Satellite system to help Pakistani schools

WorldSpace Corp. has won a two-year, multimillion-dollar contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide educational materials via satellite to Pakistani schools, according to Noah Samara, chairman and chief executive officer of the Washington firm.

The contract represents the beginning of a $100 million pipeline of government opportunities, Samara said. The company announced the launch of its government sales office last month. The privately held company employs 300 people worldwide.

Under the contract, 25,000 portable WorldSpace receivers will be placed in 25,000 public elementary schools. The receivers will capture audio content sent via WorldSpace's satellites, enabling the Pakistani government to offer a 21st-century curriculum, Samara said. The content, for example, could include math, science, health or civic lessons, he said.

The receivers cost about $70 each. They usually reach between 200 and 1,000 users per site, Samara said.

"There is nothing else in the industry that can deliver this kind of content so cheaply," he said.

Samara said the project eventually could deliver multimedia content if the receivers were connected to computers in the schools.

WorldSpace's satellite system serves Africa, the Middle East, Asia and parts of Europe, allowing government agencies needing to extend communication of voice and data into markets with limited telecommunications infrastructure, according to the company.

Through its subscription-based service, WorldSpace transmits information, education and entertainment programming to a global service area that includes more than 4 billion people.

WorldSpace's government work includes a subcontract to Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., through which WorldSpace's satellites and receivers are being used to transmit real-time weather data to the Air Force staff in the field.

Harris said last month that it had completed delivery of 100 First-In Weather Systems to the Air Force, and that several were used during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The weather data is generated by the Air Force Weather Agency and the 28th Operational Weather Squadron, transmitted to a WorldSpace satellite and then broadcast to the portable receivers and laptops of soldiers and airmen.

Harris provides the systems integration, engineering and program management support. WorldSpace provides the communications infrastructure and portable antenna receivers.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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