Astrolink LLC

03 Aug 1999



In one of the largest worldwide satellite deals of the year, Astrolink LLC, a global broadband wireless service company, commenced business on July 20, 1999, with receipt of US$900 million in equity from a trio of communications companies enabling the construction of the world's first global, on-demand, wireless broadband service provider. Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications Group is investing US$400 million in Astrolink; Telespazio, a subsidiary of the Telecom Italia Group who is being advised by Simmons & Simmons in both Italy and London (and its co-counsel for US law matters by Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson), is investing US$250 million; and TRW Inc., who are also investing US$250 million. Each of the founding partners will have a minority ownership position in the US$3.6 billion Astrolink venture. Astrolink is being launched in response to the unprecedented global growth of the Internet and electronic services and will provide end-to-end data access to consumers around the world.

Astrolink will focus on the high-growth area of broadband data services, carrying traffic for Internet, Intranet, multimedia and corporate data networks. Customers will be able to install small satellite dishes at business and home to quickly and inexpensively connect to high-speed networks. The service will be complementary and compatible with other broadband services like fiber optic transmission. However, unlike costly leased line connections, Astrolink's services will be "bandwidth on demand", with customers paying only for the connection time and data transmission services they use.

Telespazio is a leading player in the field of satellite systems and services both for Telecommunications and Earth Observation applications for business, scientific and military purposes. The unique feature about Telespazio is its own capability of offering a complete service chain ranging from engineering to operating management of ground systems, up to services supply and/or application for final customers. Simmons & Simmons has recently been involved in a number of activities of Telespazio's affiliated/controlled companies, including Damos and Tiscom, which has involved developing and commercialising satellite telecommunications services in both South America and Latin America.

The Simmons & Simmons team on this deal was led by partner Antonio Lombardo in the firm's Rome office and included Giovanni Luca Zenga, Vincenzo Criscuoli, Gianroberto de Giovanni, Marco Misiti and Angus Miln. The London team comprised partner Tom Wheadon and Kate Ollerenshaw. In providing advice to Telespazio, Simmons & Simmons worked closely with Richard Steinwurtzel, John Chierichella, Beth Colleye and Scott Faga of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in Washington, DC.

Antonio Lombardo of Simmons & Simmons commented:

"It was a great challenge and a great pleasure to support the Telespazio team in this venture. The professionalism of the individuals involved made such a complex transaction an enjoyable and successful exercise."

Richard Steinwurtzel of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson commented:

"This was a cutting-edge legal and business venture. We were pleased to assist in its launch."

The first Astrolink geostationary, Ka-band satellite is scheduled for launch in 2002, followed by the launch of three additional satellites at six-months intervals. The first satellite will provide broadband data communications services to customers in Europe and North and South America. The second, third and fourth spacecraft will extend the network worldwide.

Lockheed Martin will provide the company's spacecraft, systems integration and launch services, and also act as one of Astrolink's service providers. Telespazio will supply the worldwide ground systems for the venture and will manage and operate the overall satellite and network control systems during the operational phase. Telecom Italia will market Astrolink services in Italy and through its affiliated companies in Europe and Latin America. TRW will build the digital, packet-switched communications payloads for the satellites, and will have the opportunity to be an Astrolink service provider.


Notes for editors:

1. Simmons & Simmons is worldclass law firm with offices in London, Paris, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Lisbon, Milan, Rome, Madrid, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York with over 1,400 staff worldwide. For further information on Simmons & Simmons please visit our website at

2. The firm's communications practice has developed rapidly in recent years, and provides legal services to all parts of the communications industry. The dedicated communications team in London now numbers 21 partners plus 35 lawyers.

Significant recent transactions include advising in relation to the launch of Rapture TV; advising in connection with the creation by Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and Energis of a new company, MetroHoldings Limited; advising General Cable PLC on its merger with Telewest Communications plc valued at £649 million; and advising Viatel Inc on the construction of its US$350 million high capacity SDH fibre-optic ring through the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Significant recent regulatory matters include our appointment as principal legal advisers to the Independent Television Commission.

3. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is a US based law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, London and Paris.