Satellite communications company Inmarsat has taken the first steps towards building a worldwide handheld satellite phone service.
It plans to launch satellite phone services in Asia before the end of this year and has confirmed that a worldwide service is on the agenda.
Inmarsat has teamed up with satellite operator ACeS to boost satellite coverage — by combining resources from next year — to provide both fixed and mobile voice services across the continent.
In preparation, Inmarsat will implement a series of network upgrades, while ACeS' R190 satellite phone will be modernised to work with the new services.
Inmarsat is hoping to expand the service, with global coverage within the next two years. It will be also be launching its third Inmarsat-4 satellite in late 2007, with a view to launching new broadband and maritime services.
It said the market for handheld satellite communications is around $350m per year — and growing.
The globalisation process is expected to cost the satellite communications company up to $45m over the next two years, while the satellite, which has already been built, will cost between $130m and $150m to launch.