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Motorola confirms Iridium delay

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Motorola yesterday confirmed delays to the commercial launch of its Iridium satellite phone system, whose (nearly) final satellites went into place earlier this week. The company now plans to launch it properly on 1 November, but will be offering a limited test service from the original date, 23 September. On Tuesday Motorola had hailed the launch of the (nearly) final satellites, but conceded that another five would go up to deal with one possibly errant unit. The company now says it's working to improve operational stability, and that it has already fixed a software problem that seemed to be causing satellite failures. The company still has an improbably large target for sales this year - 100,000 handset units. These will be relatively weighty beasts by current mobile phone standards, and will cost anything from $2,795 to $4,000, for one with all the trimmings (and we presume the trailer). At this price level, Motorola's service will be coming in way over the cost of systems using the 'old' satellite phone technology, and the company's potential markets look dubious. High-powered execs will surely want something smaller and cooler looking, while people who really need constant communications links from remote locations will quite likely just carry on buying or renting the somewhat larger but perfectly serviceable old stuff. ®

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