US satellite television provider DIRECTV plans to spend over a billion dollars on launching four new satellites, providing a massive expansion in local and national high-definition channels, as well as capacity for new interactive and enhanced services.

The first two of the satellites, Spaceway 1 and Spaceway 2, will launch in 2005, with programming being offered to US consumers by the middle of the year. The satellites will have the capacity for more than 500 local high definition channels. They also will be capable of offering both video and broadband internet service.

These will be followed by two further satellites, DIRECTV 10 and DIRECTV 11 in early 2007. These will have the capacity for over 1,000 additional local and more than 150 national channels, all in high definition.

“Offering local high definition channels, as well as a variety of interactive services, will strengthen our competitive position and give cable customers who have yet to switch another reason to subscribe to DIRECTV,” said Mitch Stern, president and chief executive.