Satellites in the Future

Gigi W. / Physics 338 / May 19, 1997
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[ Internet Access, Fast and Cheap ] [ Picture Perfect TV ] [ Pricey Phones ]
Schine and Elstrom points out that hundreds of launches in the next few years will open a new Klondike for the few that prevail (62). The satellite business could be more than triple, to $29 billion, by year of 2000 as big aerospace players and dozens of startups race to offer new consumer services and carve up the global marketplace. The following are the main services they will offer:

Internet Access, Fast and Cheap

Many big companies are scurrying to build fleets that will allow the consumers to link some computers to the Internet. Hughes wants to use satellite signals sent directly to tiny home dishes, viewers can receive vast programming choices, clearer pictures and CD quality sound, all without having rely on cable. Moreover they want to use satellites to provide rapid Internet access and desktop video. McCaw's Teledesic System wants to use 840 satellites aim to provide Internet access, networking capabilities and video conferencing with equal ease to a Manhattan skyscraper. Set for year of 2002, the system already has one big backer: Microsoft's Bill Gates. The risks are the technological challenges and getting linking software to work. Much financing will also be needed.


Picture Perfect TV

With the launch of Hughes's DirectTV in 1994, digital satellite TV is the industry's first big hit (Schine and Elstrom, 62). If satellite TV sounds like an exotic, high-priced way to receive a television signal, then prepare for a shock. Systems and brand names is driving down the price to some affordable level (Booth, 63-65). The company Murdoch is taking on DirectTV in US, Latin America and Asia. The risks are that the three-year lead could be tough to surmount. In Asia, Murdoch's StarTV has angered Chinese officials by becoming an unproved western fare. Hughes's recent 3 billion is betting the ranch on satellites and Spaceway. The risk is the DirectTV faces stiff competition, the chairman of Hughes Electronics says, "the commercial satellites are driving our business" (Schine and Elstrom, 64).


Pricey Phones

Many big companies want to put up competing satellite systems. Motorola wants to offer global phones to business travelers with iridium. Waiting in the wings are ventures that will provide high-speed Internet access and video conferencing. The risks are that the iridium could get undercut and demand is uncertain for other services. Schwarts is backing Globalstar, which will "provide cheap phone service in the developing world" (Schine and Elstrom, 66) Loral wants to expand skynet, a video distributor acquired from AT&T, and plans to launch Cyber Star for Internet access. The risks are that Globalstar's new technology means delays are likely, while Cyber Star faces heavy competition. Because the phones are digital, the satellite phone services will provide features such as voice mail, paging, and caller ID that are now being introduced as PCS, personal communication systems, on ground-based cellular. However while the satellite phones will offer the same freedom as today's cell phones, they have got one big advantage: The same phone will be useable around the globe, which means they are going to offer one number, one phone, one bill, anywhere on the planet (Schine and Elstrom, 65).


Booth, Stephen A. "Satellite TV Comes Down to Earth." Popular Science. Nov. 1996: 63-66.

Schine Eric and Peter Elstrom. "The Satellite Biz Blasts Off." Business Week. Jan.

1997: 62-68.