Alcatel Readies Broadband Low-Orbit Satellite System

Alcatel Espace is pushing along its project to offer broadband services over 64 low-orbit satellites, starting in 2001, with its demand for an operating license from the US Federal Communications Commission. The French firm aims to use the 64 low-orbit satellites to offer Internet access, videoconferencing and local area network and wide area network connections. That would resemble the services offered by Teledesic Corp., which is also planning a 2001 launch for its 840 low orbit satellite project.

Alcatel Espace is pushing along its project to offer broadband services over 64 low-orbit satellites, starting in 2001, with its demand for an operating license from the US Federal Communications Commission.

The French equipment manufacturer, Alcatel Alsthom SA, has approached the FCC for an operating license for the spatial segment of the system, called SkyBridge. The project previously went under the name SATIVoD.

Skybridge aims to use the 64 low-orbit satellites to offer Internet access, videoconferencing and local area network and wide area network connections. That would resemble the services offered by Teledesic Corp., which is also planning a 2001 launch for its 840 low orbit satellite project.

The system will offer data transfer speeds of 60M bits per second, and although it will cover large cities, will probably largely attract customers in remote areas poorly served by cable and telecommunications networks, an Alcatel spokeswoman says.

So far Alcatel has shouldered the project's research and development costs, but the company is in negotiations to form partnerships with telecommunications operators.

Partners would not only offer services across the network, but also lighten Alcatel's financial load, as Alcatel estimates the project's cost at US$3.5 billion.

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