Hughes Ships Two-Way Satellites

Several national Internet service providers are getting a sneak-peek of Hughes Network Systems two-way satellite service, officials announced Thursday, months before the company plans to roll out the service nationwide.

Juno Online Services Inc., Earthlink Inc., and Pegasus received the first test models for an expected first quarter 2001 mass deployment.

Gary Baker, Juno spokesperson, said that although the ISP doesn’t have a signed agreement with Hughes to deploy the two-way broadband service, it’s a technology that fits into its long-term business strategy.

“We have an agreement (with Hughes) in principle, when we signed our agreement it was for deploying the one-way satellite service Hughes offers,” Baker said. “So far, we haven’t set an actual availability date, but consider them to be a great fit to our broadband strategy. They fill out the coverage map nicely, because their service is designed for the rural areas, while (digital subscriber line) service is concentrated in heavily populated areas.”

Baker said he doesn’t expect immediate deployment of the satellite service, since the majority of Juno subscribers are new to the Internet and not ready for the advanced services satellite service offers. He said he expects his company to begin testing the high-speed service immediately.

Sam Baumel, Hughes consumer division senior director of marketing, said the two-way service is the next leap in satellite service evolution, providing fast, yet simple, Internet connectivity.

“As the company that created consumer broadband satellite products services over four years ago, we’ve learned that simplicity is the key to success in the retail marketplace,” Baumel said. “The key benefit of our new fourth-generation DirecPC system is its ability to connect to existing computers as easily as a printer, using a simple, external connection. That, combined with our pioneering technology and proven performance, will make this a winner with customers.”

Satellite broadband service has come a long way in the past couple of years. Until recently, the majority of people using satellite service were relegated to an inefficient system of download via satellite, with uploads transmitted through the users standard telephone line.

While this makes it convenient for residential surfers, satellite couldn’t take advantage of the lucrative business services a true broadband connection could bring, like video teleconferencing.

Pricing for the service is still likely to be pricey. Hughes wouldn’t comment on pricing beyond the fact that the service itself would remain competitive with other broadband options like DSL and cable, which run in the $40 per month price range.

Equipment price might steer away some of the customers who have other broadband options. DirecPC requires a satellite dish mounted on the user’s home, and if the customer doesn’t have a DirecTV dish already installed, one will need to be installed.

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