Project Stardust boosts Iridium NB-IoT service

  • January 17, 2024
  • Steve Rogerson

Virginia-based satellite communications firm Iridium has announced Project Stardust, the evolution of its direct-to-device (D2D) strategy with 3GPP 5G standards-based NB-IoT non-terrestrial network (NB-NTN) service development.

As a standards-based offering, it will be deployed on Iridium’s existing satellite network giving the company the ability to offer proprietary and standardised D2D and IoT services.

The early stages of programming Iridium’s low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites offer an opportunity to smartphone companies, OEMs, chip makers, mobile network operators (MNOs) and related IoT developers to have their requirements woven into the fabric of the Iridium network. Iridium is already collaborating directly with several of these companies.

“This is an exciting moment for Iridium and is a testament to the flexibility and capability built into our satellite constellation,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “The industry is moving quickly towards a more standards-based approach and, after surveying the field, we found that we’re the best positioned to lead the way using our own network, particularly given our true global coverage.”

Iridium is designing its initial NB-IoT offering to support 5G NTN messaging and SOS capabilities for smartphones, tablets, cars and related consumer applications. Adopting the service will enable device manufacturers to add a satellite connection to standardised devices, take advantage of existing, globally allocated and coordinated Iridium spectrum, and provide a better low-latency LEO user experience.

The Iridium network supports approximately 1300 SOS and emergency (911 or equivalent) incidents per year, around the world, and has readily available systems, processes and partners to implement this capability for new devices.

Iridium says it understands the market need for its customers to develop and certify products quickly. Applying established onboarding processes, chip makers and NB-IoT developers can join Iridium’s ecosystem of about 500 partners, and choose a proprietary, standards-based or dual-option integration approach for added network redundancy.

MNOs will have the opportunity to be a one-stop shop for ubiquitous coverage and off-grid use cases, with reliability.

Iridium partners are supported by round-the-clock customer support, back office, billing and provisioning system, all ready to support the service upon launch.

The Iridium satellite constellation’s crosslinked LEO architecture and global L-band spectrum is said to provides a competitive service advantage versus other LEO and geostationary satellite networks. Certified to provide safety of life services by international regulatory bodies, the network provides connectivity everywhere on Earth. Operating in LEO, the constellation does not suffer from line-of-sight limitations, significant power requirements or outages that can affect entire regions from a single satellite, as faced by geostationary systems.

Iridium ( has more than two decades of experience and a partner ecosystem supporting more than 2.2 million users around the world. As of the third quarter of 2023, Iridium subscribers have seen a 15% CAGR over the past five years, and the company serves approximately 1.7 million IoT users, including about 900,000 personal trackers and satellite messengers for consumer, enterprise and government applications.

The company is working with several D2D and IoT-focused companies to understand and incorporate their use cases, requirements and end-user needs into Project Stardust ( It anticipates testing to begin in 2025, with service starting in 2026.