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Report: WildBlue close to new funding

Thu, 12/12/2002 - 7:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

WildBlue Communications, the troubled Colorado-based high-speed satellite company, could be injected with about $200 million next week by a group headed by Liberty Media Corp., the Rocky Mountain News reported Friday.

The financing could allow WildBlue to launch its first Ka-band high-speed satellite by 2004, the paper said, noting that other investors include IntelSat and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative.

The NRTC represents the advanced telecommunications and information technology interests of more than 1,000 U.S. rural utilities and affiliates, and serves nearly 20 percent of DirecTV Inc.'s subscribers via a partnership with the DBS giant. Liberty Media has also been rumored to be interested in purchasing DirecTV following the satellite company's failed merger with EchoStar Communications.

WildBlue, which originally planned a 2001 commercial deployment, has been stalled on the launch pad as it searches for desperately needed funding. EchoStar, an early WildBlue investor, wrote off its $50 million investment in the fledgling high-speed satellite company earlier this year.

Liberty Media also has a vested interest in Astrolink, whose original plan was to launch Ka-band services in the Americas, Europe and the Middle East by 2003. Like WildBlue, Astrolink is in need of cash to execute on a curbed down version of its plans, which now call for a launch of four satellites sometime next year.

Liberty Media officials were not immediately available for comment Friday.

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