Hybrid satellite-cell pocket phone may arrive this year

Previous attempts to create a mass-market satellite phone may have failed miserably, but a Virginia-based satellite firm believes it has a better solution that just may work this time.

Previous attempts to create a mass-market satellite phone may have failed miserably--just ask the backers of Globalstar, Iridium, and Odyssey--but a Virginia-based satellite firm believes it has a better solution that just may work this time.

TerreStar Networks plans to launch a mobile phone service this year that offers a mix of satellite and cellular service. Unlike the bulky, brick-sized satellite handsets of years past, a TerreStar device will be no larger than a conventional smartphone.

According to a Washington Post report, TerreStar phones will connect via the AT&T network when in cell range, and switch to the company's satellite service when they're not. It's a clever idea, although one that probably won't have mainstream appeal right off the bat.

The target market? TerreStar hopes to attract federal agencies and emergency workers who need phone service when cellular networks fail, such as during natural disasters.

The satellite-terrestrial network is dependent upon a successful launch of the company's TerreStar-1 satellite, which is scheduled to take off today. The US$300 million TerreStar-1, with a 65-foot wingspan, is twice the size of a typical TV satellite, the Post reports.

The TerreStar concept has potential, particularly since it abandons the massive, clunky satellite phones of yesteryear. This advancement is made possible by the larger, more powerful TerreStar-1, which allows for a smaller handset.

Ultimately, TerreStar's success in the mainstream will depend on a variety of factors, including the reliability and price of the satellite service. Nobody wants to pay a few bucks per minute per call--unless their employer is picking up the tab.

Do most consumers need anywhere, anytime phone service? Probably not, unless they're shipwrecked at sea or lost while hiking somewhere in the Rockies. Still, there's a comfort factor in knowing you're always reachable when disaster strikes. If TerreStar can keep its service competitive with its terrestrial competitors, it may have a shot at mainstream success.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags mobile phonesGPSsatellite

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?