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SES Puts Spotlight on Hybrid Networks to Meet Future Video Demand

By Caleb Henry | July 10, 2014
      Sabbagh SES

      Karim Sabbagh, CEO of SES. Photo: SES

      [Via Satellite 07-10-2014] Meeting with top European Union (EU) officials at Digital Venice 2014, SES CEO Karim Sabbagh and European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) Secretary General, Aarti Holla highlighted the accelerating rate of digital video consumption to key policy makers and information and communication technology (ICT) companies. An accompanying new SES white paper titled Satisfying Insatiable Demand with Infinite Choice, pointed to 4K, or Ultra-HD as an active catalyst among other drivers of the global video market.

      With four times the resolution of 1080p HD, and ramped up color, contrast and frame rate, Ultra-HD has become the next big focus, and is widely acknowledged as the next evolution of video. Citing Ericsson, IHS and other sources, the SES report said industry forecasts project more than 1,000 Ultra HD channels broadcasting, more than 500 million Ultra HD screens sold, and more than 400 million High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) set top boxes (STBs) installed by 2025.

      “Ultra HD will become the driver of a high quality video market within the next decade,” SES said in the report. “It is set to bring everything else into focus.”

      The report notes that two thirds of consumers say they want to have an Ultra-HD screen once they have seen one, and that 25 percent of consumers would willingly pay for HD or Ultra-HD. What is needed, and currently in development is the content for viewers to watch. SES has taken several steps to work with broadcasters on providing Ultra-HD.

      “In April we demonstrated via our satellites the world’s first end-to-end 4K transmission in HEVC Main10 profile at 60fps using ViXS‘s chip technology in the set top box,” Thomas Wrede, VP of reception systems at SES told Via Satellite. “SES also engaged with German pay TV operator Sky Deutschland for two live transmission trials of soccer games involving several real-time HEVC encoders and prototype set top boxes as well as 4K flat screen TVs with integrated satellite receiver and HEVC decoder. In summary this means that the technology for broadcasting 4K to the consumer is available now.”

      SES is also broadcasting World Cup games in live Ultra-HD on the NSS-806 satellite for Eurovision.

      Furthermore, the report drew attention to the increasing number of screens used by consumers. As multi-screen video becomes an expectation, SES notes this will drive “a historically unprecedented demand for bandwidth and network capacity.” The report adds that greater use by individuals could necessitate a 100-fold increase or more in data consumption among multi-connected households across Europe. Citing Cisco, SES underscored the prediction that annual global IP traffic will reach a zettabyte, i.e. 1,000-billion gigabytes, by 2016.

      SES has spearheaded sending IP traffic over satellite through a communications protocol called “SAT>IP,” which takes Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) data from a satellite dish and transfers it to IP format. A SAT>IP server connected to a router can distribute content from satellite to any Wi-Fi enabled device in an entire household.

      “Today if you distribute satellite in a home to multiple rooms, you use coax cables and you have a set-top-box in the living room, a STB in the bedroom and so on,” Wrede said in an April interview. “With SAT>IP the interesting use case is now you are not bound to coax cable anymore, so you can use any Ethernet technology … if you have an Apple or an Android tablet, or an iPhone, it has no connection for a satellite antenna. By using SAT>IP and the SAT>IP server unit, you connect that to the dish and you can watch television on your iPad.”

      SES and ESOA’s pitch for satellite’s role is that by providing DTH services to almost half a billion households, the satellite industry has already entered the “Zettabyte Era.” Therefore in order for Europe, and the rest of the world to keep pace with rising video demand, satellite has to play an integral part. Terrestrial options cannot manage it all alone.

      “The bill to implement very significant and complex technology upgrades and to provide the terrestrial connections to accommodate the faster speeds on present estimates would cost no less than an estimated 150 billion euros ($204 billion dollars) in Europe for the terrestrial infrastructures alone. To this figure must be added an unquantifiable extra and ongoing operating cost costing, over time, many more billion euros for the necessary ground installations,” SES wrote in the report.

      The solution, according to SES, is through a hybrid network that combines the strengths of satellite and terrestrial technologies for delivering content to as many households and users as needed.

      “As the market currently stands, there is no single technology that will create the global and popular video network offering on its own … it is therefore vital to cooperate on hybrid satellite-terrestrial solutions as they operate at a fraction of the cost. They help offload networks and redirect investments; they accelerate the delivery of multi-play benefits, allow the distribution of a new digital dividend to citizens and thus help to avoid a new digital divide,” wrote SES.

      While HD and Ultra-HD are high-end services, the changing media landscape risks creating a new digital divide. With the onset of Ultra-HD and a massive surge in video content imminent, European decision makers will have to take this information into consideration as they form new policies that affect the industry.