Wired magazine has described the satellite-delivered Internet service of Pacific Convergence Corp as nothing less than a challenge to political tyranny in Asia. However, for Richard Li's Pacific Century Group (PCG) and Intel Corp, owners of the joint venture, turning a profit by bringing the Internet to parts of Asia that do not have access is a more likely aim. Announcements last week by PCG and Intel signal progress in the development of the hardware side of the service, but both partners remain mum on other factors that must fall into place before the service can launch next year. These include everything from lease of satellite capacity to getting local cable operators to upgrade their lines to distribute the service's transmissions, to lining up content for Asia's linguistically and culturally diverse audiences. On the first two counts, PCG chief executive Alex Arena will say only that the company's management has close ties to Asia Satellite Holdings, as well as to the thousands of Asian cable television operators that sprang up after Star TV - another Richard Li-founded company - began operations almost 10 years ago. Industry analysts said leases were possible on AsiaSat's 1 and 3 satellites as well as on APT Satellite Holdings' Apstar 1, 1A and 2R satellites. One strong rumour has PCG already signing a deal with AsiaSat to lease six C-band transponders for US$13 million a year. PCG officials had no comment. On content for the service, which Mr Arena characterised as similar to the broadcast television format viewers are used to, the project is likely to turn to two sources: Intel's steadily growing Internet investments in Asia and PCG's own small but growing corral of companies that offer Web services. Hong Kong's investment and technology circles have been abuzz for months with rumours PCG is shopping for Asian-content providers. Mr Li said last week he had invested in an electronic-commerce company and another service that allowed users to set up Web sites without having to own the hardware or software - both based in Hong Kong. In addition to providing set-top boxes and possibly other broadband technology the company has developed for the United States and European markets, Intel's contribution will be investment ties to hot content providers in some of Asia's biggest markets. These include India's Rediff-On-The-Net, a catch-all portal site that includes a search engine, news links and e-mail, and Sohu.com, one of the mainland's most popular portal sites. Last week's announcement of Intel's increased involvement is the culmination of almost 1.5 years of study by the partners, which have never disclosed the original amount invested in their 60-40 joint venture. A satellite-linked testing centre in Sunnyvale, California, at one point had 70 people working on developing applications and content, PCG senior adviser Michael Johnson said. Pacific Convergence has already marshalled its influence over Asia's cable business by enlisting the help of operators in running focus groups and technical trials. Operators involved represented about 10 million - or one-10th - of Asia's cable TV customers, Mr Johnson said. And as Mr Arena is quick to point out, Star TV put those cable operators in business by allowing them to resell the satellite service. Among the primary targets for the service would be the 100 million Asian homes connected to cable television, Mr Arena said. 'By and large, these people do not have acceptable access to the Internet or interactive services,' he said. 'We want to grow the Internet market and take a slice of the existing cable business.' Any portion of the service that is free or low-cost is likely to be subsidised by advertising and e-commerce revenue. As for the service being at the vanguard of challenges to despotic governments and family-controlled business empires in Asia - as proposed in the Wired magazine article - analysts said that scenario was unlikely, given that Pacific Convergence traced its lineage to Star TV, which was famous for bringing MTV and American soap operas to the region's masses.