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January 10, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 1:07pm

COMSAT LAUNCHES INMARSAT’S SATELLITE PHONE SERVICE

By CBR Staff Writer

The International Maritime Satellite Organization – Inmarsat – has stolen a march on all the other satellite cellular telephone service start-ups by becoming the first to offer service. The first to put its head above the parapet is the Comsat Personal Communications arm of Comsat Corp in Bethesda, Maryland, which has launched service on the Inmarsat-3 satellite under the Planet 1. The service offers secure personal voice, facsimile and data communications from a portable notebook-sized phone, at an estimated cost of $3 per minute. The phone does not come cheap – it sells for about $3,000, and is aimed at international travelers and those who work in areas without reliable telephone or cellular service, although foreign correspondents sound likely to be the most interested. Planet 1 service is immediately available in Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Europe, South America, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China and India. The service is scheduled to cover the globe by summer 1997. Cellular phone service is available in only approximately 20% of the world and is often incompatible from country to country, the company says, adding that fewer than 50% of the people in the world have access to ordinary phone service. The Inmarsat-3 satellites use a high-power spot beam system, which enables revolutionary reduction in antenna size.

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