Tough Market for Satellite
Handling increased bandwidth demands is the key to satellite’s competitive advantage, says Gerard Bucas, CEO, of Scala, a digital signage software solutions provider. "The problem with digital signage is that it is very bandwidth intensive, which is good from the satellite provider point of view, as it means selling more bandwidth. In most large organizations, if you overlay digital signage over your terrestrial network, it could well overwhelm international networks. The bandwidth required can be huge. What people often do is use satellite. With multicast, it is very scalable compared to terrestrial alternatives. It is an independent delivery platform, which does not interfere with your day-to-day business point of sale networks and IT infrastructure that already exists."
Even with the development of the digital signage market and satellite’s advantages, Prashant Butani, a satellite communications analyst at NSR, still thinks it will be a tough market for satellite players to crack. "The problem with most digital signage networks that could be potential customers for the satellite guys is that they start off very small and with very little cash. Though they may envision being nationwide networks, and some actually make it, they do not have the resources to invest into satellite infrastructure for region-wide connectivity right from the word go. And even when they do scale up, they end up being tied down to their earlier technology and give switching over to satellite a miss."
Harris Communications in November announced a deal with Intelligent Media Ltd., a specialist in the deployment and operation of digital signage screen networks, for the installation of the first large-scale Harris InfoCaster systems in Greece. Intelligent Media operates one of the largest digital signage networks in the health sector, including systems at Iaso, Mitera and Leto maternity hospitals, as well as Iaso General, Metropolitan and Hygeia general clinics and Iaso pediatric clinic in Greece. "The healthcare sector is a good example of an alternative market in which not only is a robust distribution solution crucial but also a solution able to provide broadcast-quality images while still being cost-efficient," says Richard Scott, vice president, EMEA operations, Harris Broadcast Communications.
However, not all parties see a huge opportunity for satellite players. "We are absolutely seeing a shift, and I would put this on a geographical basis," says Riegel. "In North America, South America and Africa, satellite is a well-known quantity. In other markets, we are starting to see a shift towards terrestrial. We have some pull away from the satellite market and more towards terrestrial as customers try to effectively use their terrestrial IP networks."
Litvinoff sees this as an advantage for Cisco, which has a solution that supports different distribution methods. "As long as it terminates to IP, satellite distribution as part of a wide-area network could be useful for very large and/or geographically dispersed deployments. But the advantage of IP-based, networked digital signage systems is that it can be deployed on a company’s existing network infrastructure without needing to upgrade the infrastructure," she says.