COMPANIES FROM Indonesia, Thailand and the Phillipines are to form a joint venture to operate a hand-held cellular-telephone satellite system for the Asia-Pacific region.

PT Pasific Satelit Nusantara, Jasmine International and Long Distance Telephone, have raised $150 million in venture capital and plan a satellite launch in 1997.

Called Garuda 1, the spacecraft will be built either by Hughes, or Martin Marietta Astro Space. New partners in the venture, which is expected to attract at least 2 million subscribers by 2000, are being invited to join.

The Garuda venture follows the formation of an Indian-led consortium, Afro-Asian Satellite Communications (ASC) to launch two Hughes satellites in 1997-8, to provide another regional hand-held telephone satellite service covering Africa, India, central Asia, the CIS and the Middle East (Flight International, 1-7 February).

Source: Flight International