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Satellite Data Service Providers

Mon, 09/30/2002 - 8:00pm
Staff

Provider: Hughes Network Systems Inc.

Web site: www.hns.com

Number of subscribers: 500,000+ systems ordered or shipped to businesses and consumers in 85 countries. Direcway reported 123,000 North American subs as of June 30, 2002.

Service: DIRECWAY

System info: One-way (dial return) systems let the user receive large files while uploading information back to the Internet through a phone line. With two-way service (satellite return), requests for Web sites travel from a computer to a satellite dish and then up to the satellite. The request is received at a NOC, which passes the request to the desired Internet site. The requested content is then forwarded to the NOC, up to the satellite, and sent back to the user's dish.

* Planned Spaceway service: HNS is developing a Ka-band spot beam solution, Spaceway. However, timing of the Spaceway rollout will likely depend on the outcome of the planned EchoStar-DirecTV merger, and whether the new entity will continue to support the initiative.

Provider: StarBand Communications Inc.

Web site: www.starband.com

Number of subscribers: 40,000+*

* In May, StarBand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Much of StarBand's financial pressure was tied to a dispute with EchoStar, a major investor and marketing partner that surrendered its voting power in StarBand in June 2002. The company currently operates its high-speed network with approximately $7 million of DIP financing from Gilat Satellite Networks Inc., which owns close to 36 percent of the company. The company has yet to file a reorganization plan.

Proposed Satellite Services

Provider: Astrolink International

Web site: www.astrolink.com

Planned service: Astrolink System

Technology: Ka-band spot beam architecture.

Notes: One of the more memorable cash burns in the space. Last gasp was a planning and development deal with Telespazio North America Inc., in September 2001.

Provider: SkyBridge LP

Web site: www.skybridgesatellite.com

Planned service: SkyBridge LEO Constellation service

Technology: Planned a low-earth-orbit constellation of 80 satellites in the Ku band.

Notes: Parent company Alcatel quietly pulled the plug in 2001. In April 2002, SES Americom, Gilat Satellite Networks and Alcatel Space/SkyBridge formed a $200 EUR million joint venture to provide two-way satellite broadband services throughout Europe, but no concrete business plan has yet emerged.

Provider: Teledesic

Web site: www.teledesic.com

Planned service: Teledesic's Internet-in-the-Sky

Technology: Originally planned system of 288 low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites.

Notes: As recently as February 2002, Teledesic had inked a satellite manufacturing and development deal with Italian satellite maker Alenia Spazio SpA. From there, Teledesic's plan now calls for 30 medium-earth-orbit birds, and a 2005 service launch.

Provider: WildBlue Communications

Web site: www.wildblue.net

Planned service: WildBlue Internet Service

Technology: Ka band geosynchronous satellites to deliver broadband Internet services combined with DBS services.

Notes: It could be said that WildBlue was lost in the shuffle with the proposed merger between EchoStar and Hughes Network Systems. EchoStar had been the majority backer of the WildBlue effort, but backed rival service StarBand as well.

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