The bi-modal handsets - permitting calls to be made via satellite and cable networks- currently cost about USD3,000. This high price limits the service's client-base, although the cost of calls is more reasonable. Estimated at between five and eight years, the service life of the service's satellites is a major contributory factor in increasing operating costs and therefore the prices charged to clients.The group's satellite constellation is practically complete, with 66 operational satellites each weighing about 700 kilos already placed in a low orbit at about 780 km. A total of 79 satellites have been launched using American, Russian and Chinese rockets, but seven malfunctioned. Two further launches are planned for November and December to install back-up satellites. The network is supported by 12 ground stations, the last of which has been built in China.More than 120 countries have signed licensing agreements with Iridium, representing three quarters of the American...

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