Iridium was one of the most spectacular failures of the late '90s, as the satellite phone service that cost $5 billion to build was eventually bought out of bankruptcy for $25 million. The company that picked it up on the cheap has made some money from it since it wasn't saddled by all that debt and was able to quickly get a government contract after the purchase. It's not clear how much money Iridium pulls in, since it's a private company, but its CEO said in its mid-year report that it "met or exceeded its targets for subscribers, revenue and profitability" for the first half of the year. No telling, either, how high -- or low -- those targets are, but probably not too high, as there are still just 127,000 Iridium users worldwide. Using that $5 billion figure, the initial cost of the network has worked out to over $39,000 per user. No wonder they had to charge so much.
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