US defence contractor Lockheed Martin today announced that it is teaming with rival TRW and Telecom Italia to develop a $3.6 billion global broadband Internet and intranet venture.
Lockheed Martin's Global Telecommunications Group will put $400 million into the venture while Telespazio, part of the Telecom Italia Group and TRW will each provide $250 million.
With this funding Astrolink, a strategic venture initiated by Lockheed Martin, will begin of the world's first global, on demand, wireless broadband service provider, scheduled to offer service in 2003.
Astrolink is being launched in response to the unprecedented global growth of the Internet and electronic services. The aim of the service is to provide end to end data access to consumers around the world.
Astrolink will focus on the high growth area of broadband data services, carrying traffic for Internet, Intranet, multimedia and corporate data networks. Customers will be able to install small satellite dishes at businesses and homes, to quickly and inexpensively connect to high speed networks.
The service will be complementary and compatible with other broadband services like fibre optic transmission. However, unlike costly leased line connections, Astrolink's services will be "bandwidth on demand" with customers paying only for the connection time and data transmission services they use, Astrolink said.
The first Astrolink geostationary satellite will provide services to Europe, North America and South America. After the initial launch, three other satellites will be launched every six months to provide a global service. The partners have plans to increase the total number of satellites to nine, depending on market demand.
Lockheed Martin will provide the company's spacecraft, systems integration and launch services, with Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications acting as one of Astrolink's service providers. Telespazio will supply the worldwide ground systems for the venture and will manage and operate the overall satellite and network control systems during the operational phase.
Telecom Italia will market Astrolink services in Italy and through its affiliated companies in Europe and Latin America. TRW will build the digital, packet switched communications payloads for the satellites and will have the opportunity to be an Astrolink service provider.
President and chief executive of Astrolinki, Celso Azevedo confirmed that it is in active discussions with additional investors and servie providers.
According to consultancy Booz-Allen & Hamilton, the annual potential for global broadband services will grow to nearly $200 billion by 2005, and space based broadband services will capture 10 to 15 per cent of that market.
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