Teledesic hints at Iridium stake

In his speech to the European Technology Roundtable Exhibition (ETRE) conference yesterday, Bill Owens, co-CEO and vice-chairman of Teledesic Inc, hinted that the satellite company just might have some cash to help the troubled Iridium LLC satellite telephone and paging venture.

Teledesic, which was co-founded by Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and has partnerships with Boeing, Lockheed and Motorola, is a start-up looking to launch a LEO (low-earth orbiting) system to bring fibre-like bandwidth for low-cost internet access all over the globe. That service isn't expected to be launched until 2003 or 2004, Owens said.

Until Teledesic can deliver its own service, "there are a variety of early revenue options", Owens said.

Because of its backers, Teledesic is in a position to invest in other companies, he said. "There is an advantage of having a lot of cash. And there are a lot of satellite companies in trouble we could help."

Iridium already has a network of 66 LEO satellites and clearly comes under the definition of "troubled" after having defaulted on two loans last August, a $US800 million loan as well as another $750 million guaranteed bank loan for a total of $US1.5 billion.

Owens specifically mentioned Iridium, saying that it was a good company for which Teledesic had a lot of respect , but he stopped short of saying outright that his company would invest in, or purchase, Iridium.

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