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XM hikes monthly fees

Existing satellite radio users can skip the rise by advancing their one-year payment before April 2.

Monthly subscription fees for XM Satellite Radio will rise approximately 30 percent, to $12.95, as the company expands its basic service, XM said on Monday.

But existing subscribers can spare the hike if they are ready to pay up front.

Customers can lock in the current $9.99 monthly rate if they opt for a one-year prepaid plan before April 2. Deeper discounts are available with longer-lasting prepaid plans, the firm said.

Competitor Sirius Satellite charges $12.95 for its monthly service plan.

In addition to 150 commercial-free radio channels, the basic package will now include XM's Internet service, XM Radio Online, which offers more than 70 channels of music and talk programs, and was previously available for a monthly rate of $3.99. The basic plan will now also come with XM's High Voltage channel, which had previously cost $1.99 extra.

"XM's growth to date demonstrates that the potential for satellite radio is far greater than anyone anticipated," CEO Hugh Panero said in a statement. "This new pricing approach will help fund future technology development, enable us to offer more attractively priced radios and maintain our programming excellence. Together, these initiatives should result in XM exceeding its current target of 20 million customers by 2010."

XM, which is engaged in fierce competition with rival programmer Sirius, currently claims a subscriber base of 3.2 million.

In the just-concluded fourth quarter, XM posted a 150 percent year-on-year revenue growth to cross $83 million. This boost helped XM reduce its quarterly loss to $188.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2004.