EchoStar Communications Corp. last Friday
announced a strategic alliance with Loral Skynet to create a new
direct-to-home satellite platform from Loral's Telstar 5 satellite.
The satellite had previously been used by failed DTH
venture AlphaStar Television Network.
The new fixed-satellite service would require a 34-inch
dish, and it will target Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean, as well as the United States.
According to Jim Carlin, vice president of technology and
chief scientist at Loral Skynet, EchoStar will offer more than 20 popular cable channels
through its access to four transponders on Telstar 5. And Skynet will make a number of
other transponders available to special-interest programmers that want to package their
channels with the mainstream fare.
Skynet will also make the specialty channels from the
Telstar 5 platform -- which are expected to include foreign-language and
business-to-business television -- available to cable operators.
EchoStar will provide uplink services, order processing,
set-top-box authorization and billing services, according to a joint statement. In the
future, the companies plan to make EchoStar's Dish Network programming available to
subscribers to the new DTH service. Consumers would be able to use a single receiver and
smart card for both services, but they would need separate dishes.
EchoStar already offers some niche programming of its own
from its EchoStar 3 satellite. Subscribers to those services need a second 18-inch dish to
receive Dish Network's most popular programming.
In other EchoStar news, chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen told
viewers of his monthly call-in show last Thursday that the recently launched EchoStar 4
satellite was still undergoing testing, and that one of the satellite's solar panels
has not yet fully deployed.
Ergen is still confident that the satellite will get about
two-thirds of its expected power, and that it will use 11 high-power transponders. The
company still expects to position EchoStar 4 at its full-CONUS (continental United States)
orbital position at 119 degrees west longitude. Spot-beam technology will also allow the
new bird to target Alaska and Hawaii with about 100 channels, Ergen predicted.
At the company's dealer summit, held at EchoStar
headquarters in Littleton, Colo., last week, retailers saw the first high-definition
television feeds from Dish Network. The HDTV film clips, provided by Home Box
Office, were broadcast from the EchoStar 3 satellite.