Wireless high-speed access for everyone?

A small company hopes to deliver broadband access to millions of homes that may never have high-speed connections otherwise by linking them to a communications satellite.

Englewood, Colorado-based iSky.net intends to announce early next week plans to put a two-way communications satellite system in orbit by the end of 2001. This brings hope of high-speed Internet access to homes and offices that are not served by cable and are too far away from a phone company's central office.

"Every man, woman and child in the States can say, 'I want my broadband,' and we can deliver," said Bradley Greenwald, vice president of business development and marketing for iSky, during a brief interview.

The company hopes to deliver two-way Internet access by satellite to the entire United States, Canada and Latin America.

David Drucker, one of the original founders of satellite TV provider Echostar, founded iSky.

In late 2001, the company plans to start up an affordable broadband service available to homes and small offices in the United States and Latin America.

"There are a lot of people who want to get (high-speed access) and can't," said Gary Schultz, president of broadband research firm MRG. "The foreseeable future could be pretty bright for satellite Internet." Schultz estimates that anywhere from 15 percent to 30 percent of the United States cannot get cable service or DSL.

The company will compete with services including DirecPC, from Hughes Network Services, which delivers fast Internet speeds downstream but requires a phone connection for the user to send data to the Internet. iSky will be a true two-way wireless satellite service, said the company.

Despite HNS' two-year head start, iSky could very well have a chance, analysts said.

"DirecPC has been moving slowly," said Schultz. "The video part is growing so fast. That is where the company is putting its efforts. DirecPC has not really been pushed very hard or promoted."

Already, the company -- previously known as KaStar Satellite Communications -- has signed equity partnerships with TV Guide, Space Systems/Loral and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which has called the company the "@Home of the Sky."

It has received the OK from the Federal Communications Commission to use the Ka-Band (20GHz to 30GHz) at two orbital locations on May 8, 1997. Each satellite will be able to deliver 38Mbps, which iSky believes will result in 1.5Mbps speeds to the user and 500Kbps to 1Mbps speeds back to the Internet.

Pricing and additional partners were not revealed.