BellSouth to Launch Satellite-TV Service

The sky will become a bit more crowded next year as BellSouth Corporation debuts a new direct-broadcast satellite service. The Atlanta-based telecommunications company announced May 8 that it will launch the new service in 2001 in the hope of expanding its communications and programming services.

GE American Communications Inc., a unit of General Electric Co.'s GE Capital, will build the satellites, and BellSouth will supply the communications network for a new programming service aimed at the 14 million homes in the southeastern US. Americast, a consortium of Bell operating companies that negotiates with cable and other programming providers, will source programming. The service might provide an additional $3 billion in revenue for BellSouth, according to early reports.

The new programming service will be offered to some 14 million homes in BellSouth's southeastern US markets, and will be expanded beyond the company's traditional area in 2002. BellSouth Entertainment president Bob Frame said his company's goal is to "take the lead in delivering the digital home." The satellite technology will ultimately be used to support electronic-commerce applications, e-mail, and other Internet-based services, Frame said.

The planned system will use medium-power dish antennas. BellSouth already offers cable-TV service via fiber-optic lines and a "fixed-wireless" system with more than 160 channels for many of its customers, including those in New Orleans and Atlanta.