Company looks at sat service for new model vehicles

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. plans to develop a satellite broadcasting service for moving vehicles that will allow users to receive video programming, sound and data in their cars.

The automaker plans to set up the service with 30 channels of television programming by 2000, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported Sunday, citing company sources.

Toyota officials said the company has been studying the satellite broadcasting service but has not made any decisions about it. In Japan, most new cars come equipped with a flatscreen monitor and navigation system that includes several over-the-air TV channels. The satellite broadcasting system will give Toyota a leg up on its rivals in the Japanese auto market because Toyota’s system has multi-channel options and clear imaging, the paper said.

By land or by sea

The mobile satellite broadcasts can also be used in trains, buses and ships, it said. In cars the video programming will only be accessible to front seat passengers when the car is stopped.

Toyota will work with Toshiba Corp. to set up a company with initial capital of 10 billion yen ($77 million), which will apply for a broadcast license in the fall of 1999. The service will be broadcast on a satellite from Japan Satellite Systems Inc. that is expected to go into operation in 2000.

Vehicles will only need an antenna the size of a pen to pick up the signal and weather will not affect reception, the paper said.

If the service proves popular, the company will set up transmitters in tunnels and other areas where reception is difficult. Toyota also plans to increase the company’s capital to 40 billion yen ($310 million) at some point in the future.

Toyota is already involved in the telecommunications business and holds a major share in mobile telephone company Nippon Idou Tsushin Co. and long distance carrier Teleway Japan Corp.

The paper did not say if Toyota plans to take the satellite broadcasting service to other countries.

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