Globalstar and Qualcomm demonstrated mobile Net access for the first time today at an international telecommunications conference in Rio de Janeiro, offering data transfer rates of up to 9,600 bits per second on Qualcomm's tri-mode Globalstar phone.
The companies plan to offer limited Net services commercially this summer with a wider range of options planned for the second half of the year.
The Net access and email speeds are sluggish by terrestrial network standards, but Globalstar's wireless Net offering gives the company a valuable weapon in combating the cellular and PCS carriers that have rushed headlong into wireless Net services.
Falling prices for mobile voice communications have hurt satellite phone services such as Globalstar, Iridium and ICO Global Communications, which offer worldwide phone coverage but at a high cost. Iridium failed miserably and ICO was bailed out financially. Globalstar remains as the last major independent satellite phone provider not to have sought bankruptcy protections.
Now the cellular carriers are embracing wireless Net services, providing consumers with even greater incentive to use traditional wireless providers over satellite phone operators.
Globalstar executives said their ability to deliver service almost anywhere on Earth will be a competitive advantage.
The company said its network, which is based on Qualcomm's increasingly popular code division multiple access (CDMA) technology, will be capable of faster data transfer rates in the future.
Qualcomm also is developing its High Data Rate (HDR) technology, which will allow standard cellular and PCS providers to offer fast Net access, further increasing competition for Globalstar's services.
"Now Globalstar can bring basic Internet service to parts of the region and the world outside the range of cellular service, or any phone service at all," Globalstar senior vice president of systems development Joel Schindall said in a statement.
Globalstar offers commercial mobile voice services in 10 countries in Latin America.