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RealTime IT News

Two-Way Broadband Access Takes to the Sky

EchoStar Communications Corp. Monday invested $50 million in iSKY Inc. to provide the nation's first two-way wireless broadband Internet service over a single satellite dish.

Following the 2001 launch of iSKY's Internet service, EchoStar intends to distribute iSKY broadband access through its 23,000 nationwide retailers.

As a result of its investment, EchoStar (DISH) will own 12 percent of iSKY and may receive warrants, which could increase its stake to more than 20 percent of iSKY. The revenue-sharing deal also landed EchoStar a seat on iSKY's board of directors.

Charlie Ergen, EchoStar chief executive officer and chairman, said the service revolutionizes wireless Internet access systems.

"We are excited about taking advantage of new Ka-band satellite technology to offer consumers a 21st century entertainment and communications service," Ergen said.

Thomas Moore, iSKY president and chief executive officer, said its partnership with EchoStar is essential to iSKY's consumer marketing strategy to bridge geographical barriers of the "Digital Divide."

"This will be the first easy and affordable way for consumers to access Ka-band satellite broadband and satellite TV through one sales process, one installation and one set of equipment," Moore said. "We forecast that 25 to 30 million U.S. homes will not have access to any other broadband solution when our service hits the market next year."

ISKY, formerly KaSTAR Satellite Communications, plans to rollout broadband services late in 2001 and is expected to provide service to Latin America through the launch of its second satellite in mid-2002.

iSKY's broadband Internet solution is the first two-way Ka-band satellite service that is designed to deliver access speeds of 1.5 Mbps, or 30 times faster than 56k dial-up.

As part of the non-exclusive agreement EchoStar will provide sales and installation of the TV-broadband service through its nationwide DISH Network Service Corp. EchoStar installation is connected to a single set-top box through a small satellite dish at a subscriber's home or office.

The 26-inch dish is capable of sending and receiving Internet data while simultaneously receiving hundreds of satellite television channels, including local stations, interactive television services, and international programming.

iSKY entered into a $200 million strategic partnership with commercial satellite operator Telesat to attain its multi-media satellite capacity and fulfill the EchoStar deal.

Larry Boisvert, Telesat president and chief executive officer, said the launch of its Anik F2, iSKY will increase its capacity to offer two- way wireless broadband Internet access in North America.

"Telesat's powerful new Anik F2 satellite will provide for North American capacity and lead to affordable consumer satellite broadband services," Boisvert said. "It's also a good example of satellite telecommunications in a new era."

Ottawa-based Telesat is a member of the Bell Canada Enterprises media group and a wholly owned subsidiary of BCE Inc. (BCE), one of the world's leading telecommunications companies.