Through an agreement signed this week by satellite operators Mobile Satellite Ventures (MSV) and ICO Global, and by chipmaker Qualcomm, wireless customers throughout the U.S. may soon be able to purchase handsets and other mobile devices that provide ubiquitous communications connectivity via cell phone towers or by satellite. According to Alex Good, the CEO of MSV parent company SkyTerra, the partnership “marks a truly historic milestone in the evolution of the wireless industry” in which, “for the first time, satellite communications can achieve economies of scale traditionally enjoyed in the cellular marketplace today.” Under the pact, Qualcomm will develop and market multi-mode chips that integrate satellite and cellular technology and that will support the L- and S-band frequencies in which MSV and ICO operate. Handsets and other devices that use these chips will be designed to switch to satellite networks in areas where traditional cellular service is unavailable or unreliable. Although Qualcomm has not yet struck any deals with vendors, the goal is to have hybrid chipsets available for use by handset manufacturers by 2010. Declaring that the partnership “extends 3G to yet another dimension of wireless communications,” a Qualcomm spokeswoman predicted, “our work with MSV, ICO and other market innovators will enable innovative hybrid services and help pave the way for new uses of the mobile satellite bands.”