Not being able to communicate is the worse nightmare an international businessman can dream in this age. In most of the world, executives are not haunted by it. But in the emerging markets once veiled behind the iron curtain, finding a dial tone that will allow voice communication can be a tricky task, let alone finding a stable link to send data.
Then the Norwegian state company Telenor has a solution for you. For several years, Telenor has been slowly lassoing the globe with its Inmarsat satellite network that can connect anyone, anywhere, in less than a second.
The Mobiq phone is a portable device about the size of a laptop computer that is able to transfer two-way voice and data communication, including fax mail. A computer can also be simply hooked onto the phone in order to send an e-mail or to browse the Internet.
"The advantage for businessmen, investors, or correspondents who are in remote parts of the world, is that they don't have to rely on local terrestrial lines to communicate back to their home office," said Štefan Mačica, sales executive for Telenor Slovakia, a division of Telenor International. "It is interesting to some Slovak companies who are doing business in the former Soviet empire where the telephone lines are a joke."
The Mobiq telephone's case is actually a mini-satellite dish able to transmit and receive data reflected off of a Telenor geocentric satellite - a satellite that has a fixed orbital position above the earth .
There are four such satellites at four positions in space 36,000 km above the earth. These satellites can connect 95 percent of the earth's land, missing only the two poles because of the orbiting globules' position at the equator.
The cost for the Mobiq telephone has come down in the last year from heights similar to the Inmarsat satellites, from $50,000 to $5,000. Phone charges, however, are still prohibitively high.
One minute on the Mobiq phone costs $3 from anywhere to Europe and $3.50 to anywhere else. Not cheap, but a guaranteed connection. Mačica thinks there are about 20 - 50 customers in Slovakia who could utilize such a phone.
Telenor Slovakia worked with the Slovak private television station VTV earlier this year to broadcast the channel via satellite.
"What this means," Mačica said, "is that Slovaks can watch VTV anywhere in Europe." Provided there is a satellite hook-up, of course. Mačica said that Telenor is currently talking with state-run Slovak Television to offer the same service.
The new Slovak independent press agency SITA also can beam their information via satellite to anywhere in Europe thanks to Telenor. This is possible through a unique one-way communication link with a satellite.
The advantage of satellite communication is immediate, vast coverage. The disadvantage is cost.
One of the reasons is that it costs close to $5 billion to launch a satellite - which Telenor does every year. But Mačica insists that satellite communication will be the cheaper alternative in the future.
11. Sep 1997 at 0:00 | Daniel J. Stoll