XM upgrades basic service, raises fee

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XM Satellite Radio is upgrading its basic service, but the changes will cost customers more.

Beginning April 2, the monthly subscription price for XM’s basic service will increase to $12.95 – the same monthly fee as Sirius Satellite Radio, XM’s chief competitor.

Existing XM customers, however, can lock in the current $9.99 monthly rate with prepaid plans of one to five years, as long as they are set up before April 2.

The expanded XM basic service will include the Internet service XM Radio Online, which offers more than 70 channels of XM music and talk programming that previously was available at $3.99 per month; and the High Voltage channel, featuring controversial “shock jocks” Opie and Anthony, which previously was available for $1.99 a month.

“This new pricing approach will help fund future technology development, enable us to offer more attractively priced radios and maintain our programming excellence,” said Hugh Panero, XM president and CEO. “Together, these initiatives should result in XM exceeding its current target of 20 million customers by 2010.”

The price change will not affect XM’s Family Plan, which allows XM subscribers to add up to four additional subscriptions for $6.99 a month per radio.

Launched in 2001, XM claims 3.2 million subscribers listening to its 151 channels. Sirius claims 1.1 million subscribers listening to its 120 channels.