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Hughes To Invest $1.4 Billion In Broadband Satellite Network

Satellite company Hughes Electronics Corp. Wednesday announced plans to invest $1.4 billion in the Spaceway satellite network to provide high-speed Internet access and other broadband services.

The system will start operating in North America in 2002 and will expand to Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East thanks to partnerships with companies worldwide. The services will be offered under Hughes' Direc name. Rates customers pay will be dependent on the bandwidth they use.

Michael Smith, Hughes chairman, said the broadband expansion is being undertaken to meet exploding demand for high-speed data access. Hughes currently offers high-speed Internet services through its Hughes Network Systems unit. Those customers will be able to move to Spaceway.

Hughes' DirecTV unit will market Spaceway services to its customers.