Even though the proposed $25.8 billion merger deal with DirecTV Inc. is far
from sealed, EchoStar Communications Corp. CEO Charlie Ergen has indicated that
he plans to beef up DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics Corp.'s high-speed
satellite Internet offerings.
In a report in The Wall Street Journal, Ergen indicated that he wants
to funnel a minimum of $1 billion into Spaceway, Hughes' satellite-based
high-speed Internet technology.
That runs counter to speculation that he would cut the risky Spaceway venture
if he is successful in acquiring Hughes and its DirecTV satellite service.
EchoStar communications manager Marc Lumpkin said the DBS provider intends to
fully support Spaceway as part of the proposed merger, but he could not confirm
the $1 billion investment figure.
EchoStar is no stranger to supporting satellite-based broadband Internet.
Earlier this year, the Englewood, Colo.-based company assumed a controlling
stake by investing $50 million in StarBand Communications Inc.
Israel's Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. and Microsoft Corp. are also investors
in the service, which offers Internet service at up to 500 kilobits per second
upstream and 60 kbps down. The StarBand service debuted in November 2000.
EchoStar has also invested in StarBand's satellite-broadband rival,
Denver-based start-up WildBlue. That service is scheduled to begin late next