e-Mail by Satellite:
Magellan offers hand-held e-Mail transmitter

If you’re tired of all those telephone line adapters — and money is no object — you may wish to check out a new satellite-based wireless E-mail system now being sold by Magellan Systems Corp. in San Dimas, California. The system promises absolute, complete mobile communications. You don’t need a phone line, a cellular phone grid or even electricity. You can be in the middle of the ocean, a rain forest, or even in a hot-air balloon.

Magellan has been a pioneer in GPS positioning and navigation. Taking readings from a network of satellites, the company’s portable GPS systems can tell you exactly where you are in the world and how to get to where you’re going. Such systems, originally developed for the US military, are now used widely for air and sea navigation, as well as by individuals heading out for a hike in the woods.

Now, with the current launch of 28 new communications satellites, Magellan is able to add two-way E-mail communications to it’s hand-held GPS receivers. Here’s how it will work.

First you purchase a GSC 100 Global Satellite Communicator from Magellan. Suggested retail price: US$1,499.99. Next compose your E-mail. Then, from anywhere in the world you might find yourself, you tell your little two-pound, battery-operated unit to do its thing. Using a standard narrow-band VHF radio frequency the communicator beams your outgoing E-mail skyward and downloads your incoming E-mail. From the satellite, your E-mail is beamed back to earth and sent out as regular E-mail over the Internet.

Right now, only two of the 28 new satellites are in orbit, so a satellite is not always available to take your E-mail. But a Magellan company spokesperson assured Roadnews.com that it is not necessary to stand there with the communicator in your hand waiting for a satellite to pass overhead. You may simply set the unit to send and it will do so once a satellite is available.

The 26 other satellites were to be operational by the middle of ’98, putting all users in constant contact with at least one satellite.

Magellan’s portable communicator will store up to 100 text messages of a limited length and contains an address book that can handle up to 150 E-mail addresses.

Right now there are two main drawbacks to the system. First there’s the cost. The communicator itself is expensive, and then communication costs are expected run about a penny a character. This can run you US$5 to $10 each for moderate-sized messages.

The other problem is the little keyboard found on the three-and-a-half-inch wide unit. No touch typing here.

But new technology is always expensive, points out the Magellan spokesperson. Remember what cellular phones used to cost? Magellan also has plans to enable the connection of its portable communicator to laptop computers. This would let you use the communicator as a satellite modem.

Contact about the GSC 100. You can also contact one of Magellan’s distributors:

Magellan Systems Corp
960 Overland Ct
San Dimas, CA 91773, USA
909/394-5000
Fax: 909/394-7050 

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