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AT&T Intros Dual Cellular Satellite Smartphone

TerreStar Genus marketed as an everyday phone that's suitable for disaster recovery, first response, and public service workers.

TerreStar Genus
(click image for larger view)
TerreStar Genus
AT&T on Tuesday announced it will launch a dual-mode cellular/satellite smartphone called TerreStar Genus, geared at enterprise and small business customers who need coverage in remote locations or when they cannot get cellular service.

The smartphone runs on the Windows Mobile 6.5 OS and will provide access to expanded voice and data roaming coverage throughout the country, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and in territorial waters. Its feature include a touchscreen, QWERTY keyboard, charging LED indicator, ambient light sensor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, camera, and GPS.

With access to the TerreStar satellite network, users such as government, energy, utility, transportation, and maritime workers would be able to get coverage in remote areas. In addition to being an everyday phone, the Genus also provides backup satellite communications for disaster recovery workers, first responders, and public service agencies. However, in order to work, the phone must have a direct line of site to the satellite, which means it can only be used outdoors.

The carrier said that in spite of the economy, a Business Continuity Study it conducted earlier this year revealed that businesses are increasing their investments in disaster planning technologies and formulating business continuity plans, and that mobile phones play a key role in those plans.

Satellite-based communications is the emerging standard in mobile devices due to advancements in satellite technology, said Jeffrey Epstein, president and CEO of Reston, Va.-based TerreStar.

The TerreStar Genus will be available later this year and retail for $799, plus a standard AT&T voice and data service plan, but does not require a contract. To switch over to the optional satellite feature costs an additional $25 per month plus 65 cents per minute.

Other carriers have attempted to sell dual cellular/satellite phones in the past, including Sprint Nextel, which offered Iridium phones in 1999, and Verizon Wireless' predecessor, Airtouch, which carried Globalstar phones in 2000, but demand was not strong for either phone.

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