The Future of Broadcast Satellite Networks: Hybrid and Integrated

Thursday 2 May 2013
The Future of Broadcast Satellite Networks: Hybrid and Integrated

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by Robert Bell, Executive Director, World Teleport Association

Over a decades-long history, Newtec has developed a reputation for pushing the boundaries of what is possible in satellite technology. 

The enduring strengths of satellite are broad coverage, built-in mobility, and unparalleled efficiency in one-to-many applications like broadcast.  Its weaknesses have traditionally been in total bandwidth delivery and interactivity.  

In this interview at NAB 2013, Steven Soenens of Newtec and I talk about the hybrid broadband-broadcast (Hbb) solutions that are rolling out of the company’s labs and the increasing integration of all services on a single transmission infrastructure.  Hybrid solutions and integration sound like opposites, but they are not.  As with virtual machines running across multiple servers in a data center, advances in computing power are smoothing the path toward single virtual service platforms running across many different transmission systems.  This is an exciting opportunity for teleport operators, who manage those platforms, and will be a great benefit for their customers in broadcast, enterprise, government and other sectors. 

RobertWhat impact is multi-screen having on your business?

Steven: Two years ago I would probably have said it is a difficult one for the satellite industry. Typically what you see in multi-screen applications is that there is a need for interactivity. Satellite is not innately a good medium for this. 

This has all changed though and things are looking much more promising.  The good news today is that we see the industry combining DTH content with interactive capabilities. We see hybrid broadband systems coming out.  We also see broadcasters combining DTH content with broadband capabilities, not only for terrestrial links but also for rural areas which use broadband links over satellite. 

Therefore we see a great opportunity for the entire satellite sector as the convergence of DTH systems and broadband consumer systems accelerates. 

Robert: What developments did you see at NAB 2013 that will be important for our industry? 

StevenAsk anyone today what the number one evolution is right now and I guarantee the majority will say 4K. Higher resolution content, more color and more pixels on the screen.  That of course is very good for satellite.  The more content means more satellite space used and the better it is for our industry. 

Also great for our industry is the fact that 4K deployments will happen mostly over satellite initially.  Updating terrestrial networks to adapt to content that takes up 4 or 5 times the bandwidth of HD will take quite a long time.  That is why we will see satellite at the forefront of 4K Ultra High Definition TV network adaptation. 

Robert: What are your customer's top priorities this year?

StevenThey want to run efficient networks using satellite capacity and they want to do it in a very easy way.  Ease and efficiency are key.  We get a lot of questions about using satellite networks for multiple applications and services. 

They want to run video, radio, voice and data services all on the same infrastructure and all managed from a central location.  They want live content, but also file transfers. They want content exchange, contribution and distribution and sometimes combined with private b2b networks.

Satellite operators and service providers are talking to us about using a single infrastructure to give the flexibility to offer many services to many types of customer easily and efficiently.

Robert: With competition from terrestrial services getting stronger, will satellite maintain its edge in contribution and distribution? 

Steven: Absolutely. In the coming years there will be more content distributed and a higher efficiency on satellite driven by new standards, including S2 Extensions coming soon from DVB.  We carried out a survey of more than 500 of our customers asking what they will do with the new bandwidth that comes available after the new standard is implemented.  Not surprisingly 80 percent responded that they would push more content over their networks. 

Satellite service providers and operators also want to push more content, but at the same time they want to diversify their customer base to increase the sustainability of their business. So I think that even if terrestrial transmissions become more efficient, satellite will remain as the key technology for a long time, as there is such great demand for additional content to be pushed over the bird.

Robert: Looking ahead three years, what issues do you think we will be discussing then?

StevenWe will be talking about how satellite networks will coexist with the terrestrial infrastructure.  We need to start thinking that there will be no satellite-only networks anymore, instead only hybrid networks.  We as a satellite industry and certainly in the ground segment, need to ensure that whatever infrastructure we put in place, it should be compatible with terrestrial links and very easy to connect.  I think that will be a very important topic going forward.

Want to learn more ? Check out this page on Multiservice Broadcast Networks.

More video's from WTA recorded at NAB2013 ? These are the video interviews that Robert made @NAB2013 Image

Executive Director, World Teleport Association

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