Worldspace satellite radio to launch in Italy

BANGALORE: Worldspace satellite radio announced that WorldSpace Italia S.p.A. has received approval from the Italian ministry of communications to launch a subscription satellite radio service in Italy.

With this authorization, the ministry has granted WorldSpace Italia the right to provide a subscription-based satellite radio and data service to consumers in Italy, and to use the frequency band 1479.5-1492 MHz for the operation of the corresponding hybrid satellite/terrestrial network.

WorldSpace Italia anticipates launching the satellite digital radio and data service to portable and vehicular devices in 2007, using one satellite already in orbit, and a terrestrial gap-filler network to be rolled out in all major cities throughout Italy.

WorldSpace Italia S.p.A. is a majority-owned subsidiary of Worldspace's European holding company, Viatis Satellite Radio. WorldSpace Italia's other partner is New Satellite Radio S.r.l., an Italian company whose primary shareholder is Class Editori S.p.A., an Italian financial, media and broadcast corporation based in Milan.

According to an official release, New Satellite Radio, which holds a 35 per cent interest in WorldSpace Italia, has been instrumental in obtaining the Italian regulatory authorization and is expected to play an integral role in operational execution of the service in Italy, including distribution arrangements, such as OEM partnerships, content supply and acquisition and marketing.

WorldSpace Italia intends to start rolling out this complementary network as soon as its installation plan, currently under finalization, is approved by the Ministry. At the service's maturity, subscribers in Italy will have access to approximately 50 channels of diversified sports, talk and commercial-free music programming, the release adds.

"We are very pleased to receive these authorizations from the Italian Ministry of Communications for the launch of our service," says WorldSpace, Inc. chairman & CEO Noah Samara. "We look forward to working closely with our partner, New Satellite Radio S.r.l., to implement our service and establish a new generation of WorldSpace subscribers across Italy. Italy is an attractive market for us. Our research shows it to be one of the two top markets for satellite radio in Europe."

According to Samara, the strategy has been to roll out a European service on a sequential, country-by-country basis. "Our goal was to obtain our first terrestrial authorization in one country in 2006. We have accomplished this in Italy, which we consider to be the best near-term market for a mobile satellite radio service. We will continue to seek similar approvals in the rest of Europe to achieve our goal of a pan-European satellite radio service."

"We welcome the opportunity to partner with WorldSpace at this exciting time for satellite radio in Italy," says CEO and director of New Satellite Radio S.r.L. and board member of Class Editori S.p.A. Luca Panerai. "We are confident that coupling Class Editori's extensive Italian media experience and broadcast capabilities with WorldSpace's technology and unique platform offerings will provide a first-of-its kind listener experience in Italy. The authorization also paves the way for the Italian car manufacturing industry to be the first in Europe to provide digital satellite radio service."

Italy's population is more than 58 million and nearly two-thirds of these are within the target age demographic for satellite radio service.

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