“How much does it cost?”
“Is it easy to install?”
While the thought of having the latest satcom technologies may be exciting, many consumers will make their decision when these two questions are answered.
In the case of Digital Video Broadcast - Return Channel Satellite or DVB-RCS, these questions are critical. Costs of installing a DVB-RCS terminal can be extremely high because professional installers need to be used.
“Much effort has been devoted by European industry and ESA towards reducing the cost of terminals for VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) systems in general and DVB-RCS in particular,” says Rolv Midthassel, ESA Telecom ground segment engineer. “Even with continued terminal cost reductions towards affordable and attractive market prices, the cost of installation is so high that it seriously can limit the future of DVB-RCS services.”
youDO, an Advanced Research In Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) supported project is one step toward achieving this goal. Working in partnership with STAB (IT) and OpenSky (IT), youDO is the design and development of a prototype for an automatic two-axis motorised mount and installation software that gives the end user the ability to install a DVB-RCS terminal without the need of a professional installer, thus resulting in a price reduction.
The concept is straight-forward. Many consumers are today able to install Direct To Home (DTH) terminal antennas themselves. If the complexity of installing DVB-RCS terminals can be reduced to the same level or easier than that of a DTH antenna, DVB-RCS terminals could also be installed by consumers.
This requires simplifying the installation of DVB-RCS antennas. And how much more simple can it get? With youDO, the end user doesn’t even need to be in the room. The software does all the “talking” via the receiver to the motorized antenna, pointing and locking the satellite signals. Other systems usually require a person, usually an installer, to be looking at the screen to determine when connection with the satellite has been achieved.
“With youDO one no longer need to book long in advance an expensive installation and wait at home for a professional installer to come around. Instead, one can just pick up a DVB-RCS terminal in an electronic shop at one's leisure, take it home and install it. The antenna just needs rough south pointing, the rest is done automatically,” explains Mr. Midthassel.
Although two-axis motorised mounts are available in the market today, the challenge in this project has been to develop a prototype with very low cost, i.e. cost lower than the rate of professional installation. To achieve this, STAB has used their existing low cost DiSEqC motor technology and applied that to a new solution which is compatible with the stringent pointing requirements of bi-directional terminals operating in Ku- and Ka-band.
The youDO package ensures easy installation by customers in every part of the world, automatic bi-directional pointing to every satellite and lowers costs. STAB sent the youDO prototype to ESA’s ESTEC facility for testing. The prototype mount and software were installed by Mr. Midthassel. Tests performed in the ESTEC Telecom lab have shown that youDO performs up to expectations.
“The remaining step following this prototype will be to industrialise it and make it available to a consumer market. However, this step is up to industry,” says Mr. Midthassel.
What is a VSAT?
A VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal ) is a two way satellite communications system that directly serves home and business users. A VSAT end user needs a box that interfaces between the user's computer and an outside antenna with a transceiver. The tranceiver both sends and receives signals to a satellite transponder. Each end user is interconnected with the hub station via the satellite in a star or mesh topology. VSATs can provide voice and data (such as Internet connections) without relying on the need for any local, terrestrial infrastructure.
DVB-RCS is an open standard VSAT system that permits interoperability between different manufacturers terminals.
For more information see the links in the column to the right.