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AT&T Introduces Satellite-Enabled Smart Phone

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the each-bit-is-gold-plated dept.

Cellphones 140

crimeandpunishment writes "Here's one way to deal with spotty cell phone coverage: backstop the network on a satellite. AT&T is now selling its first satellite-enabled smart phone....which could be invaluable for boaters, forest rangers, and others who regularly leave regular cellular coverage areas. But the TerreStar Genus comes with a hefty price tag: $799.....and the data costs are as sky-high as the satellite....400 times more than a standard plan. It also has to have a clear view of the southern sky, which means it can only be used outdoors."

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You forgot to mention what is really important! (1)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658070)

Does it come pre-encrusted in diamonds or not? :p

Re:You forgot to mention what is really important! (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659130)

Why that? It's 200 bucks cheaper than an unlocked iPhone 4.

Re:You forgot to mention what is really important! (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659380)

Where is it $200 more? Somewhere in the EU?

I just bought my unlocked iPhone 32Gb from Apple Canada for $780 + tax. The 16Gb is only $660 + tax.

Yay this is awsome. (1)

JDmetro (1745882) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658090)

As long as someone else pays the bill...like the government (ie forest ranger)

Re:Yay this is awsome. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658828)

Actually, it will be YOU who will pay the bill.

Re:Yay this is awsome. (1)

lastomega7 (1060398) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658864)

Only YOU can prevent forest fires and sat-phone bills.

DirecWay to the rescue! (2, Interesting)

poptones (653660) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658102)

Why hasn't someone created a device like this that uses the widely available direcway/blue sky technology? Given the maximum per channel bandwidth and the relatively small needs of a voice communication device it seems like a fairly low power device should be able to function with acceptable psnr.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (3, Informative)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658156)

because Iridium has -- for a bit over a decade.

uh no (3, Interesting)

poptones (653660) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658454)

Iridium uses its own network of satellites. Iridium is expensive. A direcway subscription is like 60 bucks a month with about 600MB a day allotment. Seems they could partner with a phone provider to offer a 10MB a day channel for a pretty low fee, what's needed is a means of accessing the technology.

Re:uh no (2, Informative)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658564)

I don't know about this tech specifically, but I'm thinking perhaps they need a decent sized parabolic dish rather than a phone antenna to provide an acceptable signal.

Re:uh no (4, Informative)

DarthBart (640519) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658656)

Irridium has the advantage of being in low earth orbit versus Direcway's geosynchronous orbit. The path loss between a 250ish mile orbit and a 22,500 mile orbit is a hefty number of dB.

Assuming both systems At 2Ghz, it is 150dB at 250 miles and 190db at 22,500 miles. That 40db difference either has to be made up in raw transmit power at both ends or by using a 5.3m dish antenna.

Re:uh no (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658942)

If you are in an isolated area you don't need to text anyone. If you need to communicate use your own voice for fuck's sake. You can actually convey a shit load more useful information that way. If I'm in the middle of the forest or out in a boat it's because I want to get away from all the bullshit. If you can't last a few days without texting you're fucked up.

Re:uh no (3, Insightful)

iowannaski (766150) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659048)

Good for you.

When I'm in the middle of the forest or out in a boat is it's because someone is paying me to do work out there. I often need to communicate with people back at the office in those situations, and texting is often the easiest way to do that.

Re:uh no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33659166)

You are so fucking awesome. Seriously. You probably get pussy every night you Luddite.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (1)

RaymondKurzweil (1506023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658410)

Satellite phones predate even Iridium (as mentioned by the other followup).. Iridium was a new way of marketing the technology to be more acceptable (which ultimately failed spectacularly) (and also significantly improving the handset form-factor), but I remember using a suitcase sat phone in the early 90s.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (3, Informative)

hpa (7948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658664)

Iridium was more than just a way to market the technology ... they use low-orbit satellites which can provide a stronger signal and less lag. Unfortunately they spend $7,000,000,000 developing the technology, and the market just wasn't big enough for it.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (5, Informative)

DarthBart (640519) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658580)

The links just won't close. I don't have the exact numbers I'd need to do a link budget, but the Direcway links are engineered for a Ku link with a .9m dish on the ground and a 3-4m dish on the spacecraft, with the ground transmitting at 2-4 watts. The TerreStar satellite has an 18m dish on the satellite. That's a crapload more gain. TerreStar also uses a 2Ghz link which is also virtually unaffected by weather.

