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After a delay earlier this month because of a computer glitch, fledgling satellite broadband service WildBlue Communications Inc. is now off the ground with the successful launch of its first satellite payload aboard Telsat's Anik F2 bird over the weekend.

Riding aboard an Ariane 5G+ rocket, the satellite was launched Saturday from Kourou, French Guiana, and will be maneuvered into an orbital slot at 111.1 degrees West. After systems testing, Denver-based WildBlue plans to roll out wireless high-speed Internet access targeting the estimated 25 million homes and businesses - mostly in rural areas - that don't have access to wired broadband services.

WildBlue will use Ka-band spot beam transponders aboard the bird to provide customers with a wireless link based on Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) technology. It will offer several packages of service with maximum throughput of 1.5 Megabits per second down, 256 kilobits per second up. Pricing for the plans has not been finalized.

Using the DOCSIS standard will also help lower overall equipment costs for customers, said Tom Moore, WildBlue's CEO, in a release.

"We are very pleased to have met this important milestone," he said of the launch. "With our first satellite payload successfully launched, we will now begin a thorough testing phase as we ramp up to consumer availability in early 2005."

The company also plans to launch its own bird, WildBlue-1. The satellite is under construction at Space Systems/Loral and will be launched based on capacity demands, according to the company.

WildBlue is backed by Intelsat, Liberty Satellite and Technology Inc. and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. The NRTC issued a statement noting the launch will bring a valuable broadband option to its membership, consisting of smaller satellite service providers.

"We already have 240 NRTC members committed to bringing this exciting satellite broadband offering to consumers," said NRTC President and CEO Bob Phillips. "Their dedication to this offering will enable rural Americans to receive fast, affordable wireless Internet access."

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