Multimedia Terrestrial Infrastructure / Services Evolution and the Role of Satellites

Status date

The last years of the 20th Century have provided us with many valuable lessons about the role that satellite communications has to play in the overall telecommunications market place. This study aims to learn from these episodes and provide a comprehensive review of the future role of satellite communications within the telecommunications infrastructure as a whole, and not just in isolation. Thus, the focus of the study is on identifying areas where satellite communications can complement and integrate with terrestrial networks to provide enhanced and efficient multimedia services to end users, avoiding head-on competition in markets where terrestrial services have the upper hand.



Future multimedia services will offer many commercial opportunities for satellite communications systems to provide underlying bearer services. The study will:

  • determine exactly where satellite has the commercial potential to support these future multimedia services either directly or by supporting the terrestrial infrastructure;
  • identify areas requiring strategic development of satellite technology and make recommendations for the next generation of multimedia satellites.

This study must therefore cover a wide range of technical, commercial and regulatory issues relating to both terrestrial and satellite implementations of multimedia services.


Key issues for this study are:

  • To develop a realistic view of the future development of the multimedia marketplace to 2005 and beyond;
  • To concentrate on satellite's inherent strengths and identify how these can be used to improve end-to-end multimedia service delivery;
  • To recognise the limitations of the terrestrial communications infrastructure;
  • To identify the key commercial and technical requirements of the next generation of multimedia satellites.

The study recommendations will be the culmination of a structured analysis that will capture a comprehensive and realistic insight into the needs of future multimedia services. This analytical approach will ensure that the study cuts through the widespread marketing rhetoric and highlights real commercial opportunities for satellite. The wide ranging commercial experience of the study team will ensure that the commercial opportunities that are identified by the study are derived from a firm economic and commercial basis.

In particular, the study will:

  • Provide a commercially-based insight into the development of the multimedia marketplace;
  • Highlight satellite's core strengths in the future multimedia marketplace;
  • Highlight areas where satellite can work to complement the terrestrial infrastructure to provide an improved bearer platform for these future multimedia services;
  • Identify areas of particular commercial opportunity for satellite in this future multimedia marketplace;
  • To highlight key technical developments required to maintain satellites' commercial competitiveness in the delivery of future multimedia services.

The study's commercial and technical recommendations will therefore give ESA the platform to maintain the European space industry's position at the vanguard of future multimedia delivery systems.




The study is split into three main phases:

  • Phase 1
    A thorough review of current and future multimedia services and an analysis of the requirements of those services;

  • Phase 2
    Matching of the multimedia service requirements to the terrestrial bearer capabilities and the identification of future commercial opportunities in the bearer market;

  • Phase 3
    Identification of areas where satellite can support or complement the terrestrial infrastructure and an analysis of key future multimedia satellite technologies.
Current status

The study was completed in the last quarter of 2001. Phase 1 of the study identified six key groups of multimedia service, each with their own characteristic data flow requirements (e.g. number of users, bandwidth, timeliness etc). Phase 2 of the study mapped these service requirements onto the terrestrial bearer capabilities to highlight where satellite could potentially support the terrestrial infrastructure in delivery of end-to-end services. This work was supported with extensive industry interviews to ensure the study's recommendations reflected the requirements of the key industry players that would be moulding the future multimedia marketplace. A number of potential opportunities were identified for satellite, which were then examined in more depth through the development of the following case studies:

  • high performance networks
  • cable return channel (for internet access)
  • interactive TV return channel
  • edgecasting
  • "micro-broadcasting"
  • non-metropolitan broadband internet access
  • home gateway services

The scenario analysis included commercial, economic and technical analysis to assess the commercial viability and technical requirements for satellite support in each scenario. The analysis showed promising commercial cases for satellite in most of these scenarios (all except cable return channels). It also highlighted the following key strategic development areas for satellite to meet the future market needs:

  • digital rights management
  • internet protocol optimisation over satellite
  • internet traffic characterisation and quality of service
  • routing, access control and billing for shared internet access
  • data management and configuration technologies
  • interactive TV return channel infrastructure
  • "hot spot" migration strategies
  • advanced consumer terminals

To summarise, satellite can play a key role in the development of the future multimedia market, both in terms of supporting terrestrial infrastructure and in the end-to-end delivery of certain multimedia services. However, a number of key strategic technology developments are required to maximise satellite's potential in this important and dynamic marketplace.