TerreStar Launches Huge Communications Satellite

Remember the satellite phone? You know, those oftentimes huge cellphones that are seen occasionally in sci-fi flicks and every other episode of 24? Believe it or not, there's still quite the market for those things, despite the surge in network expansion from mobile operators across the globe.

To serve said niche, TerreStar Corporation has this week launched what amounts to the world's largest commercial satellite, with the goal of "providing first-of-its-kind high-speed Internet and wireless voice service from space." The launch really couldn't come at a better time, given that the US government just unleashed $4 billion for use in rural broadband expansion. Without a doubt, satellite Internet is a viable option for those living outside of metropolitan areas, and the massive size of the bird ensures that "military personnel, emergency responders, and rural customers are always connected."

In order to make its network even more viable to the average consumer, TerreStar has also developed a new smartphone that can operate on both GSM and satellite networks. In other words, the phone could be used on AT&T's US network in normal day-to-day activities, yet it could switch to satellite coverage if you shuttle off to the middle of the Atlantic on a fishing expedition. It sounds like it'll still be a short while before the company can offer service, but network testing is in full force now that the bird is in orbit. Oh, and if you expect satellite phone service to be "affordable," we'd say you've got another thing coming.