COMSAT service to aid the executive travelerCOMSAT...


COMSAT service to aid the executive traveler

COMSAT Aeronautical Services, aiming at the corporate aviation market, has announced a trio of services that got their start on the most executive of executive jets -- Air Force One.

Travelers on planes equipped with radio gear that communicates through COMSAT Mobile Communications' Inmarsat satellite system will now be able to send faxes at 9.6 kilobits per second (the normal rate of office fax machines), link up with computer data bases at 2,400 bps and chat over a digitally encrypted voice channel, with no fear of eavesdropping by radio enthusiasts or corporate spies.

The announcement was made at the National Business Aircraft Association show in Atlanta. COMSAT spokesman Paul Jacobsen said that while the Clarksburg-based company will be equipping United Airlines jets through its partnership with GTE Airfone, the commercial market generally has been slowed by recession.

Still, prospects remain strong in the business market.

Roger McEvoy, the company's director for government and general aviation services, said: "Air Force One has driven this technology at COMSAT. It was developed specifically for Air Force One and all of the other support aircraft."

The satellite technology doesn't come cheap. An aircraft "earth station" can range from $300,000 up to $500,000 and more for multichannel models. But that needs to be viewed in context, the COMSAT folks say. For example, a Gulfstream 4, the Rolls-Royce of corporate jets, might cost $28 million.

"More than once, we've had an executive get off the jet and tell the pilot, 'We've just paid for this telephone,' " because of a deal that was clinched during the flight, Mr. McEvoy said.

One reason for the expense is the need to keep the plane's antenna aimed precisely at the satellite, Mr. McEvoy said. One system, called "phased array," steers the signal electronically; another approach links up with the plane's navigation system, constantly tilting and swiveling the dish as the plane climbs and banks.

Hughes wins contract to provide jet phones

Hughes Network Systems Inc. of Germantown announced last week that it had won a contract worth more than $117 million to provide 200,000 airliner telephones.

The contract is from Seattle-based Claircom Communications, which provides digital communications through its AirOne service. American Airlines recently picked Claircom to outfit its entire fleet of 650 jets with AirOne phones.

Hughes will be building the 100,000 seat-back phones and 100,000 armrest-mounted phones, along with 1,200 supporting radio systems, at its plant in San Diego, which also makes cellular phones for cars.

Hughes Network Systems is a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft Co., a unit of GM Hughes Electronics.

Windows software sales rise as DOS sales fade

Sales of computer applications software that runs under Microsoft Corp.'s Windows are continuing to soar, while plain old DOS applications are fading into the background.

In the second quarter, according to the Software Publishers Association, the Windows category rocketed to $775 million, up 53 percent from the period a year before. The DOS group took a 16 percent slide, to $495 million.

PC application software revenue overall grew by a healthy 13.9 percent, tempered somewhat by the past year's price wars.

Sales for Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh kept pace, growing 14.1 percent from the period a year ago.

FCC move a mixed bag for Baltimore company

The FCC decision on frequency allotments for personal communications services came as a mixed blessing last week to American Personal Communications LP, the Baltimore-based company that is breaking ground in the field.

"We liked some of it and didn't like some of it," said W. Scott Schelle, the company's vice president for strategic planning and regulatory affairs in Washington.

"We felt real good about the MTAs" -- the use of "major trading areas" to define license boundaries. "We were the company that advanced the idea to the FCC."

But the allocation of 30-megahertz license blocks was disappointing; APC had been pressing for 40-megahertz chunks.

Mr. Schelle also believes the field has been opened too widely. "The idea of seven operators competing in the Baltimore area is ridiculous," he said. APC believes a market this size can support three or four operators at best.

MicroProse produces a football simulator

MicroProse Inc. of Hunt Valley is out with its first football simulator, one that uses real team names and logos and real players and coaches, by virtue of licensing agreements with the National Football League's Coaches Club and Players Association.

NFL Coaches Club Football, for MS-DOS machines, lets players act as coaches, choosing from a 160-play playbook that's tailored to the style of each team. It displays the action in 3-D graphics, with features like instant replays and variable camera angles. The game has a list price of $59.95.

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