Motorola has moved a giant step closer to launching Iridium, a worldwide, satellite-based phone network. The low-orbiting satellites that Motorola plans to launch will be allowed to transmit their messages on the same radio frequency worldwide, thanks to a Mar. 3 ruling by the World Administrative Radio Conference in Spain. The possibility that different countries would assign the satellites different frequencies had jeopardized the company's plans.
Motorola still faces a steep hurdle: Getting the system and its 77 satellites off the ground will take $3.5 billion, up sharply from the company's original $2 billion estimate in 1990, when it first proposed the network. So the company, which claims it already has some outside financial backing, aims to sign up enough partners that it will end up owning just 15% of Iridium.