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Tech Report: New Technology Promise Planet-Wide Cell Service

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The Verizon version of the Apple iPhone. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

The Verizon version of the Apple iPhone. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

LarryMagid01-228 Larry Magid
Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safe...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/AP) – Want to get email on your iPhone or BlackBerry in the middle of the ocean, or in the Arctic? Now you can – but it’ll cost you.

Satellite phone network Iridium is launching a box, about the size of a cigarette pack, that connects to an Iridium phone. The box produces a Wi-Fi hotspot that smartphones and tablet computers can connect to. The phone relays that connection to satellites overhead.

Iridium says the data speeds will be slower than dial-up, but they should be good enough for meaningful use of email.

KCBS’ Larry Magid Comments:

KCBS Technology Analyst Larry Magid said that while the technology has improved by leaps and bounds, it is still imperfect.

”Years ago I was travelling in the Peruvian rainforest along the Amazon and I had an Iridium satellite phone and we were on the air together when the phone just went out on us in the middle of the broadcast, and I remember the anchor at the time saying ‘well, that’s technology for you,’” said Magid. “Well now you can do that with data. However, the service is very slow so it’s ideal for sending a quick email or text message on a smart phone, but not very good for web-surfing, and you certainly couldn’t watch videos on it. If you really need it though, and you’re in the middle of nowhere, you can get it anywhere on Earth.”

Iridium Communications Inc. says the AxcessPoint will cost less than $200, but it needs to be paired with a phone that costs about $1,000. The data connection will cost about $1 per minute.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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