French space contractor Alcatel Space has reached an agreement in principle to form a strategic partnership with Israeli contractor Gilat Satellite Networks to significantly enhance the latter's Gilat 360 broadband satellite platform. The new agreement, which is part of the two companies' two-way broadband satellite communications joint venture with Luxembourg quoted SES GLOBAL, centres on improving the cost effectiveness, performance and competitiveness of the Gilat 360 design. Other aims include the achievement of seamless integration with terrestrial broadband infrastructures and bringing together the two companies' products in preparation for compliance with future worldwide communications satellite standards.

For its part, the Alcatel/Gilat/SES GLOBAL tie-up is aimed at providing two-way satellite communications services for businesses, consumers and small office/home office (SOHO) customers throughout Europe. Building on an existing strong customer base, the new entity will target a potential European residential market that has been estimated to grow at the rate of 30 percent per year over the period 2003 to 2008. For small and medium sized enterprises, the intention is to offer a complete satellite communications service (provided both directly and via wholesalers) using Gilat's Skystar Advantage® very small aperture terminal (VSAT) and SES's broadband interactive system. For the SOHO market, the partners intend to provide broadband communications services via Gilat's 360 VSAT satellite modem at speeds of up to 20 times higher than those available using dial-up modems.

Elsewhere, Alcatel Space has announced that it is under contract to deliver a new communications satellite (designated as W5) to Eutelsat for launch during the summer of 2002. Based on the company's Spacebus 3000 platform, W5 will be fitted with 24 wideband Ku-band (12.5 to 18.0 GHz) transponders that can be operated simultaneously to provide a fixed, pan-European footprint. Onboard power will be about 6 kW and the 3000 kg (at launch) satellite is designed for an operational life in excess of 12 years.