From the top of the highest mountain or the middle of the most barren desert, intrepid explorers, foreign correspondents and businessmen alike need never be out of touch now that British Telecommunications Plc and Sweden’s Telenor AS have launched the promised Mobiq satellite telephone (CI No 3,077). Claimed to be the world’s smallest satellite global communication system (CI No 3,006), Mobiq weighs just 5 lbs, is the size of an office telephone, and in its carrying case, which has a satellite antenna built in to the lid, is the size of a small notebook computer. Mobiq offers voice, facsimile, electronic mail and data transmission via satellite, using the International Maritime Satellite Organization, Inmarsat satellites. The three currently in position high over the equator provide coverage in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Western Australia and most of Africa. The fourth satellite, due to be launched in the summer, will extend the service to the rest of the world. British Telecom says the new generation of satellites use powerful spot beams which focus on the world’s land masses. The power of the satellites mean less power is needed on the ground, hence the ability to have smaller terminals, and cheaper call charges, Telecom says. British Telecom also claims Mobiq is the first satellite phone that will truly run on battery. It has a standby of 24 hours, and 2.5 hours talk time. It is simple to use, the antenna has a compass to help the user point it towards a satellite, and then dial the full international number and talk, provided no buildings, people, or other obstructions get between the antenna and the satellite. The Mobiq launch comes just days after Comsat Corp’s Planet-1 announcement of its Planet-1 service (CI No 3,077). Like British Telecom, Comsat is one of the Inmarsat global partners. British Telecom claims it is offering everything Comsat offers and more, in terms of support and services. In conjunction with Telenor, it says it will offer 24 hour support for Mobiq. The Mobiq phones are being made by several manufacturers, including Norway’s Nera Telecommunications AS. They will be available at the beginning of February, but British Telecom’s Mobiq product manager Dr Nick Spencer said demand is so great it may even outstrip supply. The phones cost $3,850. Call charges are said to compare favorably to international cellular calls or hotel telephone rates. There is a monthly charge of $25, including five minutes free airtime. Call charges are around $3 per minute.