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Thuraya Launches Dual-Mode Satellite & GSM Phone

By 1987 Bertiger had developed a concept, by 1998 the (Iridium) satellites were in space and by March 2000 the mainstream Iridium idea was dead. Today, Iridium is a military/academia/industry focused service with little appeal to the general consumer, even if satellite phones make a lot of sense for those who travel quite a bit. Not only have those phones global reach, they also offer occasionally cheaper calling rates than the expensive cellular roaming options we usually use.

Thuraya, a satellite phone service provider based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, is trying to change that idea by combing GSM cellular capability as well as satellite phone capability in one device. The XT-Dual is still a bulky phone that looks like an antique by today's smartphone standards. However, the fact that consumers can make GSM calls whenever GSM is available and makes sense - and switch over to satellite calls when no cell network is available is certainly appealing. Satellite calls are priced at $0.89/minute for Thuraya-Thuraya calls, and at $1.49 to $4.49/minute to any other phone. Calls into other satellite networks are priced at $6 to $9/minute.

There is a downside of this offer: coverage. While Iridium promises to cover every inch of the globe, Thuraya's reaches only from the western coast of Iceland down south to the eastern coast of New Zealand. South Africa and the most eastern part of Russia, the Arctic ocean as well as most regions of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean are not covered. North America and South America are also not included in the coverage map, which makes Thuraya useful only for those who need a satellite phone in Europe, Africa and Asia.