Local News

New Generation of Cell Phones Go the Distance

Posted May 18, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Imagine being able to use a cell phone anywhere in the world to make a call. That will soon be a reality using a network of 66 satellites and a new generation of cell phones. WRAL OnLine reporter Tom Lawrence explains how the "Iridium" system works.

Two days ago the last group of satellites was put into orbit for Iridium. Low earth orbit satellites allow the new cell phones to be smaller and give higher quality sound than present satellite phones.

Durell Hillis says the $5 billion dollar project by Motorola set records.

Listen toauorReal Audiofile."In terms of the numbers of satellites that it built in the shortest time. The number of launches that it did in the shortest time went way beyond anything that's been done before."The new phones are expensive at $3,000 each. Ron Gyurcsik of Cadence Design Systems, says new microchip designs, like those being developed by his company, allow new forms of wireless communication to serve underdeveloped countries.

Listen toauorReal Audiofile."China's 1.2 billion people approximately. They don't want to invest in a cable plant, an infrastructure of wired communications we have here. They want to skip a generation. India would fall under the same category."The newCadenceoffice in Cary is staffed by electrical engineers, many from N.C. State, who design integrated circuits for companies like Motorola and Lucent Technologies which manufacture microchips.

Iridium goes into service this fall and is expected to be used by globe hopping business people, emergency workers and eventually by underserved areas of the world.

The Iridium system also offers global paging and data transmission with some phones.