Hughes to launch high-speed satellite data network

Hughes Electronics in El Segundo, California, on Wednesday announced plans to spend $US1.4 billion for the first phase of a global satellite data network that will begin operations in North America in 2002.

Hughes officials said the Spaceway data network will provide 400Mega bit per second of downlink bandwidth, nearly 20 times its current offering, DirecPC.

The Spaceway satellite network will allow business and home users to install 26-in. satellite dishes to receive and transmit, although the uplink data rate will be much slower, at 16M bit/sec., officials said.

Hughes Network Systems President Pradman Kaul said businesses will find the ultimate Spaceway service 20 percent to 30 percent less expensive than a traditional frame-relay data network.

Kaul said the higher bandwidth offering will be competitive with prices offered by cable modem operators, but he didn't provide details.

The project calls for three satellites to be deployed to circle the earth in geosynchronous orbit, with one operating as a spare. They are slated for launch in 2001 and 2002 and will be built by Hughes Space and Communications in El Segundo, California.

Analysts put the broadband data market in 2005 at $50 billion in the US. It will consist of a variety of technologies, including satellite, cable modem and xDSL (various flavors of Digital Subscriber Line).

Ultimately, Hughes expects to build Spaceway for global data communications by partnering with companies abroad and deploying more satellites. Globally, the cost is expected to be $4 billion.

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