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Wednesday, May 20, 1998 Published at 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK


Satellite victims turn to Net

The Internet came to the rescue when a satellite fault silenced millions of pagers across the United States.

A malfunction on the Galaxy 4 satellite meant pagers across the country stopped working and also hit transmissions of the country's National Public Radio (NPR).

But Washington-based NPR also puts its programmes out on the Internet and some of the stations rebroadcasting it around the country have grabbed an Internet feed to ensure normal service is maintained.

The Internet is being used as an alternative means of communication for many customers still struggling to survive without their beepers during the worst satellite failure to have hit America's paging industry.

Data Transmission Network Corp, which offers services to farmers, said it would provide some information via Internet while it also used another satellite.

About 90% of all pagers in the United States as well as radio, television and data links to tens of millions of Americans have been affected.

Doctors, who rely on pagers to respond quickly to medical emergencies, had expressed their particular concern at the satellite spinning out of control causing them to lose the service. Some stayed at hospitals because of silenced beepers.

Technicians who have been working to repair the fault have used other satellites to restore some of the service, but they say it could take up to a week to solve the problem.

A spokesman for the PanAmSat company, responsible for Galaxy 4, said some communications were being restored after the satellite spun out of control on Tuesday.

However, they said it was unclear why the onboard system of the satellite failed.

The craft was able to receive commands from Earth, but its onboard control system had malfunctioned and the satellite began to rotate, losing its orientation.

John Beletic, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PageMart Wireless Inc, a paging company, said: "This is the first time in 35 years that pagers have gone silent."

PanAmSat's chief technology officer, Robert Bednarek, said in a statement: "We are examining long-term options in the event that we cannot reactivate the satellite, including the use of available capacity on other PanAmSat spacecraft with domestic US coverage."

Galaxy 4 was launched in June 1993. PanAmSat has a global network of 17 satellites.

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