Planning the Next Generation of Broadcasting Satellites

Status date

This study aims at gaining a good understanding of the likely evolution of satellite broadcasting during the period 2001-2007 in order to adequately plan the required developments for the future generation of broadcasting satellites. The end result shall be an identification of key technologies that have to be developed and a recommendation for a strategy for maximising the European industry/operators assets in the sector of satellite broadcasting. To this end, aspects of a technical nature (general system architecture, on board and on ground technology, services requirements), as well as of a regulatory, marketing, commercial and business nature, will have to be analysed. The work undertaken under this project encompasses all these aspects. This study is limited to geostationary broadcasting satellite systems, but includes aspects related to nomadic and mobile users.


generation of BSS will face more demanding service requirements at least for what concerns bandwidth on demand, interactivity, security, privacy and intellectual property rights. 4 main issues are shaping the evolution of satellite broadcasting:

  • The general trends in the information industry:
    The so-called Convergence phenomenon at many levels can be summarised in seven key areas, or trends, which are: Digitalisation, Integration, Interactivity, Networking, Object-Oriented, Portability, and Virtual Reality.

  • The market trends:
    The impressive growth rates since its inception, amplified by the progressive transition from analog to digital delivery of all kinds of contents. Broadcasting satellites are evolving to become broadband access networks in the same way as Digital Subscriber Line or Cable Modem or LMDS systems.

  • The regulatory trends:
    Liberalisation in the broadcasting sector introducing competition which has widened choice and lowered prices to the end users. This environment may shift away from the present vertical model of sectoral regulation towards a more horizontal approach which distinguishes between the network or transmission layer within converging sectors and the services carried over those networks. Another key regulatory issue is the access to the frequency spectrum since it is a finite resource even in the digital age.

  • The space technology trends:
    Increasing competitiveness has placed a greater emphasis on cost containment and a resultant focus on the improvement of manufacturing facilities and processes. New technology for satellites is driven by the need to increase on-board power (without increasing weight and cost) to serve the consumer market.


Moreover 3 different types of constraints must be taken into account:

  • Service definition





The study was broken down into 5 tasks and organised in three phases :

  • Phase A (Tasks 1 + 2): General context of satellite broadcasting:
    Task 1 aimed at determining what the future services may consist in and who may use them. Market forecasts are made starting from present services to their likely evolution in the near future and the critical success factors were identified. In task 2, market forecast were used to derive a number of likely business models defining the likely future roles of satellite operators and manufacturers as well as other new entrants and taking into account the aspects of globalisation.

  • Phase B consists of the technically oriented tasks 3 and 4:
    Task 3 determined the likely technical service requirements during the period under consideration. The output is a set of well-defined attributes and quantifiable parameters. In task 4 a number of system architectures were elaborated, based upon the market forecasts and commercial models obtained from the first phase and the technical requirements for the future services of task 3, the goal being to define the most promising system scenarios for the future.

  • Phase C (Task 5):
    Identified the technologies that are critical for the development of these architectures and proposed a strategy for the required developments in Europe.
Current status

The next generation of BSS should respond in an efficient way to the changing broadcasting markets demands and the requirements of the multimedia services. The study has identified those BSS system architectures that are most promising in that respect, based on market and value chain analyses which have led to the following conclusions:

  • Financial health of European bouquets still to recover satellite TV market is stalling in Europe.

  • There is no evidence of viable business models for new satellite multimedia services when deployed independently:Pilot deployment of VoD services show lower appeal from consumer than expected.

  • High uncertainties remain today with business models for content delivery by satellite,Cable and ADSL capabilities to achieve bundling of TV & Radio with VoD, high speed Internet, and telephony are challenging BSS,Satellite Bundled Services offer significant additional revenue opportunities relative to pure DTH systems.

Therefore to remain competitive versus cable and digital terrestrial TV, NGBSS shall support native interactive services (PPV ordering, t-commerce, billing, games, Internet) in order to be able to offer a package of bundled services. In that context, the following BSS system architectures, which can provide two-way interactive services, were studied:

Scenario 1A

  • Single Ku band beam on the forward link, multi Ka beam on the return link. This scenario is the most feasible but least adapted to future evolution of services. It requires only limited satellite payload developments.

Scenario 1B

  • Same as scenario 1A with an on board processor on the return link. This scenario slightly improved at the expense of space and ground complexity. It requires more satellite payload and significant platform developments. It has the highest cost per interactive user.

Scenario 2

Multi Ka beams on forward and return links with

  • High pointing accuracy Ka-band antennas

  • Ka-band repeater units

This scenario is the best adapted to two way access & peer to peer but requires significant satellite payload development. It has the lowest cost per interactive user.

Scenario 3

Multiple Ku band regional beams on the, forward link with

  • Large Ku band multi-beam antenna

  • Powerful spacecraft accommodating a high number of TWTAs

This scenario is the best fit for future DTH-TV (regional broadcasting & micro-broadcasting), but requires significant satellite payload & platform development.

Overall, Scenarios 2 & 3 are preferred from future services point of view

Current Status (dated 23 May 2002)

The study is completed Early Spring 2002. Main findings are the following:

  • The introduction of digital compression techniques has been the main driver of many developments in satellite broadcasting and in the audio-visual industry. These techniques have made it possible to broadcast many more TV channels over the same satellite. This allowed broadcasters to operate completely new business models and has reshaped significantly the broadcast landscape.

  • The viewing behaviour of the consumer is moving away from a passive role to a more active role where he is actively selecting (specialised) content of particular interest. This shows a shift towards interactivity.

  • TV broadcasting evolves towards more regional-local programming and more personalisation even towards micro-broadcasting.

  • Pan-European broadcasting (wide European coverage) will have less sense in the future for broadcasting to consumers since channels will be more destined to a regional audience. Wide European coverage makes sense for professional and ethnic channels.

  • The fragmentation of audiences and the increased competition will increase pressure on prices.

  • A major trend during the last decade in the AV industry has been the transition to digital storage media (the so-called Personal Video Recorder, PVR) able to store 50-80 hours of broadcast quality video. But this creates challenges for digital rights management.

  • PVRs should enable Video on Demand (VoD) with storage in user terminals which should be a promising market for service providers, but a limited market for satellite operators (limited capacity required) and its success might kill existing NVoD satellite market.

  • Evolution of these new media is fast and standardisation is often lacking, in particular for what concerns TCP over satellite links, multicasting protocols, and caching mechanisms.

  • The demand for satellite bandwidth for TV broadcasting is slowing down.

  • Satellite Content Delivery Network (CDN) market is stalling because providers prefer to use terrestrial networks.

  • Satellite has not been very successful until now for providing Internet access due to satellite bandwidth and terminal cost. Internet services on broadcasting satellites as conceived today are expected to disappear.

  • The only way to create some growth opportunities is to bundle broadcasting with new services such as light two-way internet access in a similar way as terrestrial systems.

  • Most urgent priority for ESA's support programme should be towards reduction of two way terminal cost. Actions are required in development, standardisation and regulations.

  • Ka band and on-board processing developments should target for longer term

The continuous and rapid evolution of the broadcasting market requires to continuously update the appraisal of its environment (commercial and technical) to derive an adequate strategy.