Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sat Phones Surge After Katrina

Via Wired News
Satellite phones, which transmit calls through networks of low-earth-orbiting satellites, have been popular among emergency responders for years, but never took off with the general public following their introduction in the late 1990s. While the phones are technically capable of transmitting calls anywhere on earth, they have the drawback of not working inside buildings and being much heavier and more expensive than cell phones. In emergencies, however, they're extremely handy.

'Certainly right when a disaster happens, if you want to make a call within a few hours, without a satellite phone, you're pretty much out of luck,' said Dave Mock, a wireless industry expert and vice president at Instream Partners, an investment banking firm.

Typically, cell-phone providers are able to roll out temporary networks fairly quickly after disaster strikes, but the scale of Katrina's devastation promises to make service restoration much slower than usual.

Two firms -- Iridium and Globalstar -- dominate the satellite-phone market, and both have reported a spike in usage following the hurricane.

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