Hughes Network Systems said yesterday that it is offering a first-of-its-kind service that transmits news, videos, software and other data directly from a satellite to personal computers about 40 times faster than over conventional phone lines.
The Germantown-based company, a unit of General Motors-owned Hughes Electronics Corp., also announced that it has reached agreements with CNN, Reuters and other companies to provide news, sports and stock information as part of a basic subscription to the service.
The new service, dubbed DirecPC, receives signals through a 24-inch satellite dish -- only slightly larger than the 18-inch dish used for Hughes' DirecTV satellite television service. The dish, mounted on the roof or in the yard of a home or office, would connect to a personal computer via coaxial cable.
Requests for information would be sent back to the system's satellite operations center by telephone line.
Hughes said a subscription to DirecPC service will cost $15.95 per month, including news, sports and stock information.
By introducing the service now, Hughes gets a head start on the cable and telephone industries in the business of providing high-speed Internet connections for home computers.
Users of the international network of networks often complain about slow transmission rates, especially when data files include graphics -- as an increasing number do.
The service requires the purchase of a kit that consists of a 24-inch satellite receiver, an adapter card and Windows-based software for $1,295.
Mark Chartrand, a Baltimore-based satellite communications consultant, said DirecPC is "different from anything that anyone's done before."
Mr. Chartrand said DirecPC could have an important impact on the distribution of software. Among other things, it could allow stores to eliminate much of their inventory and deliver products on demand to a small store or kiosk.