Unlike standard cellular phones that are limited in their coverage areas, an Iridium phone knows no boundaries, reports Bob Hansen of CBS affiliate KFMB in San Diego.
With a regular cellular phone, your signal has to reach ground-based receiver towers. With the Iridium system, your call goes straight from antenna to satellite. Because the Iridium network of satellites covers the planet, it's possible to place a phone call from anywhere in the world.
The signal "goes to the nearest satellite 430 miles overhead," says Rodney Lanthorne of Kyocera, which along with Motorola is manufacturing the first phones to take advantage of this system. "There is a series of 66 of these satellites."
The first of the new phones should hit the market next month.
A phone will cost around $3,000 when they first come out, says Mark Jerger, also of Kyocera. "The average monthly service I've heard is somewhere around $40 or $50 for basic service."
There is a half second delay using the satellite phones, and the sound quality may not be as good as a regular cell phone. But owners of this phone can do things other cell phones users can only dream about.