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Satellite radio hits landmarks

Leading maker of receivers reports 5 million sold, around the same time the combined subscriber roster for XM and Sirius hits 5 million.

The new magic number for satellite radio is 5 million, with the leading manufacturer of satellite receivers reporting sales of that many units around the same time total subscriber numbers surpassed that mark.

Delphi, which makes auto and home receivers for both XM Satellite Radio and competitor Sirius Satellite Radio, announced on Tuesday that it has sold 5 million receivers to retail customers and automakers. Delphi sells a variety of receivers for home and automotive use and has contracts with General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Audi, Volkswagen and others to make receivers for factory installation in new cars.

Delphi delivered the first portable receiver for satellite radio, the XM MyFi, and has squeezed satellite service into a number of other novel forms.

The Delphi announcement came shortly after XM announced that it signed up 540,000 new subscribers in the first calendar quarter of 2005, pushing its total subscriber base to nearly 3.8 million. Sirius mostly recently reported total subscribers at more than 1.2 million, bringing the total to more than 5 million.

XM and competitor Sirius emerged on the market about three years ago with similar technologies and business plans. Both charge a monthly fee of $13 to let subscribers access dozens of channels of audio programming beamed directly by satellite to special receivers in cars and home stereo systems.

The services have competed briskly on a number of fronts, from signing up high-profile talents such as Howard Stern to recruiting automakers and inking exclusive sports programming deals.

Both services racked up huge launch costs to put satellites into orbit, build broadcast facilities and hire on-air talent. Analysts estimate that XM needs to reach 4.5 million subscribers to turn an operating profit, while Sirius needs 3.4 million subscribers to move into the black.