Terrestar Networks Demos Satellite Smartphone

Terrestar Networks is one of the newest companies on the satellite scene having launched a satellite in July of this year but as is often the case, the newest tech companies have some of the most interesting technology as they have no legacy challenges to speak of. The company’s CTO Dennis Matteson was quick to explain to me the goal of the company is to change the paradigm of satellite communications allowing consumer level phones to have the power of satellite communications.

In a recent conversation with Iridium, their research showed that their traditional customers did not want to have a more gadgety phone but instead they enjoyed the rugged reliability which their devices brought to the table. While I am sure the research is accurate, I have to wonder if there isn’t an entirely new market of consumers and businesses who would pay to have a satellite radio in their devices. The goal of these customers would be to incrementally improve their outdoor coverage while outside of traditional areas where they can get 3G/4G connections.

As part of my meeting, I had a chance to discuss the new Terrestar phone which will be resold by AT&T and marks the first time a major carrier will be a satellite distribution partner. It will be very interesting to see what consumers think. For now, the satellite coverage is in North America only and when you leave the cellular network your call drops and you must call again over satellite. This limitation is imposed by AT&T for now so users don’t get surprised by large phone bills but Dennis tells me in the future this does not need to be the case.

Check out this video of our discussion and the very slick, Blackberry looking device he brought to our meeting. It can do quadband GSM making it a world phone as well as 3G, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, 2.0 GHz Satellite and more.

    October 20, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Just a correction on your information. Globalstar offered a combined Satellite/Terrestrial single phone solution in 1999. Vodafone/Airtouch (became VerizonWireless) not only acted as a distributor for the phone on a nationwide basis. But, Vodafone/Airtouch also owned and operated the US Gateways and was the exclusive service provider in the US and Canada. They owned 50% of the Gateways/ in Canada. On top of that, they owned something like 6% of the Partnership interests in the underlying wholesale provider Globalstar LP. This was when terrestrial coverage was much smaller in area than it is today. I am not saying there is no market, but the current LEO operators have probably identified most of the low hanging fruit in the MSS sector.

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