washingtonpost.com  > Technology > Washtech


A Drive to Bring More Entertainment to Vehicles

By Andrea Caumont
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2004; Page E05

Samer Salameh envisions a world in which you can videoconference, check and send e-mail, watch your favorite television shows, make online reservations at your favorite restaurant and pinpoint the best route around a traffic jam -- all from the comfort of your moving vehicle.

Salameh is president and chief executive of RaySat, a McLean company that is developing in-motion antennas for cars, SUVs, RVs, minivans, trucks, boats and trains. Salameh said RaySat is targeting the "rear-seat entertainment market," hyperactive children and bored teenagers, the bane of every parent's road trip.

Samer Salameh, president and chief executive of RaySat, wants to transmit satellite television and broadband Internet into cars. (Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

In Profile

Name: RaySat

Location: McLean

Big idea: Develops in-motion antennas for moving vehicles that provide mobile access to satellite television, music programming and broadband Internet.

Founded: RaySat was incorporated earlier this year. It bought the assets of Amsterdam-based Skygate, a satellite antenna company founded in 1997, including its research and development facilities in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Web site: www.raysat.com

Who's in charge: Samer Salameh, president and chief executive, and Yoel Gat, chairman.

Funding: The company completed its first round of financing in June, raising $10 million from Benchmark Capital of Menlo Park, Calif., and Israel Seed Partners of Jerusalem.

Employees: 140 workers worldwide, including 100 in the company's Bulgarian research and development facility.

Origin of company name: "We just dreamed it up," Salameh said. " 'Sat' is for satellite, 'Ray' we're trying to convey broadcasting. We're trying to convey satellite and movement, and we just liked the name."

RaySat, which has its research and development operation in Sofia, Bulgaria, has developed two antennas: a one-way antenna to receive satellite transmissions of TV and radio when coupled with a subscription to a satellite television network and a two-way antenna that is used on trains in Europe to provide broadband Internet access to passengers. Salameh would not say when a two-way antenna would be available for consumer markets but hinted that in-vehicle Internet access is just around the corner.

"Stay tuned for the two-way antenna," Salameh said. "This world is not that far away. It will become reality next year. It's well beyond one-way TV. It's your car connected on a broadband basis to the Web."

Salameh said RaySat's in-motion antennas employ phased array technology to locate satellites and are capable of switching between satellites. "The four panels move like a record player," he said. They "rotate, tilting up and down and adjusting based on the latitude of where you are to constantly locate the satellites."

In the United States, he said, RaySat's antennas are capable of receiving satellite transmissions from DirecTV and Dish Network.

RaySat will start shipping its one-way antennas to consumers within weeks, according to Salameh, who declined to say how many have been ordered.

RaySat will not have the market to itself. KVH Industries of Middletown, R.I., sells an in-vehicle satellite receiver that works only with DirecTV. Asked about RaySat, James C. Dodez, vice president of marketing at KVH, said: "A lot of people have announced their intention to come in with products, made big promises about low cost and compare themselves to us. . . . We haven't seen any of these products in action."

At RaySat, Salameh predicts big things for the in-motion antenna market, as it taps into the growing number of consumers who are installing DVD and video systems in their vehicles. "By the end of next year there will be up to 5 million cars with video installed in the car," he said, "and 10 million cars in 2007 with DVD and video systems. So now you have 10 million cars with nothing to watch but DVDs." He said if 10 percent get in-motion antennas that's a million cars at $2,300 each.

"People have tried to get entertainment in cars for a generation," Salameh said. "You have all this processing power in the car but nowhere to go with it."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company