Bill Gates' satellite venture, Teledesic, has awarded aircraft manufacturer Boeing a contract worth a potential $9 billion (#5.6 billion). In addition, Boeing has taken a 10% stake, worth $100 million, in the company.
Boeing is to build Teledesic's 'Internet-in-the-sky', a global network of 300 low-orbit satellites capable of sending and receiving data at 2Mbps. The aerospace company, headquartered in Seattle where Teledesic's owners Bill Gates and telecoms magnate Craig McCaw are also based, will be the prime contractor among a range of international companies who will design, build and launch the global satellite network.
"Much like our work on the 777, where we had hundreds of suppliers in dozens of countries, we are committed to assembling a global industrial team to build and deploy Teledesic's 'Internet-in-the-sky'," commented Alan Mulally, president of Boeing's defence and space group.
Boeing's agreement follows its announcement of plans to merge with McDonnell Douglas and its earlier acquisition of Rockwell's aerospace and defence business. It is not yet known who Boeing's partners will be in designing and building the satellite constellation.
Teledesic said it had chosen Boeing because of its work in space, experience in managing global alliances and "the companies' shared vision".
"The relationship between Boeing and Teledesic is the perfect collaboration," said Craig McCaw in a statement. "Boeing and all of the associated suppliers it brings to the table from around the world will ensure Teledesic is a global endeavour."
Teledesic's plan is to begin satellite launches in 2001 and have its entire network up and running by 2002.
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