Crowded skies loom as Motorola announces LEO satellite plans

Motorola has confirmed that it plans to build a network of low-orbit and geosynchronous satellites to provide high-speed data and video to telecommunications operators, corporate users and broadcasters. It plans to launch its network around the same time as two other other services, the Bill Gates-backed Teledesic and Skybridge from Alcatel Alsthom SA.

Motorola has confirmed that it plans to build a network of low-orbit and geosynchronous satellites to provide high-speed data and video to telecommunications operators, corporate users and broadcasters.

While declining to confirm the exact investment amount, Motorola says it is investing a "significant" sum in the satellite network, called Celestri.

Motorola's satellite network will rely on a mix of 63 low earth orbit (LEO) satellites and one or more geosynchronous satellites in order to deliver data at rates that range from 64Kbit/s to 155Mbit/s, an official with Motorola in France says.

Motorola plans to launch its first satellite in 2001 in order for service to start in 2002. This falls within the same launch time frame as two competing LEO systems: Teledesic's Teledesic Network and Skybridge from Alcatel Alsthom SA, both of which plan to use LEO satellites to offer broadband Internet access, videoconferencing and interactive multimedia.

Alcatel has been seeking investment for its 64-LEO satellite system from Loral Space and Communications Ltd., and both companies will outline tomorrow how they will work together at a press conference in Paris.

Celestri will be Motorola's third satellite system.

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