Sat-ND, 24.10.1997 The Motion Picture
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Another satellite system for Loral
SatMex to become international satellite player
Spy satellite launched
Cisneros and Playboy go North
French digital TV accord?
NetChannel announces European TV revolution
Rupert's warm welcome
Star Wars again
A consortium comprised of Mexico's Telefonica Autrey SA and Loral Space and Communications Ltd. will run Mexico's satellite system Satellites Mexicanos (SatMex.) Loral recently also announced to acquire the U.S. satellite operator Orion Network Systems.
The other two competitors (Mexican mining giant Peñoles SA and Hughes' PanAmSat Corp.; and U.S.-based GE American Communications with ControlSat, a unit of Megacable Communications of Mexico) withdrew their bids.
The consortium bid 4.29 billion pesos (US$688 million) for a 75-percent majority stake in SatMex, notably more than the technical reference price of 3 billion pesos set by the Mexican government. A final decision will be made within five working days, and the closing will take place prior to year end.
The Mexican government will retain a non-voting 25 percent interest in SatMex, and there will be Mexican ownership of 51 percent of the voting stock, exercised by Telefonica Autrey. The economic ownership of SatMex will be 49 percent for Loral, 26 percent for Telefonica Autrey, and 25 percent for the Mexican government.
Telefonica Autrey and Loral are already joint venture partners in Globalstar de Mexico, which will offer global voice, data and fax services via Globalstar's network of 48 low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites beginning in late 1998.
By the end of 1999, including SatMex and Orion, Loral expects to have in place a robust set of communications networks consisting of 58 in-orbit geostationary and LEO satellites providing an array of services including mobile and fixed telephony, Internet access, high-speed video and data transmission, direct-to-home broadcasting and broadband on demand. These services will be integrated into a seamless international communications network. In addition, Loral will continue to provide the design, manufacture and sale of large commercial satellites and the leasing of satellite capacity.
SatMex's assets consist of three operating satellites, Morelos II, Solidaridad 1 and Solidaridad 2, along with state-of-the-art tracking, telemetry and control sites in Mexico City and Hermosillo, Sonora. The company, which has approximately 230 employees, offers its substantial customer base television, radio, voice and data services via public and private networks. Existing customer contracts generate, at a current annual run rate, revenues of approximately US$110 million and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of approximately US$86 million.
Loral/Autrey will receive concessions to use the three orbital slots to provide satellite services for 20 years with automatic renewals for an additional 20 years. Also included in the transaction is a satellite with greater power and coverage, now under construction, to replace Morelos II which is nearing the end of its service life.
SatMex's satellite system currently provides coverage over Mexico, the southern and eastern United States, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. The replacement satellite, Morelos III, is scheduled for service in late 1998 and will extend this coverage, encompassing an area from Canada to Argentina.
The recently executed protocol between Mexico and the United States will permit SatMex satellites to fully serve United States markets. Mexico is also in the process of signing a protocol agreement with five members of the Andean Group to give Mexican satellites access to Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.
There has been a launch of the U.S. Air Force's Titan 4A rocket from Cape Canaveral, lifting a classified payload into orbit. What does this tell us? There was a spy satellite aboard.
But which one? Observers said it probably was Lacrosse-III, a US$-1 billion satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. Air Force launch officials confirmed just that the Titan vehicle successfully released its cargo about nine minutes into flight.
Lacrosse-III's synthetic aperture radar, reportedly capable of providing pictures even in darkness and through clouds, may also be able to detect underground structures. It is expected to replace Lacrosse-I that was launched back in 1988 but meanwhile seems not to be in use anymore.
The launch had been delayed for over three months owing to a leak in the the rocket's motor steering system and, recently, because of bad weather. There will be another "classified" Titan launch on October 31 between 8 and 9:45 p.m. EST (0100-0245 UTC).
