Sat-ND, 17.12.96

Sat-ND 96-12-17 - Satellite and Media News

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Ariane 5 set for July launch
The next attempt to launch the new European carrier rocket Ariane 5 will
take place in July 1997. The third test flight is scheduled for November
1997. No exact dates have been set yet.
As expected, the payload on the second test flight will consist of two
dummy satellites plus an amateur radio satellite.
The maiden flight of Ariane 5 ended in a disaster when the rocket exploded
a few seconds into flight. The development cost of the vehicle is estimated
at US$7 billion.
(Thanks to Mogen Poulsen for his hint on the Arianespace URL!)

Starsem announces first launch
It's not always "Think Big" for Arianespace. A shortage of launch vehicles
is expected during the next two to three years, especially as far as low or
medium Earth orbit satellites are concerned. Arianespace, France's
Aerospatiale, the Russian Space Agency and the Samara-based
"TsSKB-Progress" designing bureau have teamed up to provide those services
under the label "Starsem" (Sat-ND, 6.6.96.)
The carrier rocket will be supplied by the Russian side -- "an almost ideal
variant," as Arianespace chairman Charles Bigot told Itar-Tass. The first
launch is scheduled for the middle of 1997 when the first of twelve IRIDIUM
communications satellites will be put into orbit.

Orion buys out partners, orders one more satellite
Orion Network Systems, Inc. announced today that it has agreed to acquire
all of the interests which it does not already own in the Orion Atlantic
partnership. Orion Network Systems currently owns 41.7% of Orion Atlantic,
a limited partnership formed in 1991 to construct, launch and operate
communications satellites over the Atlantic Ocean. The partners whose
interests are being acquired by the Company are British Aerospace, ComDev,
Kingston Communications, Lockheed Martin, Matra Hachette and Nissho Iwai
ORION 1 (37.5W) has been operational since January 1995, serving Europe,
the United States to the Rocky Mountains and portions of Canada and Mexico.
Orion recently announced a major expansion of its international satellite
communications services into the Asia Pacific region (Sat-ND, 12.12.96.)
The Asia Pacific satellite is expected to be operational by the fourth
quarter 1998. The Company expects to arrange permanent financing for the
Asia Pacific satellite by the second quarter of 1998.
Orion today also announced the signing of a contract for the construction
and launch of another satellite which will provide expanded capacity and
coverage of Europe, Russia, South America and the eastern U.S. It will be
constructed by Matra Marconi Space and launched by Lockheed Martin's Atlas
IIAS launch vehicle in the second quarter of 1999. The Company expects to
arrange permanent financing for this satellite by the second quarter of
"With three operational satellites, Orion will be capable of providing
global communications services to over 75% of the world's population with
an emphasis on areas with relatively underdeveloped communications
infrastructure," commented W. Neil Bauer, Orion Network Systems President
and Chief Executive Officer

Telesat offers digital TV solution
It seems as though Telesat Canada has come up with that "fast-track"
application favoured by the Canadian government in order to get any kind of
digital TV service up and running (as long as it's not from the U.S., that
is -- cf. Sat-ND, 7./8.11.96 and dozens of earlier issues.) 
Telesat's proposal calls for the utilisation of the orbit position 91E.
Not only has the company found some "additional space" on its fleet of
existing ANIK satellites, it has also signed a letter of intent to buy the
high power satellite TEMPO 1 from Tempo Satellite Inc. That company is, of
course, a subsidiary of U.S. cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. that once
wanted to lease Telesat satellites in order to beam digital TV into Canada.

