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March 20, 2014

Satellite Services Provider Globalstar Working on Hotspot and Wi-Fi Solutions for Mobile Users

Louisiana-based satellite voice and data services provider Globalstar has been hard at work on some exciting new solutions that will change the way mobile communications are delivered. The company, which recently finished putting its second-generation satellite constellation into service, is working to fill in the gaps when it comes to consumer and enterprise mobile phone coverage.

Globalstar serves more than 550,000 subscribers throughout the world, providing mobile satellite services (MSS). According to Barbee Ponder, general counsel and vice president of regulatory affairs at Globalstar, the company has been focused on its new Sat-Fi voice and data solution this year. The offering provides integration between any Wi-Fi-enabled device and the company’s satellite constellation, enabling customers to use their existing phones and phone numbers for voice and text communications outside of cellular range.

“It essentially turns your existing smartphone into a satellite phone,” said Ponder in an interview with TMC’s Paula Bernier at the IT EXPO Miami event earlier this year. He added that the service works through an app installed on users’ existing mobile devices, which works in tandem with a small piece of hardware that enables customers to be connected to a satellite hotspot.

The company’s services are useful for a number of vertical markets like forestry, mining, maritime, government and field-oriented enterprise trades. Consumers like hikers and recreational boaters may also benefit from the service, which essentially fills in the gaps of existing mobile coverage when users stray off the grid.

Final FCC certification for Sat-Fi is expected this quarter, and Globalstar plans to start shipping out the product soon after. The company is also working on a major initiative with the FCC that would enable them to use their mobile satellite services spectrum for certain terrestrial broadband applications. The FCC has proposed new rules that would essentially allow companies like Globalstar to open up a new non-overlapping channel under the existing 802.11 standard. It would sit adjacent to the public Wi-Fi band at 2.4 GHz, enabling existing Wi-Fi devices to make use of a new channel.

“We could essentially increase the nation’s Wi-Fi capacity by a third at the 2.4 GHz range, very quickly,” said Ponder. He said that once the FCC rules are published in the federal register, Globalstar has a number of initiatives planned to promote the new channel. The company plans to provide 20,000 free access points to schools, hospitals and special interest groups using the new channel. The will also offer free MSS to any federally declared disaster area.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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