AT&T Mobility will resell satellite service and phones from TerreStar Networks, by the end of this year. TerreStar is scheduled to launch its first monster satellite on July 1st. It uses satellite/cellular handsets designed to be about the same size as a conventional smartphone.
Using licensed 2GHz radio spectrum, it will provide voice service as well as data at approximately 64K bits per second, said TerreStar Chief Technology Officer Dennis Matheson in ComputerWorld.
AT&T aim their service initially at local, state and federal governments, Matheson said. The carrier will also resell the handsets, though not initially in its retail stores. The handsets will switch between satellite and 3G (third-generation) coverage as users roam in and out of cellular coverage areas.
The first handset, which will use separate cellular and satellite chips, will cost about US$700 without a carrier subsidy. That compares with an unsubsidized cost of about $400 to $500 for a typical BlackBerry, according to Matheson. The Windows Mobile phone will feature built in WiFi, GSM/satellite connections, a 3.0-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, video recording/playback and a MicroSD card.
TerreStar is taking advantage of SDR (software-defined radio) chips coming from Infineon and Qualcomm, says EE Times. They will help the phone match the size of other smartphones and eventually bring the cost of its handsets down to that of a BlackBerry, Matheson said. Qualcomm’s work should lead to a satellite and CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) phone, which might allow for a future hybrid service from Verizon or Sprint Nextel.
The Qualcomm agreement follows Qualcomm’s previous agreements with other MSS providers, including SkyTerra (formerly MSV), using the lower frequency 1.6 GHz band, and ICO Global Communications, also using the 2 GHz MSS band. All plan on using terrestrial repeaters (ATCs) for local access in population centers.
ICO is trialing their service now, delivering multimedia to vehicles in North Carolina and Las Vegas. The first of two SkyTerra next-generation satellites is planned for launch in first half of 2010.
Pricing of the satellite service will be up to the service provider but should be lower than today’s going rate of about $1 per minute for satellite calls, according to TerreStar.
A phone based on the Infineon SDR is likely to become available toward the end of 2010, and Qualcomm’s SDR is expected in 2010 or 2011, according to Matheson.
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