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Satellite Radio Almost A Reality

Sunday, December 3, 2000

     With the launch of Sirius Satellite Radio`s Sirius 3third satellite (photo right) last Thursday, November 30th, the advent of digital satellite broadcasting is now only months away.  When the FCC auctioned the broadcast spectrum between 2320-2345 MHz in 1997, Sirius (then known as CD Radio) and XM Satellite Radio (then known as American Mobile Radio Corp.) successfully bid for their respective portions of the spectrum, and both companies have been gearing up for broadcast during 2001.  Sirius and XM each plan on offering 100+ digital channels with limited or no advertising, aimed primarily at the car radio market, and priced at $9.95 per month for subscribers.  In urban areas, ground repeaters will be used to assist in signal coverage.

      Sirius, based in New York City, has now launched its three-satellite array from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  After the third satellite is tested, it is expected that broadcast service will begin by March, 2001.  Auto makers, such as Ford, Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes, and Mazda, have agreed to install Sirius auto receivers, while manufacturers such as Panasonic, Kenwood, Alpine, and Clarion and electronics retailers such as Circuit City, Radio Shack, and Best Buy have also signed on. Sirius promises 50 channels of commercial-free music and up to 50 channels which will include content from CNBC, NPR, the Sci Fi Channel, Comedy World, and the BBC.

      XM Satellite Radio is following Sirius into space, with the first of its two satellites set for launch on January 8th from the mid-ocean Sea Launch launch platform, and service is scheduled to begin by June, 2001.  XM has formed alliances with General Motors, Honda, Saab, Isuzu, and Suzuki to include XM-ready car radios in their vehicles, and it has announced deals with manufacturers Blaupunkt, Alpine, Sony, and Pioneer, and retailers Crutchfields, Tweeter, Best Buy, Circuit City and others.  Some of the XM`s content providers include Sesame Street, BET, BBC, USA Today, Bloomberg, and C-Span Radio.  Based in Washington, DC, XM Radio will broadcast directly to home and portable receivers as well as to car receivers.

      Both Sirius and XM are betting that motorists and other subscribers will opt for digital sound and a greater variety of programming than is offered by traditional broadcasters. But satellite radio has a different competitor: the Internet.  Testing is soon to begin for direct satellite delivery of broadband Internet signals to portable receivers - including streaming audio of tens of thousands of radio stations and webcasters.

For more information:

Sirius Satellite Radio
XM Satellite Radio

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