Also keep in mind that generating sufficient output power at Ku frequencies is extremely inefficient. A Direcway 4W BUC amplifier draws about 50 watts out of its power supply. I doubt your average cell phone's battery can tolerate that.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (1)

DarthBart (640519) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658620)

The other issue is this: The direcway uplink bands are on frequencies shared with other uplinks on other satellites. Interference isn't a problem because each customer uplink dish is precisely aimed at the satellite and the antenna's beamwidth is such that there is no interference to adjacent satellites. Imagine the insanity of one person on the satphone to his stock broker, pacing back and forth, his uplink beam spattering all over the sky.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (2, Interesting)

MasseKid (1294554) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658796)

The 2Ghz link is nice for being unaffected by weather, however you're going to need a very large dish or a huge SSPA/HPA to get enough output. Remembering that beam width varies linearly with frequency, a ~40Ghz Ka band is going to start at 13dB more gain from a similar dish verses a low end S band signal. One of the reasons it takes such a huge dish on the satellite. Now, my quick math is putting an 18m beamwidth at only .58 degrees at 2ghz. That's hardly enough to cover all of America, and in fact the 3dB beam would only be 220 miles across. Something with the math just doesn't add up.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33659188)

Does 500 spot beams explain things? Regretably, I don't know the source of this image [flickr.com] , just saw it linked in a forum.

Footprints [satbeams.com] are [satbeams.com] here [satbeams.com] .

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (1)

Burdell (228580) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658762)

HughesNet (the former DirecWay) uses satellite(s) in a geostationary orbit, over 22,000 miles above the equator. That results in a significant delay (round trip of almost half a second), which makes regular voice conversations impractical. The satellite phone systems like Iridium use a whole constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit to avoid the big delay, but running a large number of satellites and ground stations costs a whole lot more (so the service costs a whole lot more).

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658982)

Because in your universe, c=90,000mi/s? Physics fail. Also, this is a geostationary bird, too, so yeah, you're way off base.

The real issue is signal strength -- this has a big enough antenna that it can hear something with cell-phone power and gain levels from 22000 miles away. Iridium is a lot closer, so they need a lot less antenna. HughesNet et al. use a smaller antenna, but make up for it with a 3-foot or maybe 18" dish on the ground (and require precise aiming as a result).

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (1)

Burdell (228580) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659174)

Because in your universe, c=90,000mi/s? Physics fail.

Round trip (from your phone to a non-sat phone and back) takes 4 22,500+ mile trips: your phone to a sat, sat to ground station (to non-sat phone), (non-sat phone to) ground station to sat, sat to your phone. That's 90,000 miles, or about .48 seconds at the speed of light. Add in the regular non-sat phone delays (especially for cell phones), and you are at or above half a second.

Math is hard. Use a calculator next time.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33659236)

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima dummkopf.

Math is easy, thinking is hard; a calculator wouldn't have stopped me from forgetting the satellite-ground station half.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659044)

HughesNet (the former DirecWay) uses satellite(s) in a geostationary orbit, over 22,000 miles above the equator. That results in a significant delay (round trip of almost half a second), which makes regular voice conversations impractical.

Uh, I've made many calls via geostationary satellites and while the delay is mildly annoying, it's far from impractical.

Re:DirecWay to the rescue! (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659718)

As others have said, a geostationary satellite isn't a problem for voice comms. I've made calls over satellite to the south Pacific -- there's a minor lag. You can carry on a conversation using voice, via EME (Earth-Moon-Earth) with the right equipment, if you're willing to put up with the distortion and doppler shift.

$799? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658142)

That's what they charged this couple who went on a cruise to Europe, and they left their iPhone on, so I'd say it was standard.

All the better (0, Troll)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658152)

All the better to track you my pretty.

Re:All the better (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658676)

You can already be tracked, with good accuracy, when carrying ANY cell phone that is "on". And the big issue is that those records can be (and might be) stored.

