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Satellite Phones Are Finally Here

The day you' ve dreamed of (or perhaps dreaded) is here—you can now be reached anywhere. Iridium (888/331-1350), a consortium of telecom firms (including Motorola, Lockheed, and Sprint), has been launching low-orbit satellites for a while; there are now 66, enough to cover the planet. The satellite phone comes in two versions: the one made by Kyocera (right) is a cellular model that converts, with an attachment, into a one-pound satellite phone; Motorola makes an all-in-one phone that' s about the same size. As long as you are in reach of any of the world' s cellular systems, your calls travel from tower to tower, but if you venture somewhere more remote, Iridium' s satellites will handle your signal. Ubiquity doesn' t come cheap: the phones run about $3,000, and airtime costs about 25 percent more than international rates. Other companies will introduce similar service soon; the competition should eventually bring prices down.

—Jim Lewis

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