AlliedSignal unveils DataLynx Satellite network aims at smaller customers

June 19, 1998|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

In an effort to grab a bigger share of the booming satellite communications market, AlliedSignal Technical Services Corp. unveiled a new control network yesterday to help small and medium-sized customers to get access to satellite services.

The Columbia-based division of AlliedSignal Inc. said the control center of its DataLynx network will be at the division's new headquarters, which is scheduled to open in Columbia in January. The company declined to say how many jobs, if any, will be at the control center.

AlliedSignal is no newcomer to the satellite industry. The company has built and operated ground control systems for satellites since 1958. However, its clients have mainly been government agencies.

Brett Lambert, vice president of DFI International, a Washington aerospace and telecommunications consulting firm, said DataLynx marks AlliedSignal's deepest foray into the commercial satellite market.

"DataLynx is a culmination of a lot of thinking about how they can bring their expertise to the commercial marketplace," he said. "It's timed to take advantage of this explosion in demand for satellite offerings."

Communications companies and others that want satellite services generally have had to set up their own expensive ground control systems, Earth-based stations that coordinate the functioning of satellites. Through DataLynx, AlliedSignal is trying to sell its own ground services to companies and agencies that can't afford to establish their own.

Lambert said, "It's a bit akin to saying, 'I need to buy a car, so I'll build a service center.' What AlliedSignal is saying is, 'Don't build a garage; we'll be your garage and serve all the cars out there.' "

DataLynx is being pitched to customers who want to use satellites for communications and for remote sensing projects, such as aerial surveys of croplands to determine where to harvest.

The new service has customers. The Office of Naval Research and Space Technology Development Corp. of Alexandria, Va., will use DataLynx to control the Naval EarthMap Observer satellite (NEMO).

Planned for launch in 2000, NEMO will be used to study coastlines and other shallow regions of oceans. The financial terms of the NEMO contract were not disclosed.

Ivan Stern, president and chairman of AlliedSignal Technical Services Corp., declined to offer details of the cost of building DataLynx, saying only that the undertaking will cost his company "tens of millions of dollars."

Stern said the potential gains of DataLynx will outstrip the costs. "These needs [for satellite systems] are going to be reaching unprecedented levels in the next decade," he said.

Some observers say the demand for satellite services might erode as fiber-optic lines and other communications networks continue to be built on the ground.

Pub Date: 6/19/98

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