Canadian Group's Satellite Broadcasting to Compete with US

Article excerpt

A GROUP of Canadian television and telecom companies are tak ing aim at an American satellite system. For backup, they will have the regulatory arm of the Canadian federal government, which makes the rules for television broadcasting.

"Direct to Home" satellite broadcasting (DTH Canada Inc.) will broadcast to individual homes via a 24-inch dish on the roof of a house or outside an apartment window. The satellite dish is connected by coaxial cable - the kind cable companies use - to a specially supplied descrambling box on top of the TV set.

The service is similar to Britain's Sky TV and to a service just started in the United States that could be beamed to Canada.

"This is a strong competitive response - not to our Canadian cable companies - but to the US direct-TV providers," says Gerry Vanderwel, a spokesman for BCE Inc., one of the partners in DTH Canada Inc.

The three companies involved are BCE Inc. of Montreal, the holding company for Bell Canada, the country's largest telephone company; Canadian Satellite Communications Inc. (Cancom) of Mississauga, Ontario, which distributes broadcasting signals by satellite to 2,300 cable systems in Canada; and WIC Western International Communications Inc., the biggest broadcaster in western Canada. The three partners appear to have the money and technical capability to get the service up and running by April 1995. The Canadian satellite, Anik E-1, is already in orbit with "transponder" space to spare.

The market is there. Although about 90 percent of urban Canada has cable TV - installed for clearer reception from TV stations on US borders - there are 3 million potential customers who do not subscribe to cable. Another 600,000 rural residences do not have access to cable TV.

"The satellite television service will offer a wide range of broadcasting and information services nationally," the consortium said in a joint statement. …