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Kirkland, Washington-based Teledesic Corp, the Bill Gates and Craig McCaw ‘Internet-in-the-sky’ project formed to create a satellite network offering high-bandwidth voice, video and computer communications to mobile users, has named Boeing Co as the company charged with building the satellites that will begin services by 2002. As part of the deal, Boeing is expected to invest as much as $100m for a 10% stake in Teledesic – doubling the amount so far invested in the project and valuing the company at up to $1bn. Boeing will begin full production of the satellites in 2000. It will also take on the task of co- ordinating the $9bn networking and telecommunications involved in the project, and establishing a launch schedule starting in 2001. Boeing won the Teledesic satellite contract in a contest that included aerospace company Lockheed Martin Corp and Motorola Inc, which has its own interest with Iridium Inc’s 66 satellite system. It’s looked for some time as though Teledesic has been considering scaling back its ambitious plans for its satellite network (CI No 3,105) and as part of its pitch, Boeing presented a plan to reduce the number of satellites in the network to 288 in a higher orbit to an original 824 low-orbit scheme. Boeing’s plan will enable additional satellites to be added in groups of 12. Boeing is investing $50m immediately for a 5% stake in Teledesic, with an option to invest another $50m for a total 10% stake. The total investment is dependent upon Teledesic raising additional financing. Last year, British Telecommunications plc was reported to be committed to investing $1.5bn in Teledesic, but would not confirm any arrangement until the other investors were on board.

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