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Satellite radio goes boom box

Satellite radios, normally found in cars, will get a new life as boom boxes by December, when XM Satellite Radio plans to debut Delphi's SkyFi.

Satellite radios, normally found in cars, will get a new life as boom boxes by December, an XM Satellite Radio representative said Monday.

Called SkyFi, the new devices represent a next step for satellite radios: true mobility. Satellite radios are generally fixed to one place, whether on the dashboard of cars, where they debuted in 1998, or inside homes and offices.

The SkyFi will consist of a radio receiver, a remote control and attachable speakers, which give the device a bow-tie shape.

The battery-operated devices will also come with a standard power adapter. It will be able to plug into a car, with a $70 kit. The company did not give details on the type of batteries the SkyFi will take. It also has not released the weight or exact dimensions of the radio, but said that it's about the size of a keyboard, only thicker.

A display on the radio will show information including the song title, artist name, and channel name and number. Users will be able to reset up to 20 channels. SkyFi, pricing at $230, is being manufactured by Michigan-based electronics maker Delphi.

Satellite radios use a constellation of orbiting satellites instead of land-based antennae used by all FM/AM radio stations. But unlike traditional radio stations, satellite radio companies charge monthly subscriptions. For example, XM charges $10 for programming, and XM's only competitor, Sirus charges $13 for its content.

SkyFi will be sold to XM Satellite Radio subscribers only, the representative said. Competitor Sirius Satellite Radio may debut a similar portable radio, but for now it sells satellite radio receivers meant for cars, trucks and boats, according to a Sirius representative on Monday.

"Certainly, (something like SkyFi) is a possibility for the future," the representative said.

The financial side of satellite radio has been gloomy. XM and Sirius say they need additional funding to continue as viable concerns after spending hundreds of millions of dollars each to launch satellite networks.

XM, which launched in 1998, said it's on track to have 350,000 subscribers by year's end, in line with Wall Street expectations. Sirius launched its national radio network in July and has since garnered 6,800 subscribers.

On Monday, brokerage Ladenburg Thalmann cut its ratings for both satellite radio companies, citing concerns about their lack of revenue. Sirius was dropped from "market perform" to "sell," and XM was lowered from "buy" to "market perform."

SkyFi will be available at Circuit City, among other retail outlets, the XM representative said.