Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Channels to your car

First it was just AM. Then it was AM/FM. Then it was . . . satellite radio? Doesn't seem like there's been too much advance here. Now it's satellite TV (for regular cars, not the big dishes you see on RV's and buses).

Tracvision, who manufacturers the low-profile dish in the link above is the first manufacturer on the market to shrink a DirecTV dish that can track the correct direction to receive a signal while driving. Delphi is working on combined antennas that will integrate AM/FM with all kinds of digital services, including satellite TV.

What satellite TV providers will bring to vehicles that satellite radio providers seem to have missed the boat on is channelized access. Currently, satellite radio providers are using all of their available bandwidth to push sound down to vehicles, leaving room for little else. Unless they perform hardware and software upgrades or reduce channels, they will never be able to offer anything but sound. Alternatively, satellite TV providers already provide satellite Internet services (though primarily to rural areas that do not have another option). One of the drawbacks up to this point has been that satellite Internet has had remarkably slow upload speeds. DirecTV is poised to launch a new product called SpaceWay that will offer upload and download speeds equal to or greater than DSL and cable modems.

Some may say that the SpaceWay service will never be able to compete with WCDMA and other high-speed wireless broadband providers. Think about this: how good is your cellular coverage everywhere you drive? That's how good your data coverage would be. So if you needed truly reliable data access in your vehicle with the only qualification being that you needed an unobstructed view of the Southern sky, would you be willing to pay more for SpaceWay?

It is certainly easy to imagine vehicles with WiFi antennas that allow you to connect to wireless hotspots, but hotspots are few and far between.

It certainly will be interesting to watch.

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