Digital TV without viewers
Last night saw one of the stranger events in the history of digital
television. A service was launched although there is no service yet -- and
no receiver that would enable anyone to tune in, either.
The bizarre event took place in France where existing commercial
broadcasters such as TF1, M6 and Luxembourg's CLT have teamed up with
Lyonnaise des Eaux, state-owned France Television and France Telecom.
Bringing the number of digital TV services in France to three, they
inaugurated their TPS (télévision par satellite) bouquet. TPS will compete
with Canal+'s Canalsatellite and the smaller service ABSat which hasn't
been launched officially yet but is expected to do so before the end of the
Once the set-top box will be available (probably in mid-January,)
subscribers will have to pay FF175 per month (US$32) to subscribe to the
complete package, including a monthly rate of FF45 (US$10) for the decoder.
TPS targets a subscriber base between 150,000 and 200,000 at the end of

WebTV flops
Even American households don't want the Internet to appear on their TV
screens. The initial hype surrounding those hastily tailored TV Internet
devices has ebbed, giving way to a sober  point of view. Just four percent
of America's 98 million households currently plan to purchase a TV Internet
device, according to a telephone survey of nearly 7,000 home consumers
conducted by the market research firm Dataquest. While just three percent
were undecided, 93 percent of those questioned said they wouldn't buy a
device like that. 
Those boxes surely offer no chance for some quick [and dirty? -- Ed.]
Christmas business as expected. "As it stands right now, with the products
that are currently being offered in the market, we think the potential for
it is relatively small," said Van Baker, director and principal analyst of
Dataquest's digital consumer program.
Those WebTV devices, marketed by Sony Corp. and Philips Electronics NV.,
are priced around US$330. They can be hooked up to a TV set and a phone
line to provide access to the WebTV Network access service for a monthly
fee of US$19.95.

By Dr Sarmaz <DrSarmaz@aol.com>

Japanese Rupert-TV a step closer
And yet more digital TV -- this time, it's Japan where Rupert Murdoch's
News Corp. and Japan's Softbank Corp. declared their digital bazaar would
open soon. Their 50-50 venture JSkyB, which officially was set up
yesterday, will launch a twelve-channel test service next April with a view
to offering the full bouquet of 150 digitally compressed channels one year
later. At least for its test transmissions, JSkyB will use JCSAT 3 (128E.)
Negotiations are underway with JSkyB's main rival PerfectTV to introduce
common decoder that would receive all those new services. "Such a receiver
will allow Japanese viewers to access about 260 channels provided jointly
by JSkyB and PerfecTV by April 1998," said Softbank President Masayoshi
Son. Hughes Corp.'s DirecTV, which plans another 100-channel service in
Japan in the autumn of 1997, probably couldn't afford introducing a
different standard once its main competitors have agreed on it.
The number of digital channels beamed into Japanese homes is expected to be
around 360, once all three services have become fully operational in early
In a different development, Sony Corp. of Japan may join JSkyB. Reports
indicate that Mr Murdoch himself has asked the electronics giant to buy a
stake in the digital TV venture. Sony would be expected to supply
broadcasting equipment for JSkyB, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.
[And probably not only that. Even in the U.S., reception equipment was
supplied by just a few selected companies during the initial phase of
DirecTV. RCA/Thomson was first. Then came, if I remember it correctly,
Sony... -- Ed.]

Unconditional surrender
John Birt, director general of the British Broadcasting Corp., recently
admitted that Mr. Murdoch's BSkyB was "the only way we can provide digital
satellite services."
Speaking to a Parliamentary Committee, he accepted "the de facto reality
that Sky is the pioneer in this area," even though not a single digital
channel is transmitted to the UK right now. (Correct me if I'm wrong,
please.) On the contrary -- ASTRA 2A, the satellite designed to carry all
those miraculous services, may have some serious problems finding an
orbital position after all (Sat-ND, 6.12.96.) 
Nonetheless, the BBC's chairman Sir Christopher Bland, said Mr Murdoch was
"extremely powerful. It may be possible to negotiate a deal with him." I
betcha my life! BSkyB has responded most favourably, expressing the hope
that that BBC channels will be part of BSkyB's new digital package -- from
whatever orbital position it will finally be transmitted from.

Rupert's aggravation
News Corp Ltd. chairman Rupert Murdoch is not interested in buying into the
John Fairfax Holdings Ltd. newspaper group. So what? 
Mr Murdoch told Australia's ABC radio that a certain Mr Black, who is
selling its stake in the group, just "got sick of the aggravation" of
Australian restrictions on foreign ownership of the media.
Asked whether the sale would spark his interest in the newspaper group, Mr
Murdoch answered he had "enough aggravation" in his life. Poor Rupert!

Copyright 1996 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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