Iridium begins Sri Lanka coverage

[TamilNet, Monday, 01 February 1999, 22:34 GMT]
The Global Mobile Personal Communication System (Iridium) will be introduced to Sri Lanka from this month said Dr. Rohan Samarajeewa, chairman of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission today at a special press conference at his office in Colombo today.

He said that the support network for the Iridium hand phones would be called the Chandrika system.

Dr. Samarajeewa explained to journalists who were amused that the commission should have thought it appropriate to name the system after the Sri Lankan President that a satellite is called Chandrika in Sinhala.

He said that the Iridium phones will cost four thousand US Dollars each; and he added, in response to a query by a journalist, that the phones can be used in the northern and eastern parts of the island with the permission of the Ministry of Defence.

The Sri Lankan government has been delaying the introduction of the Iridium phones to Sri Lanka due to technical wrangle over a monopoly on all foreign telecommunication guranteed until 2002 to the semi-government telephone company Sri Lanka Telecom.

Nevertheless, some analysts have attributed the delay to the Sri Lankan government's security concerns.

An officer at the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission dismissed this as idle speculation by sympathisers of the LTTE.

US-based Motorola leads the Iridium project, undertaken by 17 international companies from 14 nations. Over 4 billion US dollars are said to have been invested in the massive development.

Iridium is a satellite-based, wireless personal mobile communications network designed to permit any type of telephone transmission, voice, data, fax, or paging to reach its destination anywhere on earth.

It uses an array of satellites around the world which link directly with mobile phones to allow a person anywhere on the planet to call anyone else with an Iridium phone.

The name Iridium was chosen as the system was originally planned with 77 satellites and Iridium is a chemical element with the atomic number 77. In fact, Motorola later decided to use only 66, but the name stuck.

As it does not use land-based stations, the Iridium system provides services in areas with no telephone service at all.

it can provide multiple services including telephone transmission voice, data, fax, or paging unlike cellular phone systems, which can only provide single phone service.

However, the cost of the Iridium service may be much higher than cellular systems operating at present.

 

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