Race is on for European Satellite Radio

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Recent news suggests that the nascent market for satellite radio services in Europe may be heating up fast, with competition coming from both sides of the Atlantic.

A report last week by Andy Sennitt in Radio Netherland's Media Network blog indicates that Spanish-based Ondas Media has just completed a deal to carry Luxembourg's RTL radio via a new satellite service scheduled for a 2012 rollout. Ondas press releases claim the company already has OEM receiver agreements with automakers Renault, Nissan, and BMW, while a company website describes its proposed satellite transmission platform as consisting of three high-earth-orbit satellites, each of which will provide coverage for about 8 hours a day via either L or S band spectrum. Terrestrial repeater networks are included as specified as key parts of the system architecture.

Meanwhile Liberty Media, financial savior and major shareholder of Sirius XM, is now positioned to become full legal owner of bankrupt satcaster World Space, which currently has two operational satellites -- Afristar and Asiastar -- in orbit, along with associated uplink and control facilities.

Industry observers may remember that shortly before descending into bankruptcy, World Space was in the process of securing terrestrial repeater agreements with several European nations (most notably Italy and Germany) along with an OEM receiver-marketing pact with Italian automaker Fiat. By bringing World Space out of bankruptcy, Liberty's strong financial position, coupled with its relationship with Sirius/XM could put the company in a position to fast track a European satellite service, with lucrative prospects for expanding into the Indian sub-continent as well.

Simmering speculation that a Liberty purchase of World Space could provide an international platform for Sirius/XM content came to a full boil on Monday when Siri CEO Mel Karmazin addressed the issue at a Global Media conference in NYC. "We understand that Liberty has expressed an interest in World Space" said Karmazin in a Reuters report, "We would put our expertise and experience in the pot and Liberty would put their money in the pot."

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