Re:All the better (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659682)

In England they are stored. I know this because they were used to prove that a murder suspect wasn't at the scene of the murder, which meant he was found not guilty.

Now I can finally get coverage at... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658168)

the football game, work, home, in my car, at church, even while waiting at Starbucks!. Thank you so much AT&T (more bars in more places)

Texting (2, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658180)

Voice via satellite is still too expensive; instead they should offer satellite texting at a reasonable price. At least then you're still connected.

Re:Texting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658208)

SMS sucks. Why not email? Latency and bandwidth wouldn't be issues.

Re:Texting (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658268)

SMS sucks. Why not email?

I agree completely. Why somebody felt compelled to invent a bastardized version of email in the first place is beyond me.

Re:Texting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658294)

SMS is a bastardized version of Instant Messaging.

Re:Texting (2, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658330)

It was for testing purposes, it's just that somebody later had the brilliant idea that people would pay for it.

Re:Texting (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658626)

For extremely brief messages, SMS is faster and the recipient doesn't need to have their chat or email client open. As long as their phone is on, they'll get the message. This is useful for messages like, "Answer your goddamn phone. We need to talk now!" or "I'm watching you sleep."

Re:Texting (3, Funny)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658966)

Because it was super-easy to bolt on to the status channel and it can be sold at a high margin? My god! I've invented business!

Re:Texting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33659510)

When SMS was invented about 20 years ago sending email from a phone was not really feasible. 2*16 char display, no packet radio service, not even a modem built in the phone. Even if you did have a modem in the phone you'd need to be polling the server every 5 minutes (during which you'd appear busy to anyone trying to call you) to get at least somewhat similar response times to SMS.

Well, you could use some messaging / control channel to tell the user he received email, something like Short Message Services. But perhaps you could use it also to deliver the actual message and give the users the possibility to send messages from their phones using the same mechanism?

It might look like a stupid service for someone who hasn't seen what cell phones used to be like earlier. Even today you text anybody and the message is delivered immediately, but not everybody has their phone set up for constant email polling.

Re:Texting (4, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658242)

PS the article says texts are "40 cents each, only four times the piece rate for cell phone." That's way too much, just as 10 cents for a regular text is a complete ripoff. 40 cents each works out to around $3000/MB, whereas (non-texting) satellite data on the same phone costs $5/MB [fiercewireless.com] . It really makes me wonder how they come up with these prices.

Re:Texting (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658336)

Still, it's a text that goes to space and comes back! Of course, I'd buy one text like that and not send any more.

Re:Texting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33659140)

Sure, but the bastard you text "i'll be there in 2 days" will reply with a "k"

Re:Texting (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658434)

Because people pay it.

Re:Texting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658896)

Seriously. That's a complete and exhaustive explanation in four words. It's not a hard concept to grasp, yet the question is raised every time the topic of SMS rates come up.

Re:Texting (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658988)

It really makes me wonder how they come up with these prices.

Some prices are derived based on market and financial models. Others (and I've seen this first hand) is someone in a meeting throwing a number on a whiteboard and someone else saying "That works, we'll try it at that price".

Re:Texting (3, Insightful)

genik76 (1193359) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659276)

Why should things be priced based on their actual cost to the provider? It makes much more sense to demand a price, which maximizes the profit. If you decide to use the service, it's obviously worth the price and both parties have gained something from the transaction.

Re:Texting (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659346)

If there was actually a bit of competition in the area I'd be satisfied with that explanation.

But when a long term contract means I'm locked into whatever they see fit to hide in the fine print, I'm not exactly at liberty to take my business elsewhere, now am I?

Re:Texting (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659512)

You can't compare those technologies.

SMS is using the signalling service within the GSM network, this is a very limited technology and can't easily be upgraded, thus you pay way more than for the technology where you can offload to a separate link.

Re:Texting (3, Insightful)

DarthBart (640519) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658696)

In my experience with satellite phone users, there's two types:

1) The guys who are going camping way out in the middle of Nowhere. They wont use their phone unless someone is dying. At that point, I don't think they care about per-minute costs. Usually, those folks have bought $50-100 prepaid airtime cards.

2) Businessmen who need to be in contact with home base no matter what. That includes oil/gas industries, or senior-level executives. The folks in accounting get the bill and the end user just knows to dial, press send, and then carry on.

