WildBlue turns on its first broadband satellite


NEW YORK -- Satellite broadband company WildBlue Communications Inc. said Tuesday it's turned on its first own satellite, greatly expanding its capacity.

The Denver-based company provides broadband Internet access to rural U.S. homes and businesses, using free capacity on a Canadian TV satellite to beam to dishes similar to those used for TV service.

WildBlue had filled up all available subscriber slots in many parts of the country, particularly in coastal states. The new satellite, WildBlue-1, will let the company accept new subscribers in those areas.

The new satellite's spot beams are being turned on successively. By the end of June, the company's subscriber capacity will have more than tripled to 750,000, the company said.

WildBlue now has 130,000 customers, who pay between $50 and $80 a month for two-way Internet service with download speeds that are comparable to low-end Digital Subscriber Line service.

WildBlue is being marketed in conjunction with AT&T Inc. and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative.

WildBlue's main competitor is Hughes Network Systems LLC, or HughesNet, which has 325,000 U.S. subscribers. It leases capacity on commercial satellites, but is launching its own satellite in August.