Defense Giants, Telecom Italia Partner In $3.6 Billion Venture

U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. Thursday announced plans to team with rival TRW Inc. and Telecom Italia to develop a $3.6 billion global broadband Internet and intranet venture.

Lockheed Martin’s Global Telecommunications Group will pour $400 million into the venture while Telecom Italia’s Astrolink LLC Telespazio and TRW will each provide $250 million.

All of the companies will only have a minority stake. Astrolink is also looking to bring on additional service providers as investors and partners.

The project will be a four-satellite system that will handle Internet, intranet and multimedia traffic. Customers will use satellite dishes to connect to the system.

The first part of the project will provide services to Europe, North America and South America and is expected to launch in 2002. After the initial launch, three other satellites will be launched every six months to eventually give the network a worldwide reach. The partners have plans to increase the total number of satellites to nine, depending on market demand.

Celso Azevede, who served as senior vice president for global business development at DirecTV, has been named Astrolink’s president and chief executive officer.

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