Customers of XM Satellite Radio Inc. aren't the only ones who appreciate its digital quality and nationwide coverage. The US military might draft XM's service.
XM and Raytheon Co. have jointly built a communications system that would use XM's satellites to relay information to soldiers and emergency responders during a crisis. The Mobile Enhanced Situational Awareness Network, would get a dedicated channel on XM's satellites.
The military often leases transmission space on commercial satellites, but this collaboration between a massive defense contractor and a fun-loving radio network -- XM's first two satellites were dubbed Rock and Roll, and its next two might be Rhythm and Blues -- is unusual.
It began last year when engineers at Raytheon were looking for an inexpensive system to help emergency responders and soldiers coordinate their actions after a natural disaster or terrorist strike. Existing communications systems for such scenarios can be bulky and expensive. Commercial satellite radio receivers, in contrast, are lightweight, battery-powered, and cost as little as $99 and have enough bandwidth to carry maps and other imagery.
XM serves only North America; Raytheon has signed on with Worldspace Corp., a satellite provider in Africa, Asia, and Europe.