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.

Via BBC