PlanetLink Building Store-Based Satellite Business

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Faced with a saturated marketplace for its core DSS and ISP businesses, PlanetLink Communications is taking a new tack in satellite-based services, and is expanding its storefront and kiosk operations to implement it.

The company, launched in 1998 by Kayode Aladesuyi, began by offering bundled telephone, dial-up Internet and DirecTV services to consumers in the Southeast.

Following a switch to Echostar's DISH Network, and StarBand for high-speed satellite-based Internet access, PlanetLink exited the phone business and created a retail platform comprised of five mall-based storefronts and kiosks in suburban Atlanta from which to pitch a new range of satellite services.

These include a family of tracking devices for vehicles and people, plus a dashboard plug-in that enables MapQuest-loaded Palm Pilots to function as GPS units.

According to PlanetLink president M. Dewey Bain, the first of its proprietary products, the CarTracker, will be offered this spring. Based on Department of Defense technology, the system features a small transmitter box that can be plugged into a cigarette lighter or installed in the trunk of a car. Subscribers can then locate the vehicle within a 25 square foot area anywhere in North America via a PC.

Fees will range between $29 and $79 a month, based on the number of searches.

Personal locators, marketed under the names KidAngel and ParenTrak, are pager sized, and allow subscribers — ostensibly concerned parents — to pinpoint wearers by address and street grid.

To help push the products, PlanetLink is in the process of opening a sixth store, and plans to double the number of locations by franchising new outlets in Nashville, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Macon, Ga., and Greenville, S.C., this year. PlanetLink stores average about 1,000 square feet, Bain said.

Ultimately, he added, PlanetLink would like to establish franchised locations in all 48 continental states, plus regional installation and service centers from which to support them.


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