ASTRA RETURN-PATH SET FOR AUTUMN LAUNCH
Barry Flynn Contributing Editor
Service provider DC-SAT.NET became the first UK company to demonstrate the capabilities of the Astra DTH platform’s IP-based Broadband Interactive System (BBI) on August 2, ahead of its commercial rollout over the forthcoming quarter.
In a demonstration to a group of journalists, a live TV signal from a camera recording the press conference was beamed up to Astra at 19.2 degrees East via a Ka-band return path from a satellite dish at SES’s UK headquarters in Hemel Hempstead. It was then bounced back again from the satellite platform to a monitor in the same room.
Interspace calculated that the trip – which involved a number of ‘hops’ – took around four seconds. However, the high quality of the images transmitted bore out the quoted maximum return-path speed of 2Mbit/s (the forward path can run up to 38Mbit/s).
DC-SAT.NET describe themselves as specialists in ‘microbroadcast’, and during the last three years have been delivering content for Escape TV, a company which broadcasts world- class DJs from the club they happen to be working at, live, to other locations within the Astra footprint.
Jonathan Wignall, Escape TV’s managing director, said that “the addition of BBI technology for last summer’s Ibiza broadcasts, the first commercial use of BBI in Europe, has given us the means to revolutionise the club entertainment scene worldwide.”
Introducing the demonstration, Mike Chandler, managing director of Astra Marketing Ltd in the UK, said that pre-commercial trials of the system had been ongoing for a year. September and October were now ear-marked for pre-commercial rollouts, with “Q4 for the launch of the BBI service itself.”
Chandler noted that the UK government appeared to have a low awareness of the potential of BBI to supplement broadband deployment in the areas of ADSL and cable, quoting a recent Parliamentary answer that “failed to mention anything at all about satellite”, but recognised that ‘Astra haven’t pushed the issue’ ahead of BBI’s commercial deployment.