research and Development

Research and development expenses decreased by $2.3 million, or 16%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the prior year period primarily due to decreased spend on devices for our upgraded network.

Selling, General and Administrative

Selling, general and administrative expenses that are not directly attributable to the sale of services or products include sales and marketing costs as well as employee-related expenses (such as salaries, wages, and benefits), legal, finance, information technology, facilities, billing and customer care expenses.

Selling, general and administrative expenses decreased by $3.1 million, or 3%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the prior year, primarily due to a decrease in management incentive compensation and decreased spend on travel and marketing related events as a result of COVID-19. These decreases were offset by an increase in wages and equity compensation associated with an increase in headcount.
Depreciation and Amortization
 
Depreciation and amortization expense increased by $5.5 million, or 2%, for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to the prior year, primarily due to the increased number of upgraded satellites in service during the current period as we completed the replacement of our first-generation satellites in February 2019. As the upgraded satellites are the largest proportion of our asset base, we anticipate depreciation and amortization to remain relatively consistent over the next several years.
 
Other Income (Expense)

Interest Expense, net

Interest expense, net, for the year ended December 31, 2020 was $94.3 million, compared to $115.4 million for the prior year period. The decrease was primarily related to the impact of the refinancing of our debt including a decrease in the weighted average effective interest rate and lower average outstanding borrowings under our total debt obligations. The decrease was offset in part by less interest being capitalized as the average balance of satellites in construction decreased in 2020 as upgraded satellites were completed in the prior year and less interest income.

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Loss on Extinguishment of Debt

Loss on extinguishment of debt was $30.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2020, compared to $111.7 million for the prior year period. During November 2019, we issued our Term Loan, and used the proceeds of the Term Loan, along with our DSRA and cash on hand to repay in full all of the indebtedness outstanding under the BPIAE Facility, including premiums for early prepayment. During February 2020, we closed on an additional $200.0 million under our Term Loan and used these proceeds, together with cash on hand, to prepay all of the indebtedness outstanding under the Notes, including premiums for early prepayment. In each case, we wrote off the remaining unamortized debt issuance costs, resulting in the loss on extinguishment of debt.

Income Tax Benefit
 
For the year ended December 31, 2020, our income tax benefit was $32.9 million, compared to an income tax benefit of $56.1 million for the prior year. Our effective tax rate was approximately 37.0% for the year ended December 31, 2020 compared to 25.7% for the prior year. The decrease in income tax benefit was primarily related to a decrease in loss before income taxes compared to the prior year. If our current estimates change in future periods, the impact on the deferred tax assets and liabilities may change correspondingly. See Note 12 to our consolidated financial statements for more detail on the individual items impacting our effective tax rate for the years.

Net Loss
 
Net loss was $56.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2020, compared to net loss of $162.0 million during the prior year. This decrease in net loss was primarily the result of the $81.5 million decrease in loss on extinguishment of debt, the $23.0 million increase in total revenues, and the $21.1 million decrease in interest expense, net, as described above, partially offset by the $23.2 million decrease in income tax benefit, as described above.


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Comparison of Our Results of Operations for the Year Ended December 31, 2019 and the Year Ended December 31, 2018
Year Ended December 31, 
% of Total
Revenue
% of Total
Revenue
Change
($ In thousands)20192018DollarsPercent
Revenue:      
Service revenue
Commercial$350,026 63 %$318,757 61 %$31,269 10 %
Government97,132 17 %88,000 17 %9,132 10 %
Total service revenue447,158 80 %406,757 78 %40,401 10 %
Subscriber equipment82,856 15 %97,848 19 %(14,992)(15)%
Engineering and support services30,430 %18,403 %12,027 65 %
Total revenue560,444 100 %523,008 100 %37,436 %
Operating expenses:      
Cost of services (exclusive of depreciation     
and amortization)94,958 17 %86,016 16 %8,942 10 %
Cost of subscriber equipment50,186 %56,857 11 %(6,671)(12)%
Research and development14,310 %22,429 %(8,119)(36)%
Selling, general and administrative93,165 17 %97,846 19 %(4,681)(5)%
Depreciation and amortization297,705 53 %218,207 42 %79,498 36 %
Total operating expenses550,324 98 %481,355 92 %68,969 14 %
Operating income10,120 %41,653 %(31,533)(76)%
Other income (expense):      
Interest expense, net(115,396)(21)%(55,149)(11)%(60,247)109 %
Loss on extinguishment of debt(111,710)(20)%(7,292)(1)%(104,418)1,432 %
Other income (expense), net(1,133)%139 %(1,272)(915)%
Total other expense(228,239)(41)%(62,302)(12)%(165,937)266 %
Loss before income taxes(218,119)(39)%(20,649)(4)%(197,470)956 %
Income tax benefit56,120 10 %7,265 %48,855 672 %
Net loss$(161,999)(29)%$(13,384)(3)%$(148,615)1,110 %
 
