PARIS — Orbcomm Inc. expects its next satellite, which will be specially equipped for U.S. Coast Guard use, to be launched in the first half of 2007. The company also plans to launch six other messaging satellites separately during the same period, Orbcomm officials said.
The Ft. Lee, N.J., company, which operates a 30-satellite constellation to track assets and read remote meters, said the U.S. Coast Guard satellite could open a global market among other national coastal authorities and commercial shipping companies.
Orbcomm Chief Marketing Officer Marc Eisenberg said during a Nov. 21 conference call with financial analysts that Orbcomm’s U.S. Coast Guard contract is valued at between $250,000 and $500,000 per year.
The satellite is designed to be used to locate and identify large ships as part of the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which other nations are also adopting as part of a worldwide effort to determine what vessels are entering their ports. AIS is mandatory for all ships weighing more than 300,000 kilograms under the international Safety of Life at Sea Convention.
Eisenberg said Orbcomm is in discussions with coastal-monitoring agencies of nine other nations with a view to using the same satellite to provide similar data. He said there are 10,000 ships worldwide that are subject to the convention’s regulations.
Orbcomm completed an initial stock offering on the U.S. Nasdaq market the week of Nov. 3 and raised a net $91 million in proceeds that will be used to fund the development of new satellites and other equipment.
The company is reviewing bids for the construction and launch of 18 new-generation Orbcomm satellites, to be launched, six at a time, starting in 2008.
Orbcomm Chief Executive Jerome B. Eisenberg said during the conference call that with the stock-market proceeds, “we are now a fully funded company capable of achieving all our growth targets.”
Orbcomm reported Nov. 21 that as of Sept. 30 it had 199,000 subscribers, a 90 percent increase compared to the same period a year earlier. Orbcomm’s core customer, GE Asset Intelligence LLC, has contracted with Orbcomm subsidiary Stellar Satellite Communications Ltd. for delivery of up to 412,000 Orbcomm subscriber terminals. Orbcomm generates revenues of about $5.50 per subscriber terminal per month.
Orbcomm’s sales revenue for the nine months ending Sept. 30 was $18.2 million, up 80 percent from a year earlier. Its net loss for the period, at $7.3 million, also increased because the company incurred costs including new staff and substantial stock-based compensation for some of its employees.
Orbcomm Chief Financial Officer Robert G. Costantini said stock-based compensation expenses would be substantial, at about $3.9 million per year.
The size of Orbcomm’s future market will depend in large part on whether it can reduce the price of its subscriber terminals from the current $165 to well under $100, Marc Eisenberg said.
Current customers are mainly businesses whose remote meters or mobile assets need to be accessed on a weekly or even daily basis. For the service to penetrate the small business or consumer market for electric meter reading, for example, “we would need to get the communicators down to $25-$50,” Marc Eisenberg said.
Orbcomm officials say their service, which uses the VHF radio frequencies adjacent to frequencies used by FM radio and radio-broadcast weather services, could one day find a market in the automobile market with an Orbcomm chip embedded in automobile radios.