Outside North and South America, a satellite radio service is provided by Worldspace (see their website at www.worldspace.com).

Worldspace covers Africa, Western Europe, South and East Asia and the northern part of Australia. It uses two satellites in geostationary orbit (Afristar, situated at 21 degrees East) and Asiastar at 105 degrees East). Each satellite has three beams which target specific geographical areas - for example, the Afristar 1 beam covers West Africa and Western Europe. There is only limited overlap between the beams.

The system transmits two sorts of channel: rebroadcasts of international and domestic broadcasters (such as the BBC World Service and Radio France Internationale, and a set of 12 themed music channels. The themed channels are currently free in all areas except East Asia where they are available on subscription. Worldspace have announced that they expect to move to subscription for these services in other areas in the near future. Services from other broadcasters are generally free, with very few exceptions.

The lineup of channels changes from time to time: an up-to-date list is available at www.lyngsat.com/asiastar.html and www.lyngsat.com/afristar.html. Alternatively, try the Worldspace website, although the list there sometimes gets out of date. There are approximately 30-40 channels available in each area.

Reception equipment

There is a range of receivers for Worldspace. In the UK they can be bought for UKP100 (approximately USD140). A typical receiver looks very like a normal radio, with a small (about 5 inch by 4 inch) flat satellite antenna attached. The antenna has an "acceptance angle" of about 80 degrees (ie you can be pointing it up to 40 degrees to either side of the direction of the satellite) so you need not be too precise in setting the thing up. Extension cables and remote antennas are available if required.

Company background

Worldspace was originally funded by an Ethiopian businessman Noah Samara, reputedly with the financial backing of the Saudi royal family (source: Business Week, June 30, 1997). Frequency space was granted to him to operate his service in 1992 on condition that the service included provision to developing countries, and the Worldspace service does continue to provide educational channels on its African beams.

A report on Worldspace's finances by Nathan Vardi for Forbes.com (29 April 2002) says Worldspace has run through nearly US $1 billion. However it has fewer than 3000 subscribers and only 150,000 sets have been sold worldwide, mostly in India and Kenya. The report casts doubt on whether the organisation's business model can be sustained.

Future of Worldspace? Worldspace has plans to launch a third satellite, covering South and Central America, but this has been delayed by disputes over the use of frequency spectrum. Industry analysts also question whether Worldspace can afford the additional capital investment.

The biggest area of expansion for Worldspace at the moment seems to be the Western European market. Several channels have been launched for this area in 2002, including subscription weather information channels.