AT&T launches satellite mobile phone

It’s no secret that AT&T has a range of unhappy customers over poor signal. Now it has decided to launch a phone that uses a satellite signal.

Its TerreStar Genus phone uses a backstop for AT&T’s own network over a satellite. This, in theory, means blanket coverage of America, even in the back of beyond or hundreds of miles offshore.

We say “in theory” because to use the phone you have to have a clear view of the southern sky where the satellite is placed. Trees, buildings and hills will all interrupt service.

AT&T will initially be selling the phone to business customers before pushing it out to consumers later this year at $799. Those worried about the lack of satellite coverage should be assured, says AT&T, that the phone can also use the AT&T network where it’s available. Which also rarely works. Check out the social media fail when AT&T asked its customers to say what they thought on Facebook – where thousands replied complaining of poor coverage

In addition to calls, the phone has a full keyboard and runs Windows Mobile 6.5 software for email and web surfing.

The phones will communicate with the world’s largest commercial satellite, owned by TerreStar Corp. It launched last year, and unfolded an umbrella of gold mesh, 60 feet wide, as a dish antenna to pick up the faint signals from phones 22,000 miles below.

AT&T has been a busy bee this year. Only last week it announced that would be launching its first LTE network in the summer of 2011.