Source: Me, having to provide sales & support services to Irridium and INMARSAT users.

Re:Texting (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658902)

Don't forget the "ran out of bug spray, call Search and Rescue" prima donnas with too much dollars and not enough sense.

Re:Texting (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659000)

I fit in to the first category. If I'm flying my GA aircraft somewhere without cell service, the Iridium phone and my prepaid card are coming with. If something critical or life threatening is happening, I care not about the minutes cost. I would love if my Nexus One had an Iridium chipset on board (would've paid for it as well).

Re:Texting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658700)

Voice via satellite is still too expensive; instead they should offer satellite texting at a reasonable price. At least then you're still connected.

Still too expensive? It isn't meant to be competitive with traditional cell services. In the early days of modern cell service it was a $1 a minute. In adjusted dollars you are getting satellite service for well below early cell service. Unless you was well off I doubt many will casually use the service. It's really meant for important or emergency calls. For that it's quite cheap. If I was a hiker or into boating I'd be extremely interested. Not everything has to be dirt cheap to be useful. This 24/7 connected attitude is a very recent idea. It wasn't that long ago no one but the wealthy or businessmen had cell phones at all. Back in the stone age of the 70s and 80s we limped by somehow. Anything under a $1 a minute for satellite service is amazing. Overpriced? Don't be so sure for voice since the expenses are high. If you've ever priced satellite service you'd realize this is a massive drop. There was talk in the early days of dirt cheap satellite service but I don't ever expect to see it unless it takes the form of high altitude blimps. Orbital is always going to be expensive to establish and maintain.

My investment method has been vindicated! (2, Funny)

zymurgy_cat (627260) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658184)

See? I was right all along. I'm gonna make millions on this, I tell you, millions! This will totally make up for my Iridium investment....I can feel it.

Yawn... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658186)

I've given up on AT&T.. Their service sucks. Their plans suck. I wouldn't even have a freaking cell phone if it weren't for my wife and family. I don't want to text message strange women, or receive funneh jokes via text. In fact I freaking hate text messaging. Also, I don't want to run around with my head up my ass looking up junk on Google on my phone while I could be doing something productive like say.. having a real conversation with someone. Meh. I hate cellphones.

Re:Yawn... (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658264)

I guess you missed the banner at the top of the page that indicates this is a geek site. We like technology 'round these parts, luddite.

Re:Yawn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658348)

This isn't groundbreaking tech. This is just slightly cheaper than Iridium or a comparable service. I bet the market for this will be HUGE. ROTFL (NOT)\!!). If you are going far enough out to need sat coverage either get one of these for 15 bucks a month and call it day.. Oh yeah, and save a couple hundred dollars in the process.. http://www.satphonestore.com/isatphone-pro.html [satphonestore.com]

Re:Yawn... (2, Interesting)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658534)

This isn't groundbreaking tech.

I never said it was, AC. Never said it was a good deal, either.

If you are going far enough out to need sat coverage either get one of these for 15 bucks a month and call it day.

Actually according to the link you provided it's $15/month access fee, plus $0.99 per minute, plus $595 for the phone itself (it's "on sale", regularly $699). I'm sure there are plenty of other charges you only find out about once you sign up too, just like every other telecommunications deal.

Re:Yawn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658754)

Actually according to the link you provided it's $15/month access fee, plus $0.99 per minute, plus $595 for the phone itself (it's "on sale", regularly $699). I'm sure there are plenty of other charges you only find out about once you sign up too, just like every other telecommunications deal.

Actually according to TFA, AT&T's offering is "only" $25/month access fee, plus $0.65 per minute, plus $799 for the phone itself.

So if you make 30 minutes of satellite calls per month, you do indeed "save a couple hundred dollars in the process" -- $204 to be exact, modulo the "plenty of other charges" in either case.

Re:Yawn... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659706)

Also, the additional $204 on the phone gives you a GSM smart phone running Windows Mobile. With the other option, you would have to buy a separate GSM or CDMA phone for regular city use, and that may well cost more than $204.

Re:Yawn... (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658900)

This isn't groundbreaking tech.

