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Satellite-Based Smartphone For Sale On AT&T Network

September 22, 2010

AT&T Inc announced on Tuesday that it would begin selling its first satellite-enabled smartphone.

The new phone, the TerreStar Genus, would be an important tool for anyone who needs regular outside cellular coverage.

The phone is restricted to being used outdoors because it needs a clear view of the southern sky, with no trees, buildings or hills interfering.

Chris Hill, the company’s vice president for Advanced Enterprise Mobility Solutions, said AT&T will initially start to sell the device to professional customers through business channels. 

The phone will cost $799 and require a regular AT&T voice and data service plan.  It uses the AT&T network where it’s available.  The option to be able to switch over to the satellite costs $25 extra per month, and then 65 cents per minute of calling.

The device also runs Windows Mobile 6.5 software and has a full-alphabet keyboard.

Text messages will cost 40 cents each over the satellite service, while data will cost $5 per megabyte over satellite.

The phone will communicate through the world’s largest commercial satellite, owned by TerreStar Corp.  The satellite launched last year as a dish antenna to pick up the faint signals from phones 22,000 miles below.

AT&T and TerreStar said last year that they would have the phone out early this year, but did not provide details like pricing.

Sprint Nextel Corp. sold Iridium satellite-based phones in 1999, and Airtouch sold Globalstar phones a year later.

“Neither of them had any meaningful success because there just wasn’t mass market demand for the phones,” Tim Farrar, a satellite industry consultant told The Associated Press.

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