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Whether you're posting a breaking news story or just staying in
touch with the office during a cruise, satellite phones can be the
only choice when you need a phone in the far reaches of the world.
Satellite phones can be expensive and only recently they have
achieved acceptable speeds for data transmission.

Since there needs to be a clear line of sight between the antenna
and satellite, performance can also be affected by poor weather
and use is generally restricted to outdoors. This can also limit the
ability to receive incoming calls, though for applications on boats
and other places an external antenna can greatly enhance their use.

Satellite phone systems are expensive to build and far less
competitive than conventional mobile systems, so there are only a
few providers to choose from like Iridium, Globalstar, ICO Global,
Ellipso, Inmarsat and Thuraya. Great strides have been made in
making these phones increasingly portable, though briefcase
models are still available and just about all of them need an
oversized antenna.

The concept of satellite phones is delightful. It's a phone that uses
dozens of satellites orbiting the world and lets you make phone
calls from just about anywhere. As long as the thick antennae can
see the sky, you can talk. Yet the reality has been anything but
pleasant. The increase of cellular coverage and better reception
meant many prospective customers were no longer interested.
Today's tri-digital phones can be used in just about every country
at moderate cost to the business user.

That is why Globalstar has provided a phone which can be used
either as a cellular OR satellite phone. The company believes it
will avoid the mistakes of Iridium, which launched its satellites,
started its service but couldn't sell its $3000 phones. So instead
of marketing the phones it will provide the service.

The costs of the calls have come down dramatically. While
Iridium originally wanted to charge over $5 per minute, Globalstar
believes it will cost around $2, a bit more if you're calling across
several oceans. The technology and achievement of the satellite
phone companies is beyond doubt. They are, surely, to be
admired.


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