Actually, it is. Its the largest commercial satellite ever launched. The comm technology isn't too shabby either. Iridium had 66 satellites and this gets it done with one. Sure its just North America but thats at least 1/4 of the satellite phone market. To handle that takes significantly advanced signal processing. Also, Inmarsat has data but only in a modem the size of a laptop. Granted it is a lot cheaper for voice.

Re:Yawn... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659712)

The groundbreaking tech is that you can get a sat phone you can fit in your pocket. Previous geostationary phones would fit in a laptop bag, and Iridium phones would fit in a laptop bag alongside a laptop.

Windows Mobile 6.5... (2, Funny)

yoblin (692322) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658340)

Doesn't matter if it's satellite enabled or not, you're probably not going to have the patience to make a call!

This is what happens when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658372)

/. goes almost 2.5 hours without a story, and the eds. get desperate.

Crappy network with crappy coverage releases phone with crappy OS and crappy (US only) satellite coverage for about the same price as a global satphone, a revolutionary move tried by only two of the other three major US carriers a decade ago.

If anyone really finds this "invaluable", they are either an extreme rarity or an extreme idiot.

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658456)

crappy (US only) satellite coverage

TFS says you need a clear view of the southern sky. Doesn't sound like US only to me.

Re:This is what happens when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658526)

Third paragraph:
"The satellite is aimed at the U.S. and doesn't provide global coverage in the same way Iridium Communications Inc.'s satellite constellation does."

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658628)

Well okay but the reference to the southern sky probably means it uses equatorial satellites, which should at least work to the same south latitude as the northern limit.

Re:This is what happens when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658702)

Nope... North America only. Maybe they'll offer more service in the future (maybe lease to other companies?), since they do include HI, PR, and the USVI, but not as of now.

I'm sorry to sound so negative in my OP; I've just been reading up on satphones recently and was happy to see this, as the HW/minute costs are a little below industry standard. Sadly, the extremely limited range is a dealbreaker.

Re:This is what happens when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658846)

For a 6-digit uid, you sure don't know shit about satellite communications.

Satellites, hard as it may be to imagine, have a limited power budget -- the solar cells are only so big, so efficient, and only degrade over time. Increasing the size costs significant money (launch weight), adding efficiency is usually impossible, since they use the most efficient ones commercially available.

So why the hell do you think they waste power on regions they're not selling service to? Even if they had a simple dish antenna fed by a single horn, they'd be pointing it north to cover the US. In fact, they usually have a rather more capable beam-forming setup, allowing them to cover a vaguely North America or US shaped region, possibly with extra side lobes to cover other areas being targeted. But unless they sell service to South America, they sure aren't beaming power there.

(Less obvious than the power issue is that reception needs to be maximized, both to improve chance of a connection in marginal conditions, and to reduce the power required of the mobile device, thus extending its battery life. Since having an Earth-diameter beam pointed at the equator gives significantly lower gain everywhere in the US than a tighter beam pointed at (or North of, since you lose more penetrating the atmosphere more obliquely) the centroid of the US, they won't be receiving from South America, either.

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659722)

Just the one as far as I can gather, and the dish is pointing in the general direction of the US.

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658850)

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TerreStar-1 [wikipedia.org] : ...carries E/F band (IEEE S band) transponders which will be used to provide mobile communications to North America...raise itself into geostationary orbit So technically not just the US but still limited to North America.

Anyone remember Iridium? (2, Interesting)

Charles Dodgeson (248492) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658388)

In the late the late 80s, Motorola had a scheme to launch 77 LEO satellites to provide global satellite coverage. I thought it was a great idea at the time, and bought a bunch of Motorola stock. It didn't work out very well. They eventually launched 66 satellites, but didn't change the name of the project to whatever has atomic number 66.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iridium_satellite_constellation [wikipedia.org]

Re:Anyone remember Iridium? (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658466)

And Iridium is still working. After the original company went bankrupt, all the assets got scooped up for 25 million (a bargain!) and now the company is happily making money. They're even planning on the next set of sats to replace the current generation as they start to age/fail. There is still a market for these devices, though most of the time its people/groups renting out units for a month or two instead of continuous subscription. Though I'm sure there are some mining/gas exploration companies and the like who have a bunch of these.

