American Mobile Satellite Corp. introduced its OmniQuest Satellite Telephone for use with its Skycell satellite communications services network.

The unit, manufactured by Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc., weighs a little more than five pounds.

The company’s previous model weighed in at more than 28 pounds not including an A/C adapter.

The OmniQuest phone is comparable in size to a laptop computer and can be stored and transported in cases designed for laptop computers, the company said.

The unit provides one hour of talk time and eight hours of standby time. Plans call for future enhancements to include extended-life batteries that provide more than five hours of talk time.

The antenna, cased in the lid of the unit, automatically tracks the satellite so OmniQuest users don’t have to determine the position of the satellite.

When the phone is turned on, a signal strength monitor allows users to position themselves for optimal transmission.

AMSC said it is researching the possibility of combining the OmniQuest phone in a large case that includes a laptop computer, a fax machine and other equipment for a mobile office contained in one case.

The phone is being marketed primarily to businesses including the construction, oil and gas, mining and forestry industries. The phone also has been targeted to government sector for emergency service response.

The unit also will be marketed to professionals who travel extensively and need reliable communications. For example, the unit would be suited to an insurance adjuster who travels into disaster areas to determine damage, the company said.

AMSC offers two rate plans. The operator’s basic plan, designed for low-use customers, has a monthly access fee of $25 and airtime priced at $1.49 per minute. The value plan carries a $100 monthly access fee, which includes 80 minutes of airtime, and additional airtime is priced at $1.35 per minute.

The phone is being debuted during the Denali ’97 Telemedicine Expedition in Alaska.

During the expedition, climbers are collecting heart rate data in Mount Denali’s low-oxygen environment and transmitting the data to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute using the mobile satellite-based terminal.


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