XM Radio on the air

Delayed by attacks, digital sat radio service launches

WASHINGTON — Radio’s taking a new ride in outer space, with XM Satellite Radio initiating a go Tuesday after a brief postponement due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

With employees whooping it up, XM Satellite prexy-CEO Hugh Panero said the launch of the subscription satellite service marked a milestone in radio history.

For now, XM’s two satellites, dubbed Rock and Roll, will provide 100 channels of digital programming to customers in Dallas/Fort Worth and San Diego. Listeners can receive music of all varieties and news channels — among them ABC, CNBC, CNN Headline News and Fox News.

Holding court at XM’s swank headquarters in D.C., Panero said it was time to look forward, rather than being paralyzed by the horrific terrorist attacks. XM had been slated to bow Sept. 12, but the launch was delayed.

“Businesses need to get back to business. Businesses need to open, not close,” Panero said.

XM, slated to be available nationwide by late November, has some major backers, including General Motors, American Honda Motor Co., Clear Channel Communications and DirecTV. The subscription service costs $9.99 a month.

Satellite radios are being made available in major retail outlets at a cost of about $300. Sat radios will be installed in GM’s Cadillac DeVilles and Seville models hitting dealer lots in November. GM intends to make the radios available in 20 more models next year, Panero said.

XM’s main competitor will be Sirius Radio, which is slated to begin beaming later this year. Both have about $1 billion on the line.

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