EchoStar, SBC Bundle Up for DSL

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EchoStar Communications Corp. will partner with SBC Communications Inc. to offer a bundle that includes the telco's digital subscriber line offering and its Dish Network direct-broadcast satellite video service.

The move, announced last week, is another example of a DBS provider searching for ways to offer bundles of communications products to woo customers away from cable.

"This alliance gives both companies access to new sales channels," SBC executive director of business development and alliance management Lee Culver said.

Beginning next month, the companies plan to position the bundle as an alternative to cable's packages of video and data. SBC, a regional Bell operating company, will pitch the offer to all of its customers. But only DSL subscribers will receive a discount on DBS, Culver said.

Consumers eventually stand to save up to $10 per month through the bundled offers — $5 off the bill for each service, said EchoStar spokeswoman Judianne Atencio. Initially, the services will be billed separately, but EchoStar and SBC are looking to create a joint invoice that could be introduced later this year. Such an invoice would be handled by the telco, Culver said.

SBC and EchoStar also want to combine their DSL and DBS platforms to create advanced services. Culver said the companies would work together to create a new set-top that could deliver video-on-demand and electronic-commerce options.

SBC counts 60 million residential and commercial service lines across 13 states. Culver said the EchoStar alliance would focus primarily on residential bundles.

The telephone provider also has a relationship with DirecTV Inc., reselling its DBS service in five Midwestern states.

EchoStar recently discontinued a joint marketing relationship with satellite broadband provider StarBand Communications LLC, in which it is an investor.

Hughes Electronics Corp. — DirecTV's parent — has its own DSL company, DirecTV Broadband, which offers promotional rates for its high-speed Internet service to its video customers. The company recently announced plans to offer a digital telephone service using voice over Internet-protocol technology, starting next year.

EchoStar has proposed to buy Hughes, pending regulatory approval. Atencio said last week that EchoStar could not comment on whether the company would continue to operate DirecTV Broadband following a merger, or rely on DSL partnerships like the one with SBC.

Digital cable marketers have found that customers that buy a bundle of voice, video and data show the lowest tendency to churn, research has shown.

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