Satellite radio companies get approval for expansion

WASHINGTON - Two satellite radio companies won temporary licenses on Monday, Sept. 17, to use ground-based repeaters to expand the reach of their new digital radio services designed primarily for vehicles, despite the protests of mobile telephone carriers.

XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. need to use ground repeaters to bounce signals from satellites to actual radio receivers to provide service to hard-to-reach areas such as the downtowns of major cities, where skyscrapers block direct lines of sight, Reuters reported.

XM Satellite plans to launch 100 channels of service in the Dallas-Forth Worth and San Diego markets on Tuesday, Sept. 25, almost two weeks later than scheduled. It delayed the start of service after attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

With the new temporary licenses granted by the Federal Communications Commission, XM Satellite plans to offer subscribers nationwide service in November, and rival Sirius plans to launch its service sometime during the fourth quarter.

Washington-based XM Satellite has said it plans to have about 50,000 to 60,000 subscribers by the end of the year, paying $9.99 a month for the service, and ratchet up to about

4 million customers by 2004.

General Motors plans to offer XM Satellite service in more than 20 car and truck models in 2003. Porsche Cars North America has agreed to offer the service as an option in its cars.

Sirius plans to charge $12.95 a month for its service. DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co. and BMW AG have committed to offering Sirius receivers in their vehicles.

The use of repeaters has drawn fire from BellSouth Corp. and AT&T Wireless Services Inc., which are concerned that the devices could interfere with portions of the radio spectrum they hold.

The FCC has yet to develop rules for the use of ground-based repeaters and XM Satellite and Sirius asked for temporary authority to use repeaters until the agency draws up the final rules.

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