Remember all the hype that surrounded Iridium during the project's early days? The companies backing Iridium dumped billions into the satellite phone project, claiming that it would let everyone use phones around the entire world. Of course, while they spent all that money and built up that big satellite network, most of the places in the world where people might actually be got mobile phone service. Then Iridium finally launched with its expensive brick-sized phones that didn't work indoors (okay, make that everywhere in the world... with line of sight to a satellite) and service plans that were insanely expensive. At that point, most people recognized that a cheap, small, decent mobile phone really was good enough. Iridium was eventually sold for pennies on the dollar, with the new owners recognizing that they had a niche solution, not a mass market one. It looks like other satellite phone firms are really starting to embrace that philosophy, figuring that if they can find the right, extremely narrow niche, they might be able to sell into it at ridiculously high prices. For example, just as we approach hurricane season, one company is out promoting a "hurricane phone" that will keep on working, even after the hurricane takes out your local mobile phone networks. Of course, it's only for those who really, really need to stay in touch. The hurricane phone will run you a cool $4,995 -- but on the plus side it includes 400 minutes of bundled talk time that never expire, and 120 megs of wireless data services.
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