Oh no! This so-called newsletter seems to in danger of becoming a so-called military newsletter. (The number of subscribers with *.mil or similar email addresses has risen notably over the past few weeks.) What is it? Are they launching more satellites nowadays? Hey, get me out of this!
Not all launches are successful, though. The U.S. Air Force has up to date not been able to establish communications with their Space Test Experiment Platform (STEP) Mission-4 satellite that was recently launched by a Pegasus XL [BTW, doesn't that just sound just like a condom brand?]
It seems the TRW-built spacecraft separated from the rocket as planned. In addition to the communications blackout, the satellite's solar panels don't seem to have unfolded yet. Currently, STEP-4 runs on battery power, and engineers are studying hong long they will last [before the whole thing will inevitably be crashing back to Earth, unless communications can be established.]
Playboy Entertainment Group Inc. and Venezuela's Cisneros Television Group (CTG) said they would join forces to operate Playboy TV and AdulTVision networks -- in Germany and Scandinavia.
CTG will hold an 81 percent interest in the venture. Playboy will hold the remaining 19 percent with an option to increase its ownership to 50 percent. The agreement is the last in a row of similar ones, including a 1996 deal that launched Playboy TV/Latin America and AdulTVision/Latin America exclusively on Galaxy Latin America's 144-channel satellite service.
The Cisneros Group of Companies has holdings in a number of media, entertainment and telecommunications companies around the world. Among their major interests, the company owns or has significant holdings in: Venevision, the largest producer of Spanish-language television programming in South America; Univision, the largest Spanish-language network in the United States; Chilevision, a nationwide broadcast television network in Chile; and Galaxy Latin America (GLA), the multinational company that delivers exclusive DirecTV service to Latin America. Revenues for the group totalled more than $3.2 billion in 1996.
It just so happened that Gustavo A. Cisneros, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Cisneros Group of Companies, delivered a keynote address at Bear Stearns' 11th Annual Media and Communications Conference.
"I would like to ask, do any of you know what a puma is? A puma is a wild cat, found in Latin America. Most of you have probably not heard the story about the two MBAs who were confronted by a puma in the wilds of Latin America. The first man jumped up and started to run as fast as he could. The second man yelled after him, 'What are you doing, we can't outrun the puma?' The first man replied, I don't have to outrun the puma, I just have to run faster than YOU."
He added that "today in the media and communication industry in Latin America, we need to be like the first man -- able to react quickly, run fast and be the first to the market. It would have been even smarter for the first man to have aligned himself with a jaguar as a partner before starting out on his adventure. This would have helped to protect him from the risks of the new environment."
French digital satellite television service TPS denied a newspaper report that it was negotiating with its competitor AB Sat to link the two services.
Earlier, Le Monde had reported that both companies were in talks about some kind of co-operation that would include and maybe even exceed mere compatibility of the decoders needed for reception.
A TPS spokeswoman at least admitted that there had been contacts, and an AB Sat official was quoted as saying that "all negotiations aimed at the comfort of the television viewer, such as decoder compatibility, would be welcome."
So far, only the decoders of AB Sat and Canasatellite are compatible. The French government reportedly is considering to force digital TV operators to reach agreement on decoder compatibility.
"As part of its global strategy, NetChannel launched its personalized Web-enhanced television service in the United Kingdom, becoming the first Internet television service in Europe."
Well, it's nice to see that at least U.S. companies regard the UK a part of Europe ;-) Of course, they say their Internet-on-TV service was nothing but "Europe's television revolution." [Ha, ha.]
NetChannel is the first Web-enhanced television service available to consumers in Europe -- an important point of differentiation between NetChannel and its U.S.-based competitors -- allowing NetChannel to introduce the Internet in a TV-centric, easy-to-use way to the majority of U.K. households who are not on-line.
Similar to its U.S. service, NetChannel U.K. delivers on-line programming in easy-to-read channels, including News, Sports, E-tainment, Learning, Lifestyles and Shopping; is personalised to each viewer, delivering localised programming and allowing viewers to create their own Internet channels; and features e-mail and chat.
