Sirius-XM faces fresh challenge

Satellite radio operator Sirius-XM also operates vehicle-based TV in the shape of its ‘Backseat TV’ service. Three channels (Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon) are available in special mobile versions. Now a competitor is on the horizon.

AT&T is backing CruiseCast, another satellite-based in-car TV system but with 22 channels on offer. Unlike Sirius-XM which uses a very discreet aerial, CruiseCast depends on conventional (and full power) satellite signals onto a roof-mounted aerial system from highly-regarded antenna manufacturers RaySat (see picture, above). The ‘dish’ is best described as an upside-down – and quite large – metal soup bowl.

RaySat has cleverly integrated a computerised caching system in the receiver that stores 3 minutes of content so that signals are not lost when in underpasses or the vehicle is out of line of sight of the satellite. These sorts of problems do not affect Sirius-XM because it uses powerful land-based repeater transmitters.

AT&T CruiseCast will deliver family TV programming including Disney Channel, Toon Disney, Discovery Kids, Animal Planet, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network Mobile, USA, Comedy Central, MSNBC, CNN Mobile Live and CNBC. Twenty satellite radio music channels will also be available on launch in “Spring 2009”.

The kit isn’t cheap. The price has been set at $1,299, plus the monthly subscription fee will be around $28.