Re:Anyone remember Iridium? (3, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658704)

The US government loves it. They are a major customer. No surprise, they have people operating in areas that have shit cell coverage and they want to maintain communication.

Re:Anyone remember Iridium? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659018)

The US gov isn't just a major customer. They are *the largest customer*. You get that status when you get your own Iridium downlink station. =) At the prices they pay for service, it might just make sense for them to buy out Iridium.

Re:Anyone remember Iridium? (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659430)

At the prices they pay for service, it might just make sense for them to buy out Iridium.

Essentially, they did. When Iridium was about to go under and the satellites were days from being de-orbited, DoD bought into the system at a bargain price. This turned out to be extremely useful once the US got entangled in Iraq and Afghanistan. Originally, DoD bought unlimited airtime for 10,000 users. Now they're past 100,000 DoD users. Iridium overall has about 360,000 users.

It's the thing to have if you need to communicate from Outer Nowhere. Works anywhere on the planet that you can see the sky. Airtime is about $1 to $2 a minute, and phones are about $1500. A roll-up solar panel is a common accessory. The typical user drives a HUMMV, a yacht, or a dogsled.

Re:Anyone remember Iridium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658678)

They still exist and while the handsets may cost a bit more and they're not smartphones their cost per minute is nowhere near the "400 times" claim made in the blurb.

Re:Anyone remember Iridium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658692)

They eventually launched 66 satellites, but didn't change the name of the project to whatever has atomic number 66.

That would be Dysprosium.

Re:Anyone remember Iridium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33659004)

Well, that explains why they didn't change the name.

Re:Anyone remember Iridium? (1)

cute-boy (62961) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658832)

Just look on ebay to see how well Iridium phones hold their value. There's probably a growing market for them in Australia.

Iridium even have spare satellites they can manouvre into position to replace broken ones. and with the latest phone, easy access to a 9,600bps data service by plugging your phone into a USB port, which is good enough to access your email if you use a remote text client such as Mutt, Pine, etc.Their 2,400 data connection. And their low orbit satellite constellation provides true global coverage, work on the sides of mountains, and in depressions between sand dunes, etc. Iridium to Iridium calls don't get relayed via any ground points.

Here in Australia lots remote area travelers and workers carry sat phones. They are much more useful than an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon) or Spot device or similar, for cases of major vehicle breakdown or medical emergency when in remote regions because you can make arrangements, and under those circumstances, most people don't begrudge the high price of calls. If you live in a region where there is no other telephone service, you can get a government subsidy covering 85% of the cost of the device (but not the calls)

-R

799? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33658400)

799 is a hefty price for a gadget?? remind me how much nexus was going for on google site? and with regards to data costing 400 time more - excuse moi, i don't know where are you from, but here in canada rogers beats any satellite plan hands down.

Re:799? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658500)

Yes, 800 USD is about the first ten minutes of a search and rescue operation. Put one aircraft in the air and you have spent that much money.

Re:799? (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658538)

True, but I'd suggest that the SAR guys want the money to go on a ruggedised basic call/text model rather than a smartphone which has a lot more to go wrong in both hardware and software.

It seems to me that they're marketing it as a satellite phone that's good for every day use - problem is, if you're in the niche that needs a satellite phone then you probably don't have the same everyday needs as your average businessman.

Re:799? (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659334)

The HP-65 calculator I received for HS graduation in 1974 was the same price.
100 programming steps, 10 registers, mag card reader/writer and numeric LED display.
I finally traded it for a S-100 memory card. A friend later picked it up from the buyer.
It's his most treasured calculator to this day. Bastard!

So let me get this right... (1)

nloop (665733) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658554)

It's not the first time a phone company has tried to sell combined satellite-terrestrial phones. Sprint Nextel Corp. sold Iridium phones in 1999, and Airtouch, a predecessor of Verizon Wireless, sold Globalstar phones a year a later.

So this has been done before

"Neither of them had any meaningful success because there just wasn't mass market demand for the phones," said Tim Farrar, a satellite industry consultant.

It crashed and burned

Hill said the Genus is a different breed, because it can be used a main phone, with most of the conveniences expected from smart phones, without the bulk of a traditional satellite phone. The cost to include the satellite option is also coming down, which means the feature could show up in more, and cheaper, phones in the near future, he said.

