By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
KVH, a satellite video supplier to the marine and RV markets since the early '90s, is launching in June the first low-profile, car satellite video product. The Tracvision A5 is unique in that its antenna is only 4.5 inches high, eliminating the need for a foot-high bulky antenna on top of the vehicle, and effectively opening up satellite TV to the general car market.
Tracvision will allow any factory or aftermarket car video system to receive either DirecTV or Dish Network. The set-up requires a roof-mount (or roof-rack-mount) antenna, a cable into the car and an in-car satellite receiver at an expected $2,999 system price.
"Over the last couple of years, video systems have become popular in automobiles, but you must use a bat-wing antennae for TV, which doesn't work very well, or be limited to video or DVD," explained a spokesman. Approximately one million rear-seat entertainment systems (factory and aftermarket) were sold in the United States in 2002, and "we want to make satellite TV available to those vehicles," he added.
Tracvision uses a round antenna reflector with sophisticated robotics and sensors to adjust for the movement of the vehicle. It will offer DirecTV programming initially and will also carry DishNetwork in the near future. Monthly fees have not been finalized, said the spokesman. The company hopes that a current DSS subscriber would simply pay an add-on service fee, just as in-home DSS users have the option to receive 30 to 50 audio stations. There are currently 18 million DSS subscribers, said KVH.
The company is also developing an Internet option for cars. It expects to offer a high-speed connection at about 400Kb/second, similar to the speed of a cable modem. It would require a satellite modem for an uplink and would allow users to surf the Internet while in the car. "Travelers on vacation could search the Web for a hotel or restaurant," said the spokesman.
Among the first dealers for the product are Tweeter and Sound Advice, the company said.
Sirius Satellite Radio demonstrated the capability to offer satellite video to subscribers in January, but has no immediate plans to market the service.
"Since our system is based on digital streams, we can transmit anything, be it music, talk or other data, including video," said a Sirius spokesman. He added, "We don't require any special antennae. We have always maintained that as more subscribers sign on [to Sirius], they will determine what is the optimum offering. It could end up as 50 music stations, 30 talk and 20 of something else, possibly video. We can do it without any excessive costs. We don't know what the potential is yet for satellite video but we believe there is one."
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