World's biggest telco satellite launched

Weighs seven tonnes and has an antenna 18 metres in size

With a little help from an Ariane 5 rocket, the biggest telecommunications satellite in the world hit orbit this week.

Set to revolutionise communications in North America, the TerreStar-1 satellite was built by TerreStar networks to aid in the development of a new phone handset in the US.

"It's the first full-mode terrestrial/satellite handset," TerreStar President Jeff Epstein explained to BBC News.

"It's about the size of a Blackberry 'Curve'. It's very small; everything is internal: there are no external antennas."

Wide adoption

The handset has been created to be used by the US government, emergency responders, rural communities and commercial users, according to the BBC, and will piggyback on normal networks, while automatically switching to the satellite's transmission when signal is lost.

"The whole premise of our business model is that to get wide adoption, you need a handset that is useable, not something that is huge," notes Epstein.

The handset may not be huge, but TerreStar-1 is. It's the first satellite to reach the seven-tonne mark and houses a reflector antenna which is a whopping 18 metres across. It puts our puny Sky dishes to shame.



Content Team Lead

Marc (Twitter, Google+) is the content team lead for Future Technology, where he is in charge of a 14-strong team of journalists who write many of the wonderful stories that end up on TechRadar, and T3 magazine. Prior to this he was deputy editor of TechRadar, had a 10-month stint editing a weekly iPad magazine, written film reviews for a whole host of publications and has been an integral part of many magazines that are no longer with us.