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COMPUTING

Digital radio coming soon to Africa

July 27, 1999
Web posted at: 11:17 a.m. EDT (1517 GMT)

by Gideon F. For-Mukwai

From...
IDG.net
African digital radio

(IDG) -- Washington, D.C.-based WorldSpace Corp. is getting closer to its vision of delivering satellite-based radio broadcasts to the developing world, with the recent successful tests of its system in Africa to be followed by commercial service on this continent in October of this year.

In the tests with WorldSpace's AfriStar satellite, which was launched in late 1998, music programming uplinked from ground stations in Johannesburg, London, and Toulouse, France, was heard on receivers in Nairobi, Cairo, Johannesburg, and Europe.

WorldSpace, with about US$1.1 billion investment behind it, has licenses to provide international direct broadcast satellite audio service in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. It is specifically targeting what it calls the "emerging and underserved markets of the world," including Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
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Its AfriStar satellite will be joined by AsiaStar and AmeriStar satellites later this year, according to the company. Each satellite will have three beams with each beam capable of delivering more than 50 channels of audio and multimedia programming to portable receivers.

Because transmission is digital, text, data, and software, images can be broadcast as well as audio, fax messages, and some kinds of paging services. Broadcasters that have signed channel reservation agreements with WorldSpace include Bloomberg, Radio Nederland, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, the National Broadcasting Authority of Ghana, New Sky Media of Korea and RCN (Radio Cadena Nacional) of Colombia.

The receivers, priced between $250 and $350, are fairly expensive for the target regions, but the company says that it is hoping for assistance from governments, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and private donors to get receivers into the hands of users.


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