Commercial Service Revenue
Year Ended December 31,
20192018Change
Revenue
Billable
Subscribers (1)
ARPU (2)
Revenue
Billable
Subscribers (1)
ARPU (2)
RevenueBillable
Subscribers
ARPU
(Revenue in millions and subscribers in thousands)
Commercial services:
Voice and data$203.6 363 $47 $193.2 361 $45 $10.4 $
IoT data96.4 802 $11.10 85.1 647 $12.26 11.3 155 $(1.16)
Hosted payload and other data50.0 N/A40.4 N/A9.6 N/A
Total Commercial$350.0 1,165  $318.7 1,008 $31.3 157  
 
(1)Billable subscriber numbers are shown as of the end of the respective period.
(2)Average monthly revenue per unit, or ARPU, is calculated by dividing revenue in the respective period by the average of the number of billable subscribers at the beginning of the period and the number of billable subscribers at the end of the period and then dividing the result by the number of months in the period. Billable subscriber and ARPU data is not applicable for hosted payload and other data service revenue items.

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For the year ended December 31, 2019, total commercial revenue increased $31.3 million, or 10%, due to increased revenue across all commercial services compared to the prior period. Commercial IoT data revenue increased $11.3 million, or 13%, from the prior year period primarily due to a 24% increase in commercial IoT data billable subscribers primarily from continued strength in consumer personal communications devices. This higher volume of new personal communication subscribers caused overall IoT ARPU to be lower. Commercial voice and data revenue increased $10.4 million, or 5%, from the prior year period. This increase was principally due to price increases in access and roaming fees that were implemented during the second quarter of 2018. The increase in commercial voice and data revenue was also due to increased broadband subscribers. Hosted payload and other data service revenue increased $9.6 million, or 24%, primarily due to revenue recognition from hosting services and increased data services due to an increase in the number of upgraded satellites in service, both related to Aireon and L3Harris.
Government Service Revenue 
 Year Ended December 31, 
 20192018Change
Revenue
Billable
Subscribers (1)
Revenue
Billable
Subscribers (1)
RevenueBillable
Subscribers
 (Revenue in millions and subscribers in thousands)
Government service revenue$97.1 135 $88.0 113 $9.1 22 
 
(1)Billable subscriber numbers shown are at the end of the respective period.

We provide airtime and airtime support to U.S. government and other authorized customers pursuant to our EMSS Contract. Under the terms of this agreement, authorized customers utilize certain Iridium airtime services provided through the U.S. government's dedicated gateway. The fee is not based on subscribers or usage, allowing an unlimited number of users access to the services. Immediately prior to entering into the EMSS Contract in September 2019, we were providing airtime service at varying monthly rates to the U.S. government under month-to-month extensions of our previous EMSS contract, following the expiration of a six-month extension on April 21, 2019. For the year ended December 31, 2019, government service revenue increased $9.1 million from the prior year period as a result of the month-to-month extensions we agreed to with the U.S. government while the EMSS Contract was being negotiated and the higher monthly rate once the EMSS Contract was executed and became effective on September 15, 2019.
Subscriber Equipment Revenue
 
Subscriber equipment revenue decreased $15.0 million, or 15%, to $82.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to the prior year. This decrease was primarily due to a decrease in volume of handset sales and Iridium Pilot unit sales, partially offset by an increase in the volume of Short Burst Data devices and Iridium Certus devices. Handset sales in 2018 were abnormally strong.
Engineering and Support Service Revenue
 
 Year Ended December 31, 
 20192018Change
 (In millions)
Commercial$2.8 $0.7 $2.1 
Government27.6 17.7 9.9 
Total$30.4 $18.4 $12.0 

Engineering and support service revenue increased by $12.0 million, or 65%, for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to the prior year primarily as a result of an increase in the volume of contracted work to enable services for the U.S. government.

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Operating Expenses
Cost of Services (exclusive of depreciation and amortization)
Cost of services (exclusive of depreciation and amortization) increased by $8.9 million, or 10%, for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to the prior year, primarily as a result of an increase in the volume of contracted engineering and support services as noted above. This increase was also driven by higher satellite operations support associated with a greater number of upgraded satellites in service during the current period, corresponding with higher levels of activity directed towards operating the completed system. These increases were partially offset by a decrease in in-orbit insurance costs, which are amortized over a one-year period from the launch date, as we have completed the placement of new satellites in-orbit.
Cost of Subscriber Equipment

Cost of subscriber equipment decreased $6.7 million, or 12%, for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to the prior year period primarily due to the decreased volume of handset and Iridium Pilot unit sales, partially offset by an increase in the volume of Short Burst Data devices and Iridium Certus devices.

Research and Development

Research and development expenses decreased by $8.1 million, or 36%, for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to the prior year period primarily due to decreased spend on devices for our upgraded network.

Selling, General and Administrative

Selling, general and administrative expenses that are not directly attributable to the sale of services or products include sales and marketing costs as well as employee-related expenses (such as salaries, wages, and benefits), legal, finance, information technology, facilities, billing and customer care expenses.
Selling, general and administrative expenses decreased by $4.7 million, or 5%, for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to the prior year, primarily due to a decrease in professional fees, including lower consulting and regulatory fees, as well as a decrease in sales and marketing costs.

Depreciation and Amortization
Depreciation and amortization expense increased by $79.5 million, or 36%, for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to the prior year, primarily due to the increased number of new satellites in service during the current period as we completed the replacement of our first-generation satellites.
 
