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February 19, 2014

Iridium GO! or Aurora: Which is the Better Choice for Satellite WiFi?

Iridium GO! or Aurora? Both are Iridium WiFi hotspots to turn your cellphone into your satellite phone. Both give you the ability to make VoIP-to-Analog phone calls with your smartphone. Both have tracking capabilities, email, and social media. 

Which one is better? 

The answer is: they're both great. They both work in different ways for different people. Here are the big differences. Which unit is best depends on which one works best for you.

aurora iridium wifi terminalAvailability

The Aurora sold out of its first manufacturing run. Aurora can be ordered now and will be delivered in two weeks. 

Iridium has stated that the Iridium GO! will be released by the end of the 2nd Quarter of 2014 (so late May?) As of the time of writing, there is no definitive release date yet for the Iridium GO! 

Fixed (Aurora) vs Mobile (Iridium GO!)

The Aurora is a fixed satellite terminal with a single Ethernet cable that can be plugged in belowdecks to a 110v AC plug or a 12v DC Ethernet adapter. 

Iridium GO! is a mobile device that can fit in your hand. It has a battery and can easily be charged via USB. Iridium recommends mouting it on a standard camera mount if you would like a fixed installation. You can augment the Iridium GO! as a fixed installation by purchasing an external antenna and antenna cable and keeping the GO! belowdecks.

So Which is Better - Fixed Installation or Mobile?

A mobile satellite device can be thrown into a ditch bag. A fixed device has less of a chance of getting lost, damaged, or stolen. Mobile means you can bring it on land with you, fixed means you only ever have to deal with installation once. Mobile means you have to deal with charging the battery or finangling complicated powering lines. Fixed has a single powering requirement with, usually, a single cable to deal with.

In Aurora's case, Ethernet cable has very little signal loss, even at incredibly long lengths. This makes Aurora a better fit for building installations or large boats because running Ethernet over long distances is easier than purchasing expensive, thick LMR antenna cable for the Iridium GO! 

The Ethernet capabilities of Aurora also allow you to create a local area network and extend the WiFi for better performance in any installation. 

Iridium GO!

"Free" Satellite Email (Iridium GO!) vs Subscription Email (Aurora)

Iridium GO! comes with a suite of free apps, including Iridium Mail & Web for doing compression email and web-browsing over satellite. Aurora works with XGate satellite email service - a subscription service - and Iridium Mail & Web. So which is better? Free or paid?

Like so many things that seem too good to be true, there's a catch with Iridium's free Mail & Web service: first of all, you can only use your valuable Iridium airtime with it, even if you've got access to free WiFi or cell coverage that you would prefer to use instead.

Secondly, Iridium's free Mail & Web service on the Iridium GO! only works with smartphones or tablets. You can't use it on your laptop or computer. So if you want to use your laptop or desktop with the Iridium GO! you will have to purchase XGate anyway (which is compatible with the Iridium GO!) 

At the end of the day, XGate ends up being a money-saver, because using expensive Iridium airtime to check your email or web-browse, even when you have access to free WiFi, can run up a high airtime bill. XGate automatically fails over to whichever service you set as a priority (WiFi, landline cable, cell coverage, etc). 

GPS Tracking and NMEA Repeating

Both Aurora and Iridium GO! offer the option for GPS tracking. Aurora uses industry-leading RedPort Tracking to provide a full-featured tracking service, online web-portal, custom tracking URL, and more. 

Iridium has not yet announced what kind of tracking service will be offered with the Iridium GO! but it is likely to be the same LBS tracking that the Iridium Extreme offers with similar monthly tracking charges.

Aurora also has a built-in NMEA GPS repeater so that you can see your exact location on any variety of software. This has proven so popular for boaters, for example, that many simply pilot their boat by repeating their GPS signal to the software of their choice and just using their iPad to navigate.

Iridium GO! will not have a NMEA GPS Repeater.  

Airtime for the Iridium GO!

Iridium has not officially released any airtime plans or rates for the Iridium GO! We have heard, however, that there may be an unlimited data plan priced around $130 a month on a 12-month contract. 

After the release of Iridium GO! Iridium may extend those airtime pricing plans to other equipment. 

Aurora can be used with current postpaid and prepaid Iridium airtime rates, allowing for greater flexibility for seasonal cruisers who don’t want to be locked into a year-long contract or pay a high monthly fee for data they may not need to use. 

Voice Quality and Bandwidth on Iridium GO! and Aurora

Both the Aurora and Iridium GO! have the exact same quality of voice calls, same bandwidth speeds, and same network reception. 

Both the Aurora and Iridium GO! run at 2400 baud…or 25 times slower than dial-up. So don’t expect to be able to Skype, watch movies, or do any sort of intensive web-browsing on either unit. These systems are great for email and voice communications with the occasional web-browsing on a mobile site. 

So Which is the Right Unit For You?


  • Easy installation
  • Fixed installation
  • Good for larger installations (like a big boat or a building) where the ease of running Ethernet cable is a plus
  • Good for seasonal users who don’t want to be locked in a year-long contract
  • Available in Mid-March. 

Iridium GO!

  • Smaller, mobile
  • Ruggedized
  • Potential for unlimited data plans
  • Good for year-long users who don’t mind a year-long contract
  • Potentially good for really high data users (if, indeed, Iridium releases an unlimited airtime plan)
  • Available (maybe) in Late May. 

Still Need Help?

We'd be happy to recommend the perfect satellite communications equipment and airtime for your needs. You can get a free satellite communications consultation or just give us a ring at +1.877.379.8723 (US/CA) or +1.865.379.8723 (Intl) - we're here to help!

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