By Barry Flynn, Contributing Editor
SES Astra will shortly launch a new industry alliance in partnership with Hispasat in a bid to drive adoption of its SAT>IP solution amongst other satellite operators.
SESâ€™s Spanish competitor came out in support of SAT>IP â€“ which distributes satellite signals as IP streams around the home using a server/client model â€“ at IBC last year.
Thomas Wrede, VP of Reception Systems at SES, says the new alliance will be launched â€œvery soonâ€, allowing the satellite operator to â€œwithdraw a little bitâ€ so that take-up of the in-home distribution solution (now a European standard through Cenelec) could be driven by its supporters and adopters.
Wrede added that he has â€œstrongâ€ expectations that â€œsome other satellite operators will then join this momentum and hopefully more openly support SAT>IP.â€
Supporters currently comprise over 40 hardware and software companies, Wrede says, who have so far come up with around 75 different SAT>IP compliant products, equally split between servers and clients.
The latest products to integrate the technology are Philips TP Vision flat-screen displays. Wrede says SES and TP Vision are currently testing the devices, which integrate a SAT>IP client, and indicates there will probably be an announcement from the manufacturer in a few weeks about which models in its 2015 line-up will include it.
A year ago, Panasonic became the first TV manufacturer to integrate a SAT>IP client into its TV sets, and last November also began adding SAT>IP server functionality to the top models in its Viera TV series. Wrede expects Philips to follow this approach, initially introducing clients on smaller sets.
â€œThere will be others coming soon,â€ declares Wrede, revealing that SES is in discussions with other companies he is unable to name at present. â€œI think having TP Vision and Panasonic could be motivation for other flat-screen manufacturers,â€ he says.
Wrede describes the use-cases for the SES solution as broader than merely substituting for fixed broadband video distribution in areas where penetration is low.
The two most common examples include wireless distribution of linear satellite TV â€œas transmittedâ€ to second-screen devices in the home, where the selling-point is the fact that, for instance, consumers can simply get â€œgreat quality on a tabletâ€; and distribution of satellite signals on a pre-existing IP infrastructure â€“ wireless or otherwise â€“ in modern homes and hotels, which Wrede describes as â€œprobably a more important [use-case] at the end of the day.â€
Servers remain the most common way of implementing SAT>IP, although SES has been working for some time on integrating the server functionality into dishesâ€™ Low-Noise Block down-converters (LNBs).
In April 2013, SES partnered with Luxembourg-based Inverto Labs to integrate â€œa few hundredâ€ IP LNBs for sampling and prototyping. These replace the standard LNB in the dish and feature an Ethernet output carrying eight separate IP streams.
However, Wrede points out, while the devices â€œwork very well,â€ they remain expensive because of the low quantities produced. Nevertheless, â€œtwo manufacturers at the moment are working on a next-generation [version]. I think itâ€™s a future product and with quantities the price will come down.â€
Wrede is careful to distinguish the SES LNB-based product from rival Eutelsatâ€™s Smart LNB, which combines conventional downstream satellite signals in the Ku-Band with an upstream return-path using the Ka-Band, to enable applications such as VOD over satellite.
While he recognizes that â€œit could actually be brought together with SAT>IP â€“ maybe Eutelsat wants to do this,â€ he points out that SES, in association with the European Space Agency, experimented with a similar technology 10 years ago called SATMODE, but had to abandon the project, because its customers said it was too expensive to implement.
News of the new SAT>IP alliance comes a week after the FreeTV Alliance â€“ a broadcast industry association founded by four European free-to-view satellite operators (see previous story) â€“ announced new technical specifications which include a Digital Rights Management (DRM) framework for SAT>IP, to support the conversion from broadcast conditional access (CA) to DRM for secure in-home content distribution.