Advanced Television

Samara: Busy again?

January 10, 2011

Noah Samara, founder – and potentially rescuer – of bankrupt satellite pay-radio broadcaster Worldspace, is busy with another satellite venture. His name is specifically linked with a non-governmental organisation, and not-for-profit, ’’ (AHR). AHR, is based in Berlin, with (according to its website) ‘liaison’ offices in Boston (USA) and Silicon Valley. AHR’s raison d’être is to make internet access available to many of the planet’s unconnected 5 billion people, and at low cost.

AHR’s route to achieve its aims is to buy TerreStar-1, launched in July 2009 and currently positioned to serve the USA. Owner TerreStar Corp is in Chapter 11 protection (since October 2010) and AHR is looking to pick up the satellite for a song with some help from philanthropic donors and the government of Papua New Guinea.  The craft would then be re-located over Papua New Guinea and beam its signals over much of the wider region. The plan is then for a low-cost, open-source sat-modem to be developed for under $100, according to AHR’s ‘founder’ Kosta Grammatis, once an engineer working on Elon Musk’s SpaceX project.

According to AHR, its ‘advisory board’ includes Noah Samara (quoted as being XM’s ‘founder’) as well as Deutsche Telekom’s CTO Thomas Curran. Seed cash investment is said to have been made by the Bertlesmann Foundation, Deutsche Telekom, NASA’s Ames Research Centre, and others. The outfit is appealing for funds, and as at Dec 31st had managed to raise $30,400 (that’s $30,400 not millions) from around 500 well-wishers!

Setting aside the obvious fund-raising cash challenges, AHR’s scheme could also come severely unstuck if Charlie Ergen’s EchoStar Corp gets its way having ‘invested’ $75m into a Court-approved pre-pack for TerreStar in order for its Chapter 11 debtor-in-possession reorganisation process.

TerreStar itself is a direct descendent of Motient Corp and American Mobile Satellite Network (AMSN), with AMSN itself being responsible for spinning off XM Satellite Radio, which is perhaps where Samara comes in.

Samara – seemingly – continues with his “1Worldspace” operation via his Yazmi-funded purchase of the old Worldspace assets, and widespread blogs refer to further work currently being done behind the scenes on the 1Worldspace web-site, now closed to view other than for authorised visitors. This might suggest some progress for 1Worldspace, but isn’t the first time that cash has been spent on a snazzy website that never progressed to a real service. As was said when Samara acquired the old Worldspace assets, ‘finding $5.5m was easy. Funding the rest of 1Worldspace’s infrastructure woill take a bit of doing’.

As to Worldspace itself it is in the last throes of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy with Delaware bankruptcy judge Peter Walsh scheduling the next formal hearing for Jan 24th. Again, enthusiastic penny shareholders in the Chapter 11 company are watching every twist and turn of the bankruptcy in the fervent hope that John Malone will pull some magical bunny out of his multi-levelled hat and generate riches out of the near-worthless shares. Of course, conspiracy theorists put two and two together and come up with those riches. Notably how Malone’s influence over Sirius-XM satellite radio, plus his global cable investments, plus DirecTV, will somehow migrate to the global entity that was Worldspace.

Categories: Blogs, Inside Satellite