Other Income (Expense)

Interest Expense, net

Interest expense, net, for the year ended December 31, 2019 was $115.4 million, compared to $55.1 million for the prior year period. The increase in interest expense is primarily related to a decrease in interest being capitalized as the average balance of satellites in construction decreased as upgraded satellites were completed. In addition, during the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, we incurred approximately $34.1 million and $26.3 million, respectively, in interest on the Notes that were issued in March 2018, resulting in only nine months of interest in 2018.

Loss on Extinguishment of Debt

During November 2019, we issued our Term Loan, and used the proceeds of the Term Loan, along with the our DSRA and cash on hand to repay in full all of the indebtedness outstanding under the BPIAE Facility, including premiums for early prepayment. In conjunction with the prepayment of the BPIAE Facility, we wrote off the remaining unamortized debt issuance costs. We also used proceeds received from Aireon and our Notes to extinguish debt. These prepayments resulted in a loss on extinguishment of debt of $111.7 million and $7.3 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. The 2018 amount was previously included within interest expense.

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Income Tax Benefit
 
For the year ended December 31, 2019, our income tax benefit was $56.1 million, compared to an income tax benefit of $7.3 million for the prior year. Our effective tax rate was approximately 25.7% for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to 35.4% for the prior year. The increase in income tax benefit was primarily related to an increase in loss before income taxes compared to the prior year, stock compensation, tax credits as well as nonrecurring adjustments to our deferred tax assets and liabilities related to state law changes. If our current estimates change in future periods, the impact on the deferred tax assets and liabilities may change correspondingly. See Note 12 to our consolidated financial statements for more detail on the individual items impacting our effective tax rate for the years.

Net Loss
 
Net loss was $162.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2019, compared to net loss of $13.4 million during the prior year period. This increase in net loss was primarily the result of the $104.4 million increase in loss on extinguishment of debt, the $79.5 million increase in depreciation and amortization expense and the $60.2 million increase in interest expense, net, as described above, partially offset by the $37.4 million increase in total revenues and the $48.9 million increase in income tax benefit, as described above.

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Liquidity and Capital Resources

In November 2019, we issued our Term Loan totaling $1,450.0 million, with an accompanying $100.0 million Revolving Facility. We used the proceeds of the Term Loan, cash in our DSRA and cash on hand to repay in full all of the indebtedness outstanding under the BPIAE Facility, including premiums for early prepayment.

In February 2020, we issued an additional $200.0 million under our Term Loan and used the proceeds and approximately $183.5 million of cash on hand to repay in full all of the indebtedness outstanding under our Notes, including premiums for early repayment. These additional funds have all of the same terms as the initial borrowing under the Term Loan and were issued at a premium of 1.0% to face value.

On January 20, 2021, we repriced our Term Loan. The Term Loan now bears interest at an annual rate of LIBOR plus 2.75%, with a 1.00% LIBOR floor. All other terms remain the same. To reprice the Term Loan, we incurred additional financing costs of $3.4 million.

As of December 31, 2020, we reported an aggregate balance of $1,637.6 million in borrowings under the Term Loan in our consolidated balance sheet, net of $24.0 million of deferred financing costs for a net balance of $1,613.6 million outstanding. We have not drawn on our Revolving Facility.

Our Term Loan contains no financial maintenance covenants. With respect to the Revolving Facility, we are required to maintain a consolidated first lien net leverage ratio of no greater than 6.25 to 1 if more than 35% of the Revolving Facility has been drawn. The Credit Agreement contains other customary representations and warranties, affirmative and negative covenants, and events of default.

The Credit Agreement contains a mandatory prepayment mechanism with respect to a portion of our excess cash flow (as defined in the Credit Agreement). It provides for specified exceptions, baskets measured as a percentage of trailing twelve months of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, and unlimited exceptions in the case of incurring indebtedness and liens and making investments, dividend payments, and payments of subordinated indebtedness, as well as a phase-out of the mandatory excess cash flow prepayments, based on achievement and maintenance of specified leverage ratios. The Credit Agreement permits repayment, prepayment, and repricing transactions. Our mandatory excess cash flow prepayment, as specified in the Credit Agreement, was $12.6 million as of December 31, 2020. This amount will be paid in 2021 and counts towards our required quarterly principal payments under the Term Loan. We were in compliance with all other covenants under the Credit Agreement as of December 31, 2020.

As of December 31, 2020, our total cash and cash equivalents balance was $237.2 million, our marketable securities balance was $7.5 million, and we had $100.0 million of borrowing availability under our Revolving Facility. Our principal sources of liquidity are cash, cash equivalents, marketable securities and internally generated cash flows. Our principal liquidity requirements over the next twelve months are primarily principal and interest on the Term Loan and share repurchases under the share repurchase program described in Note 10. We believe our liquidity sources will provide sufficient funds for us to meet our liquidity requirements for at least the next 12 months.

Cash Flows - Comparison of the Year Ended December 31, 2020 and the Year Ended December 31, 2019
 
The following table shows our consolidated cash flows:
Year Ended December 31,