TV Beyond 2000 is one of the activities in which ESA has acted in a consultancy capacity to the Vatican Television Centre with the aim of improving their worldwide multimedia service initiatives. The major focus of the consultancy activity was both towards better communication means for remote populations scattered across the planet, and also establishing an interactive and secure communication tool for religious communities all over the world.
The need for effective global communications can be satisfied through an integrated infrastructure able to offer both broadcasting / multicasting services and internet / VPN capacity, on a 'one-stop shop' model. Such a model can solve the communication needs of other users belonging to other religious communities, and also corporations and the general public, plus content and service providers. The project can be subdivided into three areas:
The studies to be undertaken cover the services and system architecture aspects for what concerns the project main missions: distribution, contribution, internet access and interactive communications on a worldwide scale for a restricted community. Here all aspects of the convergence between distribution / contribution / internet access, fixed and mobile networks are addressed with the target of providing worldwide coverage and unified services. In this respect the project is a potential driver for industry, as the project shares a common goal with numerous worldwid e multimedia players.
These are early steps towards a progressive deployment of the system through "pilot operations". The pilot operations were conceived in order to build the skeleton of the final system, subdividing it into individual phases covering:
When looking at the project as a whole, it appears to address numerous current research axes within the telecommunication and multimedia domains, including one new criterion: the human one.
Adding to the terrestrial backbone the satellite and access networks are able to reach isolated places but also the last fully mobile axis. This can be achieved through a last integration effort and a global network approach.
The time dimension is the target of "instant access" to content and people. This aims to integrate the user / service mobility to the fixed networks and also improve network efficiency
If intended content is multimedia, (video, audio and text combinations), they now must offer a virtual presence via interactive, video based applications. These 4D contents are those "people inside" data streams where interactivity worldwide erases distances and frontiers.
Lastly, the most important new dimension brought by the project is the social and human aspect. The concept of virtual community is real, measured by the media. It attains here a worldwide dimension with the intention of addressing the imbalance between rich business areas and less developed countries. This initiative hopefully will pave the way for local developments within the less developed countries of the world.
It is clear that the solutions identified through this study will also address the communication needs of other types of big communities with a common interest but dispersed through the world, communities ranging from other religious organisations to NGO and similar, media providers and big corporate interests. The program is a great chance for th
In its fully operational stage, such a service could be operated by a public or private company established in partnership with industrial partners, representatives of final users, ESA, private investors and possibly sponsors. This company would be in charge of delivering innovative unified multimedia services through a 'one-stop shop' approach.
The business model is the result of the willingness of representative big user communities (Catholic organizations for example, or NGO's) to act as instigators for the development of poor countries through the utilization of telecom infrastructures which could act as a social driver for many local needs. A balanced approach between rich and poor areas of the world is sought by proposing an alternative to the classical market business principles. Such an approach implies the application of an adapted tariff policy to the different areas of the world within the same community of users, allowing for the disparities.
ESA is playing an essential role in the complete lifecycle of the system. In the proposed model ESA not only gathers industrial energies towards the common aim of a 'one-stop shop' multimedia service during the systems pre-operational steps, but it also guarantees the end users interests during the evolution of the system towards its final operational stage. ESA will also play the role of research leader by using the TV Beyond 2000 platform as a research facility for multimedia services and applications innovations for European Industry.
System architecture and chief technologies
Satellites erase frontiers; they can provide real-time communications links to any part of the five continents of the world. One clear advantage of such far reaching networks are for connecting isolated places or less developed countries, where the end-to-end communication link can be ensured solely by satellite systems or mixed satellite and wireless distribution networks, compensating for the lack of wired networks.
A global VPN can then be instigated, through existing infrastructures completed by these new access/distribution networks and integrating mobile accesses or satellite stations. This is achieved through a "2IP" end-to-end strategy supported by a distributed management system, with a master centre situated at the ESA central ground station in Frascati. To ensure the convergence of 'traditional' TV and new interactive video services all new technologies are integrated by means of IP and MPE/DVB as drivers of the end-to-end communication chain. This allows for the support of both TV distribution, interactive TV and video streaming.
To ensure the convergence of 'traditional' TV and new interactive video services all new technologies are integrated by means of IP and MPE/DVB as drivers of the end-to-end communication chain. This allows for the support of both TV distribution, interactive TV and video streaming.
The provisional 'road map' is explained with a view of the three tasks in parallel: studies, aided by the phased deployment of a pilot system, and by the business strategy and business plan established through the last stage of the project for the final operational phase. For the pre-deployment of the system, a stepped approach has been retained with six defined phases, that allows the early establishment of services to a selected set of users, representative of the targeted market.
The planned approach should lead to a pre-operational system in 2002, itself leading to an operational system in early 2003. According to market evolutions, subsets of the services can become operational before these dates, the system being defined to be scalable.
In the frame of the ESA bilateral contacts with the Holy See, through the Centro Televisivo Vaticano on the TV Beyond 2000 initiative, an experimental pilot for world-wide multimedia content distribution has been successfully carried out. The pilot, involving some 14 receive sites distributed across Africa, Asia and the Americas, with the transmission centre located at ESRIN, aims to distribute high-quality videos which can be received in a versatile format suitable for multi-use applications. The outcome of this activity was presented to various Catholic organisations last April in Vatican City.