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WorldCom, Hughes To Offer Internet Satellite Service

WorldCom's new two-way Internet access service for businesses will feature download speeds as fast as 1 Mbps.
WorldCom Inc. has partnered with Hughes Network Systems, of Hughes Electronics Corp., to offer two-way Internet access service for businesses on the Hughes satellite network, WorldCom officials said Tuesday. The service, which will feature download speeds as fast as 1 Mbps, will be available nationwide before the end of the first quarter of next year for single-user sites. A version for multiple-user sites is planned for the end of the third quarter.

WorldCom will position its Internet VSAT (very small aperture terminal) satellite service as an alternative to more expensive private lines or less readily available digital-subscriber-line services. Exact prices for the service haven't been established, although they will be significantly less than private lines, which are in the $1,000-a-month-plus range, but more expensive than DSL, which begins at $120 a month, WorldCom officials say. WorldCom will coordinate installation of the service, provide support, and issue bills for the service. Hughes Network Systems will install the satellite dishes and carry the traffic on its satellite network.

Since DSL isn't available everywhere, the VSAT service "is a filler, but a good, viable filler," which should appeal to individual workers who telecommute from more rural areas and to small offices located away from major cities, says Brownlee Thomas, senior analyst at Giga Information Group. The biggest drawback to the service, however, will be network latency on the satellite links, which will make it unsuitable for latency-sensitive applications, Thomas says.

For single-user sites, the service will feature speeds of 600 Kbps downstream and 128 Kbps upstream, according to WorldCom. The multiple-user version of the service, intended for sites where two or more people on a network will share a satellite uplink, will also feature an upstream speed of 128 Kbps, although it will give customers the choice of downstream speeds of 600 Kbps, 800 Kbps, or 1,000 Kbps.