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9/23/2010
00:30 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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AT&T Has Satellite Based Smartphone

Wow. It is like 1999 all over again. In 1999 satellite phones were all the rage because they were going to work when every other cell phone died as a result of Y2K. The only thing that died were satellite phones for consumers. Flash forward over a decade later and AT&T is ready to give it another go.

Wow. It is like 1999 all over again. In 1999 satellite phones were all the rage because they were going to work when every other cell phone died as a result of Y2K. The only thing that died were satellite phones for consumers. Flash forward over a decade later and AT&T is ready to give it another go.Despite AT&T's claim that they cover 97 percent of American's, they certainly don't cover 97 percent of America. The only way to get instant total coverage of America's landmass, as well as quite a distance offshore, is to use satellites. If you have $799, you can get a TerreStar Genus according to SkunkPost.com.

Coverage seems to be the same as it is for GPS devices. It won't work indoors and there cannot be anything blocking the view of the southern sky like trees, mountains or buildings. That is a problem for the average person, but easy to accommodate if you are someone that spends all or most of their time outside. Park rangers, emergency crews, fishermen or vagabonds could all make use of such a device.

The phone is actually a dual mode device. It works on AT&T's existing network and can switch to the satellite network as the need arises, though that switching ability will cost you an extra $25 per month. The data plans aren't cheap either once on the satellite. It will cost $5 per MB, so you don't want to be watching your Slingbox video feed while camping in northern Montana on this thing. SMS messages are 40¢ each, so keeping up with your Twitter following isn't a great idea either.

The phone runs Windows Mobile 6.5, so while it is a fully capable device, it isn't the latest or greatest OS out there.

Prices are well below what was being charged by Iridium back then and since it can operate on the terrestrial network much of the time, costs shouldn't be too outrageous. It definitely fits a particular need and sometimes, you will pay a higher price for what you need. It is also a more reasonable alternative to going with a full blown satellite phone like those of Iridium. Their phones look like something straight out of 1999 with a gray-scale screen and in some cases, the inability to send SMS messages. The TerreStar will at least let you keep up with emails, friends, news, play games and do some web browsing, though you just need to watch out for those rates when on the satellite.

Do you think AT&T has a market here?

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