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Thread: Does Sirius have a new satellite ready to launch?

  1. #1
    bananaz is offline
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    Does Sirius have a new satellite ready to launch?

    I seem to recall an article mentioning that Sirius had a new satellite close to completion and I believe it was "backburnered" due to lack of funds. If so, does anyone know if this satellite had the capability to broadcast to both services?

    I was wondering because, if they had that capability, would they then be able to sell or lease the XM fleet. Is this even part of their thinking or strategy? I know that they'd need more than one but it would be a start.

  2. #2
    terrymr is offline
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    It's probable that any of the satellites could in theory broadcast both services, however covering twice as much bandwidth would effectively half the power of the transmission.

  3. #3
    sxminvestor is offline
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    I do know that XM has "Rock#1 & Roll#2" in space as backup sats, but they are losing some power and don't have that many years left. They are operating with "Rythem#3 and Blues#4"

    Sirius has a spare on the ground # 4 for them, but are launching # 5 this year sometime to I guess prepare to phase out others. I have a feeling this one Sirius is launching can handle both Sirius & XM transmissions. This may be wrong and I'm sure there is someone else out there that understands it technically and could correct me and add o this.

  4. #4
    homer985 is offline
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    Putting this topic to rest, once and for all...

    None of the current satellites in use (sirius and xm) have the ability to broadcast the others' spectrum. This was both brought up and confirmed during the merger process when Sirius/XM were having their many meetings with Congress/FCC/SEC.

    Both the XM-5 satellite, which is their on-ground spare due to be ready this year and the Sirius-5 satellite -- which is going up into a GEO orbit this year -- are supposed to have the ability to cover each others spectrum.

    As far as selling or leasing the XM satellites, they would be useless to the buyer - unless they bought XM's license and broadcast DARS on them. That is because the satellites can't be tuned to another portion of the spectrum -- this was noted in the merger process when they said they can't even cover the Sirius spectrum.

    So whoever buys them will be limited to XM's 12.5MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band. And currently, the only broadcast option that is allocated for that portion of the S-Band is DARS (aka in international terms BSS(Sound)). And the FCC cannot just change allocations whenever they like -- the spectrum is split up into various "regions" around the world... and is watched over and coordinated by the ITU (International Telecomunications Union), which is headquartered in Geneva.

    The ITU holds "world" conferences where they debate the allocation of the radio spectrum. Back in 1992 at WARC-92, they allocated BSS(sound) to one portion of the radio spectrum for most of the world -- however the US and Japan successfully lobbied to allow our region to allocate it to the 2.3GHz band. They eventually agreed and a few years later Congress adopted the DARS allocation in that portion of the spectrum. They originally allocated 50MHz -- however they eventually took 25MHz back and instructed the FCC to just license 2320MHz~2345MHz for DARS. The FCC listened to arguments and decided to issue just 2 licenses and to divide this 25MHz into two portions -- which were eventually auctioned and awarded to the highest bidders, CD Radio (sirius) and American Mobile Radio (XM).

    The FCC has allowed XM and Sirius to offer other services on their spectrum, but only as ancillary services -- not as a primary service. Those data services are to be complimentary to the licenses.

    The speculation is that Sirius could sell the XM satellites... which are only worth approximately $500MM at this point. However, since current sats and receivers can't receive the others spectrum, it would make the XM receivers usesless. If they decided to launch the newer satellites to cover the full spectrum -- then they'd have to launch both and seperate them into an east and west satellite (like XM has now). However this raises the question of what to do with the current XM birds? Those have antenna's and transponders (which are transcievers) designed specifically for the 2.3GHz band. They'd be useless to a buyer looking to use them elsewhere.

    Even if they found a way around all the technical issues -- there is NO guarantee that the FCC and Congress will be willing to reallocate XM's band (2332.5~2345.0MHz) to another service. This is something that both the FCC and Congress will have to sign off on -- AS WELL AS the ITU and other countries affected by such a change (Canada and Mexico), which could take years. Then what if the FCC and/or Congress puts a stop to it because of all the hoops and guarantees the companies made to do the merger? They guaranteed a certain amount of spectrum each for minority broadcasting... and may not allow them to change that deal. Regardless if they still own the XM license or not, you'd enter into a grey area that Congress/FCC could really screw up. Hell, Congress could take back the license altogether and tell them that if they're going to reallocate the spectrum -- then the license needs to be re-auctioned to the highest bidder... leaving Sirius with nothing for the license! (See the FCC just reauctioned the entire 700MHz band, after taking it away from television broadcasters who are switching to another portion of the spectrum for HD use.) It's called red tape. There's a reason it took DARS over 11 years to get off the ground. The companies were formed in 1990, but weren't licensed until 1997 -- and didn't launch commerically until late 2001.

    This whole discussion was started and fueled by an analyst who didn't bother to do the full due diligence of the capabilities of the satellites -- or the implications.

    Last edited by homer985; 02-20-2009 at 05:24 PM.

  5. #5
    Sirius Roadkill is offline
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    Thank you for the time and effort spent on this highly technical issue!

  6. #6
    sxminvestor is offline
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    Homer - you da man !

  7. #7
    Siriusowner is offline
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    I once drove to Monterrey, Mexico, around 120 miles south of Laredo Texas on a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix with an XM Radio (in 2006) and I a had clear crisp reception there.

    How far South can Sirius or XM reach ? I did not read all of Homer's post but it seems that there is a lot of regulation on Radio Frequencies BUT, if they are already broadcasting 120 miles south of the border, can't the just get a permit to broadcast in the whole country ? I know there's XM Canada... Isn't broadcasting in Mexico a good idea ? It could bring perhaps millions of new subscribers. (I know the language is not the same BUT people listens to music in english all the time + they could get 2 or 3 contracts with famous Spanish speaking TV anchors or something like that (they would be way cheaper than Sterns, Oprah or Martha Stewart !!!) and also add more channels with music in Spanish, besides, isn't there an MLB in spanish channel ? CNN in spanish, Etc...)

    Just a thought.
    Last edited by Siriusowner; 02-20-2009 at 10:19 PM.

  8. #8
    cos1000 is offline
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    Homer, thank you for such a detailed post bringing together the technical hardware facts with the very political and governmental licensing issues that go beyond our borders....

    Not being able to "reset / tune" these satellites to another licensed band of frequencies is the one issue that makes them useless to any other licensed operator in any other spectrum. The fact that roughly half of the current subscriber base would be without receivers if programming moved to either of the other sat systems, as currently configured, is the other important fact.

    It would appear this is just more wishful thinking on investors part, while being still void of useful comment from management....

    Thanks again.....

  9. #9
    bananaz is offline
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    Thanks Homer!

  10. #10
    john is offline
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    homer985, Not to get into a debate but I could have swore in the 4th Q of 2007 or 1st Q of 2008 XMSR said that their last satellite they just put up was capable of taking on SIRI content. I am not the only one who read that ether, Tyler recalls that as well because we had discussed it a while ago on his Radio show.

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