TerreStar Networks launched the world's largest commercial satellite July 1, aiming to deliver 3G mobile voice, data and video communications to devices as compact as an iPhone. The TerreStar-1 took off from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.
The $300 million, 15,000-lb. TerriStar-1 is equipped with a 59-foot deployable reflector and employs an S-Band feed array capable of 500 beams covering all of the United States and Canada, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Once the satellite is in orbit 22,000 miles above North America, TerreStar plans to offer mobile services through a network of partners and service providers.
TerreStar has already negotiated a roaming agreement with AT&T. TerreStar also plans to use new and existing commercial chip-set technology to provide satellite communication capabilities via small, handheld devices. The first device planned is a Windows mobile satellite phone capable of receiving 3G speeds on AT&T networks and the TerreStar network.
Using licensed 2GHz spectrum, TerreStar and AT&T plan to initially target government users, emergency responders, rural communities and commercial users. TerreStar said its first service should roll out by the end of 2009.
Satellite phones have been hampered by the necessity of large antennas, but the hybrid mobile phone planned by AT&T and TerreStar employs SDR (software-defined radio) chips developed by Infineon and Qualcomm. The chips integrate both satellite and cellular capability and reduce the traditional bulky satellite phone to the size of today's smartphones.
The TerreStar satellite-about the size of a minivan-was built by Space Systems/Loral in California.