The prospect of faster, cheaper Internet access for UK companies was brought closer last week when a row over the rights to Internet in the sky was resolved. The battle over the radio frequencies has been raging since 1995 when Bill Gates announced a $9 billion (#5.3 million) partnership with Teledesic to provide Internet access via a low-level satellite matrix. At the World Radio Telecommunications Conference (WRC 97) in Geneva last week, Gates, along with Motorola and the French communications company Alcatel, fought for radio frequency allocation on the KU and KA bands. Teledesic won the right to use the KA band (18 GHz-28GHz) which it will share with Motorola's Celestri, while Alcatel's Skybridge, backed by the French Government, was allocated 12GHz-18 GHz in the KU band. Graham Taylor, senior vice president at IT research company Inteco, believes Gates' dollar value could go through the roof when the satellites are launched. "This could revolutionise the way we receive digital data. It has enormous potential," he said. It will allow faster, cheaper Internet usage. The row over the frequencies arose when each side accused the other of blocking spectrum allocations, thus stifling competition in what is certain to be a very profitable market. Skybridge's delegation leader, Mark McCann, was pleased with the outcome. He said: "It was either all three of us move forward, or nobody. Now we can get on with the systems and forget the rows over frequency." The allocations mean all three satellite companies can now go ahead with plans to surround the Earth with satellites that will provide data communications services, including Internet access. First systems are expected from Skybridge sometime in 2001. Teledesic officials were not available for comment.
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