SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.-Iridium L.L.C.’s satellite communications system using digital wireless technology developed by Motorola Inc. was demonstrated with phone calls placed on the system last Wednesday night, following the completion of the satellite-launching phase of the network earlier in the week.

Nearly 150 service providers and Iridium gateway owners and operators from 17 countries took part in the 30-minute call demonstration, which included one call lasting 15 minutes that also successfully executed a satellite-to-satellite handoff, said Motorola.

Durrell Hillis, senior vice president and general manager of Motorola’s Space and Systems Technology Group, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., placed the initial call from a product conference at a hotel there to Iridium Chairman Robert Kinzie, who was in Geneva.

Hillis placed the call on an Iridium handset, which communicated with an orbiting Iridium satellite, then routed the call to the Iridium North America Gateway in Tempe, Ariz., which routed the call to the public switched telephone network. The call then was routed to a call bridge in New York via U S West Inc. so that all conference participants could listen to the call, Motorola explained.

Nearly a dozen conference participants were given the opportunity to place calls on the Iridium system to each other, or to people in other countries. Motorola described the sound quality as excellent. More than 30 separate phone calls totaling 120 call minutes were completed on the satellite system that transmitted conversations in several languages, including Japanese, Hindi, Russian and Spanish, said Motorola.

Just last week, the final five Iridium L.L.C. satellites were launched into orbit, completing in one year the constellation of satellites the company plans to use to offer global voice, data, fax and paging services beginning Sept. 23.

The Delta II launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was the 15th launch of an aggressive launch schedule the company has undertaken during the past year.

“With 67 operational satellites in orbit, we have achieved one of the critical milestones necessary to provide the first truly global, handheld wireless phone service,” said Edward F. Staiano, Iridium vice chairman and chief executive officer.

The global effort has included Iridium satellite launches using the Boeing Delta boosters in the United States, Chinese Long March 2C/SD rockets launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China and Russian Proton rockets launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russia.

Motorola will operate and maintain Iridium’s satellites under a 5-year contract that begins once commercial services are launched. A total of 72 satellites have been deployed in Iridium’s constellation, 67 of which are operational.


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