SURF THE NET, VIA YOUR SATELLITE RADIO
by Frederick Noronha

BANGALORE, Oct 31 -- Download a website via your radio? Unbelievable but
true. Yet this is soon to become possible across India too when a
satellite-radio broadcaster enables its receivers with data-downloading
capabilities.

Shortly, systems of the WorldSpace satellite-radio broadcester will be
enabled in India to offers not only audio broadcasting but also data
broadcasting capabilities. This would enable Internet data-downloads at 128
Kbps directly to a computer (approximately 1 MB of data per second) without
even having a telephone line.

To do this, the 'listener' has to connect his specially-built receiver to a
computer using a Digital Data Adaptor that is expected to cost around Rs
1750 to the end customer in India.

WorldSpace India head Mathewkutty Sebastian told IANS: "This also means that
if someone is interested in sending educational or infotainment data -- that
could be an internet site, a Powerpoint presentation or any data, the same
can be simultaneously broadcast to any number of users spread across a
continent".

This service is to be launched in Bangalore sometime in November.

"When we launch this service, an Indian consumer would be able to receive 25
channels of crystal clear audio plus around 50 web sites," said Sebastian.
This would possibly include informational sites like the Encyclopedia
Britannica, howstuffworks.com, nationalgeographic.com and some Indian sites
too, including Bollywood filmi sites.

"What anyone would need is just a WorldSpace receiver and a digital data
adapter. No telephone line, no ISP (Internet Service Provider), no
geographical limitations and complete portability," said Sebastian.

Ethiopian-born WorldSpace chairman Noah A. Samara (44) who recently visited
India, founded WorldSpace in 1990. He has argued that the company's mission
is to create information affluence by using new audio technology to deliver
programming to three-quarters of the world's population that today lacks
adequate radio reception and program choice and that wants news, knowledge
and entertainment of the highest quality at an affordable cost.

WorldSpace also has a sister concern called WorldSpace Foundation that is a
non-profit organization focussing on socio-economic development oriented
activities. "We could even look at the possibilities of having some support
from WS Foundation," said Sebastian.

"We are at a stage (where we can be confident about our plans)," said
Sebastian.

WorldSpace says it is working on reducing the price of its satellite-radio
receivers. This is a product which have been widely appreciated for
providing some two dozen near CD-quality music and information, but with a
limited appeal because the relatively high prices of their imported
receivers.

Each receiver still costs roughly between Rs 5,000 to 12,000 currently,
meaning many Indian listeners can't afford these even though WorldSpace
provides some fascinating Indian music on its 24-hour channels in Hindi,
Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam.

"Today we are ready with the second generation receivers. Locally
manufactured receivers from BPL have already been launched on September 6,"
says Sebastian.

Indian electronic major BPL's model comes with WorldSpace, and the
traditional radio channels -- AM, FM and shortwave -- besides a cassette
recorder. It offers a 60 watt output, and costs just below Rs 7000.

Says Sebastian: "The second model for the mass market is planned to be
launched in November where the price of the product to the end customer is
expected to be Rs 4500 or less."

He said this would include a 16 per cent excise, Central sales tax of 4 per
cent, and local sales taxes of 12 to 17 per cent. In addition, the first
satellite-radio company's operations in India also had to cope with turnover
tax, distributor and dealer margins, and other logistic costs.

Sebastian argues that if someone is interested in picking up these products
at factory level, the price can be less than Rs 3000. "Moreover, this model
will also have WorldSpace and AM/FM capabilities with a sound output of 70
watt," he said.

WorldSpace's business plan is to launch a total of three satellites hovering
over the information-poor Third World. To receive broadcasts, anyone in the
region (currently much of Africa and Asia) would need a special WorldSpace
portable receivers, with attached four-inch dish antennas. These L-band
receivers have so far been designed and mass-produced specially for
WorldSpace by electronic giants Hitachi, JVC, Matsushita (Panasonic) and
Sanyo.

ENDS

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CONTACT IN INDIA: M.Sebastian <msebastian@worldspace.com>
CHECK THE SITE: www.worldspace.com
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