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XM Launches Studio, Prototype Radio

WASHINGTON D.C. — XM Satellite Radio opened its 150,000-square-foot broadcast center here and demonstrated its first prototype satellite car radio, a Delphi/Delco unit destined for the 2001 Cadillac Seville and possibly other GM vehicles.

The satellite broadcaster will launch its two satellites at the end of this year and early next so it can launch service in the spring.

Meanwhile, competitor Sirius Satellite Radio successfully launched the second of its three planned satellites. The third launch, originally scheduled for October, will probably be pushed back to November because of the crowded launch calendar of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the company said.

XM’s broadcast center incorporates headquarters offices, 82 acoustically isolated fully suspended studios, and a 2,600-square-foot performance studio. The facility’s two satellite dishes will transmit up to 100 channels of programming to XM’s two satellites, which will beam the programming to home, portable and car receivers. The 130 employees working there will grow to 350 by next summer, the company said.

In demonstrating a prototype radio, XM uplinked digital music to a Ku-band satellite, which beamed it to a terrestrial repeater for reception by the radio in a moving vehicle. The prototype received the signal through an outboard discrete-component module that, in production models, will be replaced by a chipset incorporated in the radio’s main chassis.

“In a couple months, we’ll be ready to produce mass chipsets to deliver to Delphi/Delco and, at the same time, to other manufacturers for car, home and portable audio,” a spokeswoman said. STMicroelectronics is the chipset maker.

During the grand opening of its studio center, the company announced non-exclusive licensing agreements with manufacturers Blaupunkt, Fujitsu Ten, Hyundai Autonet and Bontec, key audio product suppliers to Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia, respectively. XM also signed letters of intent with Isuzu and Suzuki to sell its radios and service on a nonexclusive basis.

Two more retailers who have signed on to sell the radios are Magnolia Hi-Fi on the West Coast and Cowboy Maloney’s in Mississippi.