NetChannel's consumer electronics partners include NetProducts, manufacturer of NetStation in the U.K. and Thomson Consumer Electronics, manufacturer of the RCA Network Computer in the U.S. NetChannel will announce additional consumer electronics and platform partners in the near future.
NetChannel U.K.'s service will be available for £14.95 per month for unlimited Internet access and five e-mail accounts. The NetStation is available for £299.99 at retail locations throughout the U.K.
By Dr Sarmaz
Mr Murdoch is slowly warming up his relationship with the Chinese communist dictatorship. China's Foreign Ministry has granted his UK-based Sky News operation to open a bureau in Beijing.
Mr Murdoch is not exactly a diplomat. If he were, he wouldn't have made such a utterly silly statement back in 1993 when he claimed that satellite television posed a threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere. Chinese officials, after all, were not too amused. Coincidence or not -- a ban on satellite dishes was imposed soon afterwards. It is also a fact that Mr Murdoch had to kick out a BBC news channel out of the Star TV package because the Chinese thought it was disseminating something as dangerous as independent and unbiased news.
Well, it may be different with Mr Murdoch's Sky News. "There is a great deal of change happening in China and on present indications we are getting a much warmer welcome," Mr Murdoch told News Corps' annual general meeting in Adelaide earlier this month.
"When you talked about the recent anti-satellite laser test and brought up the US SDI program, I think you should have mentioned the antisatellite activities of its Russian counterpart.
"In 1984, Russia tested a ground-based laser against a satellite, but this one was carrying people -- the US space shuttle Challenger.
"For more info, you might want to check out the full article I've excerpted below."
[Hmm... I'm afraid I cannot reprint this article from Jane's Intelligence Review owing to copyright reasons. To summarise: During the 80s, the USSR were taking a considerable effort to develop space-based weapon systems, including laser systems. There were at least three of them, including a gas laser with a strength of 1MW. Miracl is usually estimated at 3MW -- as I mentioned before, the exact figure is classified.
In 1984, one of those lasers, called Terra-3, was used to track the U.S. space shuttle at low power, which nonetheless led to malfunctions on the space shuttle, distress to the crew, and finally a formal US diplomatic protest. USSR Defence Minister Dmitri Ustinov reportedly was concerned that the US space shuttle was being used as a reconnaissance platform.]
"BTW, you mentioned Hughes's involvement in the MIRACL laser. Keep in mind that the satellite part of Hughes was only a part of the much larger Hughes Electronics company, which included defense companies like Hughes Aircraft, Hughes Missile Systems, Hughes Electro-Optical, Hughes Radar Systems, etc.
"That defense side (of which some part was most likely working on MIRACL) has been sold to Raytheon, with GM keeping the satellite manufacturing (Hughes Space and Communications) and services (DirecTV, PanAmSat, etc.) side."
Ben Muniz, Space Frontier Foundation
Thank you very much for your contribution, Ben. Of course, there is no doubt that the former USSR has developed anti-satellite weapons (and this is also mentioned in the article in the upcoming issue of TELE-satellite International. For instance, they also developed and tested a hunter-killer satellite.)
Thing is: the world has changed dramatically since 1984. It has changed more than anyone could have imagined. Thus, the U.S. anti-satellite activities are not mainly targeted against Russia. Just have a look at their launch statistics for military Kosmos satellites and you'll see that they have difficulties in even maintaining a basic system of reconnaissance spacecraft. May I point your view to a slightly different direction by quoting the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command?
"The global spread of advanced satellite technology has made it possible for a number of countries to obtain high definition imagery from satellites in low Earth orbit, or to buy such information from countries offering it for sale. Such data can be of crucial importance in military operations. In future conflicts or crises the United States must be able to neutralize satellites. But at present, the U.S. has no ability to do so."
Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.
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