But this is different, because you can use it like a normal phone, only it's -really- expensive. However, a cheaper option may be available in the future. Someone needs to be fired. No one wanted to pay $5/meg before, and no one wants to pay $5/meg now. I don't care if it has a built in keyboard and calendar. Come back when you have the the cheaper future version.

Re:So let me get this right... (1)

cute-boy (62961) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658840)

If was living, working or travelling in a remote region with not other coverage, and you've just had a major accident, and need an air ambulance, or even just a recovery truck to get me and my car home, I'd be really happy I'd got a device like that!

-R

Re:So let me get this right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33659106)

or Just have an amateur radio.

PicoCell (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658572)

They should be selling a PicoCell that relays to the satellite with priority going to land based cell towers. Then don't charge for access. This way, it would be a lot harder to NOT rationalize putting one in your car. What is $600 added to the price of your car to know that you will always have coverage. With the current plan, there is no way I would ever user their service. I simply could not rationalize the price. If I already had the service, and only had to worry about minute charges, I just might use it if I was out in the middle of nowhere.

Southern Sky? (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658640)

Southern sky from what part of the planet?

Frikking Northernhepisphereocentrics.

Re:Southern Sky? (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658710)

Seeing how it is AT&T, what hemisphere were you expecting?

Re:Southern Sky? (1)

incy_webb (1090779) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658996)

Seeing how it is AT&T, what hemisphere were you expecting?

http://www.corp.att.com/ap/about/where/australia/ [att.com] ok, they don't mention satellite phones, but as the previous chap said: Frikking Northernhepisphereocentrics. And 'Southern Sky" _is_ usually taken to be the sky above the southern hemisphere

Re:Southern Sky? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33659128)

Its a satellite phone. They tend to work world wide.

Win Mo 6.5... (1)

darthdavid (835069) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658668)

If you're going charge 800 fucking dollars for a phone your could atleast load it up with a better OS than Windows Mobile 6.5 (can I say EW!).

Let me see if I get this right .. (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658880)

1) ATT ... NO
2) Windows Mobile ... NO
3) $595 ... NO
4) $1 / min ... NO
5)???
6) Fail

Re:Let me see if I get this right .. (1)

darthdavid (835069) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658964)

7)Profit?

Way cheaper than Iridium for Boaters (2, Interesting)

boogahboogah (310475) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658814)

At 40 cents a minute, it is way cheaper than all other Sat phones, and would be great for marine use.

Too bad they will only target the US, that leaves any cruising boats out of the picture once they venture away from the shores of the US (_sigh_).

What a bunch of rubbish! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 3 years ago | (#33658918)

AT&T are full of it! Instead of improving their network, they are busy doing this stuff. Where's the leadership?

I always wondered this (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659180)

But...if it has the power to go like 60 miles up through the ionosphere (I assume but don't actually remember how far up that is) and hit a satellite, it'll probably melt your freaking face off with radiation. Or more realistically at least give you like 100x the dose of radiation compared to a normal cell phone. Sounds kinda scary.

Re:I always wondered this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33659450)

Think about it for a minute: a cellphone radiates ~0.5W of RF -- how long do you think a 50W transmitter will last on any battery that fits in a cellphone? Or were you just bullshitting and scaremongering with no concern for facts?

What killed Irridium (1)

Ozoner (1406169) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659338)

I was told that what killed Iridium was the local Telecom laws.

Originally Iridium was going to bounce international calls directly satellite to satellite, but the local Telecoms screamed blue-murder so Iridium was forced to put ground-stations in each country and use conventional international links. So the cost of calls went way up.

It gets worse, it also means using multiple synchronous satellite links, so it has long time delays.

I don't really know, but it does sounds convincing.

More than reasonable (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33659460)

Anyone complaining about the cost is missing the point of this phone. Satellite mode is not for idle chatter. It's for essential weather/safety/navigation/professional needs. And perhaps brief family communication such as when to expect you home. I would expect boaters to lease this just for the trip rather than purchase their own $800 device. All in all AT&T should be able to sell the service even for 5x rate with the right marketing.

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