Y2K Rings Up Satellite Phone Surge Companies Signing Up As Insurance Measure For Dec. 31 ---

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Y2K rings up satellite phone surge Companies signing up as insurance measure for Dec. 31 By Neil Winton - REUTERS

LONDON, Dec. 17  Multinational companies are rushing to buy satellite telephones as last-minute insurance against the millennium computer bug, company officials said on Friday. But some industry experts point out that this is unlikely to provide much immunity because satellite phones have to use ground-based facilities to complete calls to traditional users.

THE SALES SURGE is helping the floundering providers of satellite telephone services who have invested billions of dollars in space networks but found sales hard to come by.

Potential customers have been put off by the high cost of telephone handsets at around $3,000 and calls costing up to $7 a minute. But worries that everything will go quiet after midnight on Dec. 31 have prompted companies like information technology giant International Business Machines Corp. and global telecommunications operator AT&T Corp. to stock up on satellite telephones.

The fear is that computers controlling telephone and utility services might succumb to the so-called Y2K problem. Computers programmed to use double digit dates like 97 might trip over when faced with the zeros in 2000. REMOTE AREAS MIGHT BE VULNERABLE

London-based Inmarsat, which had 140,000 suscribers at the end of 1998, said its sales of Mini-M phones had accelerated over the last few months, but declined to be more specific. Privately owned Inmarsat, likely to be floated on stock markets in two years, said it expected most telephone systems to be immune to the bug, but its customers operating in remote regions were seeking satellite telephone backup.

Iridium LLC, forced into bankruptcy last August, said its north American sales had soared because of Y2K fears. IBM and ATT had signed up for its products. We have seen about a 15 percent surge in sales because of Y2K. We actually have many more Fortune 100 companies that we cant name. This is an emotional issue; they simply dont want to alarm their customers, Iridium

North America spokeswoman Kathie Matney said by telephone from Washington D.C. Motorola Inc is a major investor in Iridiums 66 low-orbiting satellite network. This action is across the board with customers from telecommunications, businesses large and small and the health care industry, Matney said. She said costs were dropping, with the latest handsets costing close to $1,000 and calls at $1.50 a minute.


Jeremy Green, analyst with high-technology consultancy Ovum, thinks that the sudden embrace of satellite telephones is likely to be pointless.

Companies getting Iridium phones think they will be more resistant to Y2K. But who do they think will be on the other end of the phone when they make the call? That will need ground facilties too and they could be just as vulnerable to Y2K. Green said satellite telephone sales had been disappointing because they were too expensive and didnt work very well. Theres also no data service; you cant plug in and send e-mails. Because they are newer, people thought theyd be better prepared against Y2K. But why should that apply to Iridium and not to (cellular phone company) Vodafone ( Airtouch), Green said.

URL: http://www.msnbc.com:80/news/347856.asp?cp1=1


-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), December 20, 1999


Interesting point: "insurance measure", not panic buying or paranoid over-reaction.

-- Servant (public_service@yahoo.com), December 20, 1999.

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