Very Low Cost Satellite Interactive Services - SES-Astra

Objectives

The objective of the study was to investigate the relevance of a satellite solution for interactive television (iTV). From an economical point of view, satellite is clearly the best solution for TV broadcasting over wide areas. Interactivity implies however the existence of a point-to-point communication channel between the consumer and the iTV server. The study was thus mainly focused on this interactivity channel. Market demand and subsequent commercial requirements were evaluated as a starting point for the technical evaluation. The study considered the system architecture and the implementation aspects. As the main innovation is related to a low-cost return channel, the system is named iTV-RCS. With the identified iTV traffic profile, the business assessment shows that the main concern is the cost of the consumers equipment. The overall technical investigation was focused on this aspect. The overall objective of this study was to confirm from a technical and commercial point of view- that iTV-RCS could be a consumer product for the mass-market.

 

Astra Satellite System @ 19.20 East

 

 

 

 

Challenges

The main driver for the system is to establish a consumer product. One key element to reach this target is availability of a very low cost terminal. An important part of the work is thus to identify key technologies for low cost implementation. In addition, availability such a low cost terminal implies use of low cost ASICs and mass-manufacturing process. Evaluation of market size and of related growth rate is thus of prime importance. Traffic statistics (possible strong peaks) are probably the main technical issue. Indeed, it is clear that interactio traffic and TV program content could be strongly correlated leading to very high traffic peaks during prime time. Regulatory and licensing aspects are also of prime importance for the deployment of such a system.

Benefits

Today, SES ASTRA transmits via ten satellites at the orbital positions of 19.2° East and 28.2° East, in analogue and digital more than 1100 television and radio channels as well as multimedia and Internet services to an audience of more than 91 million homes in Europe.

Remote interactivity is the key elements needed for the continuation of growth of digital television. Indeed, there is a strong demand for TV enhancements using interactivity to allow the introduction of new services. This interactivity requires a secured, always-on, permanent, instantaneous connectivity, scalable to millions of viewers. Interactivity via a low data rate dedicated satellite return link in the range of 5 to 15kbps is the right answer to this need, provided that the system is tailored to this application in terms of features and cost. iTV-RCS will provide such a system.

From the end users point of view, the following benefits can be derived from iTV-RCS:

· iTV-RCS obviates the need to connect the Set-Top-Box to a PSTN line, thus removing an obstacle to use interactive applications,
· iTV-RCS eliminates the conflict between simultaneous voice and interactive TV connections
· iTV-RCS provides an always on connection,
· iTV-RCS is revolutionary approach to TV consumption.

 

From the broadcasters point of view, such a return channel leads to substantial revenue increase: churn reduction, incomes from new services, interactive advertisement, piracy control, etcetera. iTV-RCS provides a scalable, universal solution, embedded with the TV satellite infrastructure. It also provides access to the end user Set-Top-Box for statistics, audience measurement and Personal Video Recorder management, etc.

One has however to avoid confusing such applications and web browsing: media package ordering can be handled by a system using a very low rate return channel and a multicast distribution. Web browsing requires a return channel with a much higher bit rate and in general much higher resources consumption.

Features

The main driver for the system is to establish a consumer product. One key element to reach this target is the availability of a very low cost terminal. An important part of the work was thus to identify key factors allowing a very low cost terminal implementation.

In addition, availability of such a low cost terminal implies use of ASICs and mass-manufacturing process. Evaluation of market size and of related growth rate is thus of prime importance to confirm the existence of this mass-market.

Traffic statistics are probably the main technical issue. Indeed, it is clear that interaction traffic and TV program content could be strongly correlated leading to high traffic peaks during prime time.

More than that, the traffic profiles identified in this study are key factors for the overall competitiveness of iTV-RCS. I

Indeed, with the investigated system, occasional short interactions allow very competitive price for the satellite channel. On the contrary, long packets sequences as it is the case for Web browsing applications are causing much higher resources consumption and thus a much higher cost.

Regulatory and licensing aspects are also of prime importance for the deployment of such a system.

The following figure identifies the subsystems required for the deployment of an iTV-RCS network.

Plan

Market demand and commercial requirements

· Identification of relevant services for interactive TV
· Business Case assessment
· Estimation of the foreseeable market size
· Establishment of a basic commercial requirement

Services technical requirements

· Evaluation of communication requirements for each service
· Elaboration of a realistic traffic model
 

Overall System Architecture

· Definition of the system contour and external interfaces
· Definition of building blocks and internal interfaces
· Study of the resource allocation principle
· Study of the network management and control principle
 

Satellite System Architecture(s)

· Qualitative assessment of the impact of the main space segment parameters on  system design complexity and performance
· Analysis of selected architectures in terms of performance and capacity under typical and peak loading conditions
 

Physical link air interface

· Selection of 2 "good" waveforms
· Simulation of the network behaviour with the selected alternatives
· Waveform pre-selection

 

Logical air interface

· Study of the protocols needed to support the services
· Elaboration of the MAC layer mechanisms
· Study of the integration with existing standards
 

Specification for terminal and hub equipment

· Elaboration of a draft specification for the hub equipment
· Elaboration of a draft specification for return channel function
· Elaboration of a draft specification for the complete terminal

 

Terminal Architecture for low cost implementation

· Identification of key technologies for low cost implementation
· Elaboration of the hardware architecture for the ODU and IDU
· Elaboration of a software architecture
· Rough estimation of the development cost
· Estimation of the production cost for large quantities
 

Hub Equipment Architecture & Feasibility

· Identification of key technologies for low cost implementation
· Elaboration of the hardware architecture
· Elaboration of a software architecture
· Rough estimation of development and equipment cost
 

Assessment of the Cost of Ownership

· Analysis of results from all WPs from a cost point of view
· Identification of the actors in the value chain
· Elaboration of a revenue model
· Comparison with other alternatives (SWOT)

Current status

The project started on the 2nd of May 2002.

The technical activities have been completed in March 2003.

A concept demonstrator using lab equipment was also developed during the course of the study. It uses a low bit rate connexion via satellite to demonstrate the potential of such a technology in the iTV environment.

Based on the result of this prestudy a full size development project was started: SATMODE.

Contacts

Status date

Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 13:33