Ericsson Tailors GSM/Satellite Phone for Asia

L.M. Ericsson Telephone yesterday unveiled a dual-mode mobile phone handset designed to work on a satellite-based network in Asia as well as 900MHz GSM (global system for mobile communications) cellular networks.

Outside the reach of cellular networks, the R190 handset automatically switches to satellite mode and can still be used in areas throughout the Asia-Pacific region covered by the Asian Cellular Satellite (ACES) system, Ericsson said in a statement.

"Although GSM is the world's most widely used mobile phone standard, there are of course still areas where GSM does not reach, and that is where we believe specialty phones such as this one have a role to play," Bo Albertson, marketing manager at Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, said in a telephone interview today.

Weighing in at 210 grams, the R190 measures 130-by-50-by-32 millimeters, which is not much larger than today's regular mobile phone handsets and significantly smaller than Ericsson's R290, another dual-mode GSM/satellite phone designed for use in the Globalstar worldwide satellite network, Albertson said.

The R190 is also capable of handling data and fax communications when in GSM mode. It is scheduled to ship in the second half of this year. Pricing will be decided by the operator of the ACES system and its resellers, Albertson added.

The principal owners of the operator, Bermuda-based Asia Cellular Satellite International Ltd. (ACES International), are Indonesia's PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, the Philippines Long Distance Telephone Co., Jasmine International Public Company Ltd. of Thailand and Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin.

ACES International last month announced that its Garuda 1 global mobile personal communications systems satellite had been successfully launched and deployed into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Based on the geostationary Garuda 1 satellite, the ACES system allows for a much lower cost structure than other satellite communications systems such as the financially troubled Iridium LLC network, which was to operate 66 LEO (low earth orbit) satellites, but instead went bankrupt.

ACES International aims to deliver satellite calls at an initial cost of below US$1 per minute, the company said in a statement.

The ACES system will initially be available in eight Asian countries, with a combined population of around 1.7 billion people. The countries are Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. The company is also looking to sign up service providers in additional countries, ACES International said.

ACES International has already signed 43 international GSM roaming agreements covering an additional 26 countries, the company said.

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