Satellite communications provider TerreStar Corp. successfully has placed a VoIP-based call from one dual-mode smartphone handset to a second smartphone over its satellite network, CTO Dennis Matheson said.

"It proves the concept that the company has been claiming all along that we will be able to use smaller handsets, offer service in remote places and be able to provide communications when and wherever they may be needed," Matheson said.

TerreStar's plan is to build, own and operate North America's first next-generation integrated mobile satellite and terrestrial communications network, which will provide universal access and tailored applications over conventional commercial wireless devices. Matheson said that traditionally, satellite devices required large antennas to receive signals, which increased the weight and size of the handsets carried by first-responders working in remote locations. In June, the company launched its next-generation TerreStar 1 satellite so it could test whether a signal could be received by antennas in smaller form factors found in consumer handsets, such as smartphones.

Matheson said the recent test verified that the company's smartphones will be able to communicate seamlessly over an IP-based network, therefore meeting the needs of first responders and reducing the number of handsets owned and operated by public-safety agencies.

"We are trying to make sure the phones used every day by [public safety] also will be functional when they are responding to an incident in a remote region," he said. "So no longer do they have to grab a satellite phone off the shelf. Instead, it's the phone they use day in and day out."

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