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PanAmSat HDTV Bird Flies As Galaxy XIII

When Galaxy XIII lifted off last week from a converted oil-rig platform on the equator, 200 miles from Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, it signaled a new era in satellite technology. Owner PanAmSat is calling Galaxy XIII the first "home" for HDTV programming.

All of PanAmSat's clients from Galaxy IX will migrate to respective spots on Galaxy XIII, including HD Net, HBO, Starz Encore Group and even Turner, whom PanAmSat said will use the transponders at some point to transmit HDTV.

Overall, the new bird doubles the output power, giving programmers the ability to carry two HDTV signals in a signal transponder, compared to the one-to-one relationship on Galaxy IX.

"We have a new satellite with higher power, and people will know there is one good place to go to get HD programming," said PanAmSat vice president Mike Antonovich. "Galaxy 13 is twice as powerful and you can get two HD signals on each transponder," Antonovich said.

All Galaxy IX programmers will automatically receive slots of Galaxy XIII. Some used Galaxy IX for analog feeds, while others used digital feeds. Each transponder on the new bird at 127 degrees carries with it 19.3-megabit capacity, according to Antonovich.

Easier for cable MSOs

There are still several transponders available on the new bird, Antonovich said, as PanAmSat tries to strengthen the position of Galaxy XIII as an HDTV bird.

That positioning will make it easier for cable MSOs. The Galaxy IX receive dishes that can be used to pull in programming from Galaxy XIII, said Antonovich. And the more HD networks that are on Galaxy XIII, the easier it will be for MSOs to pass those services through to consumers.

Antonovich added that it will take about six weeks to get the satellite into the correct orbital slot, with current networks on Galaxy IX possibly making the transition to the new bird as early as December.

In addition to the Galaxy transponders, the satellite will carry a number of KU band slots, which PanAmSat is operating via a joint venture with JSAT, the Japanese satellite company. "It's going to be in the cable arc and will be a very strong location," Antonovich said. "We think there is going to be some real interesting things coming out of it," perhaps different kinds of niche programming.