XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio bickering over satellite services

| 6/5/2002

Talks have been announced between XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio and wireless providers to resolve a dispute over interference with wireless communications services.

According to reports, XM and Sirius are disagreeing over the way satellite services are using equipment to extend their digital radio signals to hard-to-reach areas where skyscrapers can block satellite beams. The equipment, called ground-based repeaters, could interfere with some wireless communications services.

Last September, the Federal Communications Commission granted both the companies temporary authority to use the repeaters, but only after telling them they had to coordinate with wireless companies. BellSouth and AT&T Wireless Services had complained to the FCC that airwaves they hold could be affected.

The FCC is in the process of drafting permanent rules for power levels, but a top official said May 30 that current private talks between the parties could resolve the matter without federal rules.

Chance Patterson, vice president for corporate affairs at XM, said the satellite radio companies are working with the wireless companies to modify the repeaters to avoid interference. He also said they expect to be able to solve the problem without FCC intervention. Sirius had no comment on the talks.

Wireless carriers say a power level of the repeaters above 2 kilowatts can overwhelm their services. The satellite radio companies have said a power level below 40 kilowatts can affect their signals.

Both XM and Sirius offer about 100 channels of all-digital music, talk and sports programming. XM has launched nationwide service and Sirius plans to launch similar coverage on July 1.