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EchoStar Reveals Expanded Capabilities For Its Service

EchoStar took the wraps off a number of new products designed to expand the capabilities of the satellite service during the SBCA show in Las Vegas.

For interactive applications, EchoStar showed IRDs in its 3800 and 4700 model series that will receive an OpenTV software download this winter to provide a number of two-way applications, including e-commerce, programming information listings and TV-based e-commerce through broadcasts carried over the Dish Network.

Additionally, Clay Conrad, OpenTV affiliate services VP, said the platform will allow for multiple picture angles on live events, such as sports. Although no broadcasters have yet announced OpenTV plans, Conrad said the platform is widely carried in Europe. This will represent the first deployment of OpenTV services to the U.S. market.

The company also unveiled its new Dish 500 service plan, which was billed as the first single-small dish platform to carry 500 channels. The company plans to be able to deliver that level of service after the launch of the EchoStar 5 and EchoStar 6 satellites, but will soon offer as many as 350 channels.

EchoStar said it plans to deliver late this year an adapter that enables the model 5000 IRD to receive HDTV service from the Dish platform. The device, which will carry a $300 suggested retail price, will plug into the data port on the back of the 5000 IRD and must be connected via an RF jack to a TV set or set-top box capable of decoding ATSC digital formats.

Charlie Ergen, EchoStar CEO, downplayed the product somewhat, because he sees the Digital TV standard as being incomplete. He said HDTV applications will be more prominently positioned by the Dish platform next year.

In other news, EchoStar said its new 20-channel Spanish package is set to debut on August 3.