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DirecTV Offers 2-Way DirecPC

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — DirecTV and sister company Hughes Network Systems will partner to distribute a broadband, two-way DirecPC satellite Internet-access service later this year, both companies announced.

HNS, which currently offers a one-way, high-speed Internet DirecPC system, is looking to compete head-to-head with cable modem services. The two-way system, which is due in the fourth quarter, is to be distributed by DirecTV.

No service plans or prices were announced, but the company said it would be competitive with broadband service provided through Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) or cable modems. Such services typically run between $40 and $50 per month.

DirecTV, which like HNS is owned by Hughes Electronics, will offer subscribers a package service including two-way DirecPC and DirecTV television service. Most DirecTV subscribers will receive both services over the same dish, which will be a 24-inch oval dish, not the standard 18-inch dish now in use.

The system will eliminate the need for a phone-line connection and will offer upstream speeds anywhere between 128 Kbps and 256 Kbps, and downstream speeds at over 40 Mbps.

Approximately 60,000 domestic and 140,000 worldwide customers currently use DirecPC service, HNS reported, but that system offers high-speed downloads only. Connection to a telephone Internet service provider is still required for the return path.

Current DirecTV customers who want to upgrade to a combined television and Internet service will have to trade their 18-inch-diameter dishes for a larger oval dish. Two lines will bring television service to the DirecTV set-top box and DirecPC Internet service to a computer.

The two-way DirecPC service will operate on the same medium-power Ku-band satellites that deliver the current data/Internet service. Hughes’ PanAmSat unit operates the satellites.

Meanwhile, the satellite company may see competition from an unexpected source. AlphaStar, the failed digital satellite TV service, will resurface as a two-way broadband Internet-access service funded by a Greenwich, Conn.-based firm.

The new venture is in the process of deploying and marketing a two-way satellite broadband Internet and intranet network, which will be launched under the name TeleCrossing.

The system offers Internet access up to 33 Mbps. Initially, TeleCrossing is targeting business and educational institutions, content providers, multi-dwelling units, the hospitality industry, community centers and managed-care facilities, among others.

The company is “seeking to enter into agreements with ISPs, ASPs, cable MSOs, telcos and other resellers to distribute the services.”