By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LAS VEGAS -DirecTV has partnered with sister company Hughes Network Systems to offer customers bundled packages of TV services and HNS' new two-way high-speed "satellite return" Internet access system.
Through the unusual relationship, DirecTV will begin to offer bundled high-speed Internet access via satellite along with its core direct-broadcast satellite television services. The Internet services will be sold under the DirecTV Broadband Powered By DirecPC name, starting in the first quarter.
Hughes Network Systems will continue to handle hardware distribution of the product, with DirecTV handling account activation, billing and other service administration.
Hardware will include two connected satellite modems with an uplink speed of up to 128 Kbps and a downlink speed of up to 400 Kbps.
Also included is a special DirecDuo satellite dish that provides broadband Internet access, and access to more than 225 channels of DirecTV video programming, including core TV services, Para Todos Spanish channels, HDTV and local channels in 41 markets.
DirecTV said subscribers to the broadband service bundle would be able to receive one bill for the combined services each month, but package pricing was not announced.
"This is a key element in Hughes' strategy to bring infotainment convergence into the home," said HNS executive VP Paul Gaske. "With the addition of DirecTV to our other 'Powered By' partners, DirecPC will now be marketed to a combined base of over 45 million existing subscribers of television and Internet services in the U.S."
DirecTV joins a list of Internet service providers offering high-speed satellite access through HNS' Powered By DirecPC marketing model. Other DirecPC ISP partners include America Online, Earthlink, Juno and Pegasus TV. Distribution arrangements, and system and service pricing vary on a partner-by-partner basis.
Pegasus recently became the first of the HNS partners to begin offering the two-way Satellite Return high-speed satellite modem services.
In a separate announcement at CES, Pegasus said it would now start to offer DirecPC Classic service, which involves the long-available one-way broadband modem for high-speed download in tandem with a dial-up ISP system for the return path. Pegasus, the largest distributor of DirecTV services in rural markets, will offer the dial-up return path service through an arrangement with Genuity.
The service will be called the Pegasus Express Classic system and will be offered in the first quarter through thousands of retailers across the country, the company said. It will carry a suggested retail price of $149 for the USB satellite modem and a $59.95 per month service fee, or $199 with a $49.95 per month fee if used in conjunction with a DirecTV subscription.
In other CES news, Pegasus said it is expanding its retail distribution reach to over 12,000 outlets through an agreement with distributor DSI Systems. Des Moines-Iowa-based DSI Systems distributes consumer electronics and satellite products to more than 12,000 independent electronics and satellite TVRO dealers through 29 sales and distribution facilities across the country.
Meanwhile, the broadband satellite offering also gives DirecTV the ability to provide customers a choice of broadband service options, following the recent announcement that it would acquire DSL provider Telocity.
DirecPC service will have a broader range of availability. Pegasus offers its Pegasus Express Powered By DirecPC two-way service for $499 plus $69.95 per month, or $399 plus $59.95 per month with a one-year service commitment and a DirecTV subscription.
Hughes Network Systems also announced it would join the ranks of manufacturers offering DirecTV integrated receiver descramblers (IRDs) with a built-in hard drive for TiVo's personal video recorder.
In a major milestone, HNS said it recently shipped its 6 millionth HNS-branded DirecTV system. The company shipped its first IRD in March 1996.
"It took almost three years to reach the 1 million milestone, and in July 2000, HNS announced the shipment of its 5 millionth box," the company said. "Consumer demand has pushed the count to 6 million boxes shipped just six months later."
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