Opinions Go Two Ways, Too

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Are two-way satellite broadband services ready for the mass market? Satellite-industry players have wide differences of opinion on this question. Here are some of their views:

- "They cannot compete head on with terrestrial broadband, so they have to find a niche where they offer something that DSL and cable does not, either access in unserved areas or a different level of service. It will be this second category that will make or break the business for them."

-Stephen A. Blum, president, consulting firm Tellus Venture Associates, Marina, Calif.

- "We were expecting this; it is about time. And yet when it comes to the mass market, we do not expect to see hundreds of thousands of customers signing up until 2001. I would be somewhat cautious in terms of describing what is available now as market-ready."

-Arnon Spitzer, general manager, Shiron Satellite Communications Inc., an Israeli firm that markets two-way broadband network system Intersky.

- "Two-way consumer products will emerge over the next three years. Until then, service and hardware costs will remain high. The market will not come alive in any significant way until next year at the earliest."

-Wim Vink, managing director, Amsterdam-based Tachyon Europe BV, rolling out a two-way satellite Internet service for business customers sold through ISPs.

- "By the time we launch in late 2001, one-third of U.S households will have no access to a broadband alternative. We think this is a very robust market, and we know we can deliver the price points, which is the name of the game."

-Brad Greenwald, vice president of marketing and business development, iSKY.

- "The price will probably be acceptable later this year for small businesses and SOHO users, but it is still not a consumer product."

-Bernd Steinebrunner, vice president of product management and sales engineering, STM Wireless, Irvine, Calif.

- "Two-way satellite is going to be a tough sell, given the presence of so many layers and layers of networks in the ground which are already amortized and ready to be given away, especially in Europe."

-Candace Johnson, president of Europe Online, in Beltzdorf, Luxembourg, which offers a hybrid Ku-Band satellite/terrestrial service throughout Europe with 22,000 subscribers

- "It comes down to achieving the right price point. Advances in RF micro-electronics are driving this development of low-cost two-way satellite systems. The activity has picked up considerably in the past few months."

-Gordon M. Deans, vice president, Norsat Broadband Networks, a unit of Norsat International Inc., Burnaby, B.C.

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