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Executive Q&A: SES Americom’s IP-Prime Testing TV To Cell Phones

By | July 24, 2007

      SES Americom and partner Hiwire have launched a test of a digital video broadcast-handheld (DVB-H) mobile TV service they claim will deliver twice the channels and higher-quality pictures than other mobile TV services.
      SES Americom and Hiwire, a subsidiary of Aloha Partners, are
      coordinating Hiwire’s 12-megahertz capacity of UHF spectrum and wireless expertise with SES Americom’s satellites and distribution platforms to delivery the service.
      Testers in Las Vegas will receive the Hiwire DVB-H system on their standard cell phones, and among the 24 channels that will be provided during the test are Discovery Channel, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, VH1, CNN Mobile Live, Fox News and The Weather Channel.
      Bill Squadron, president of SES Americom’s IP-Prime division, discussed the project and its implications for future business in a telephone interview with Satellite Today.

      Satellite Today: What are the objectives of the test?
      Squadron: We have been wanting to test the appetite in the marketplace for a DVB-H service. We’ve been putting it together over several months and putting it together to deliver through the IP-Prime hub built to ingest content from any source and reformat it for protocols capable of redistributing it to any platform, [but] in this case for video to mobile phones.
      We’re quite pleased, and we think this is the most interesting testing to date, seeing as no one’s previously been able to get as many as 24 channels together.

      Satellite Today: How long will the test run?

      Squadron: We just started with Phase 1, which will go for 30 days or so. Then we have several hundred users to test from September to the end of the year.

      Satellite Today: Which part of the testing are you most nervous about?

      Squadron: I wouldn’t say nervous, cause we’re fine-tuned and we have some very talented engineers working for us. Our technical testing went great. The quality of the video and audio was great.
      But as you get it out to people it will be interesting to see it. It certainly looks good right now. No one has tested anything near this extensively. I’m curious to see what the usage patterns are, and I think we’ll get some very interesting results.

      Satellite Today: How long is the battery life for the handheld devices, and how do you expect that to affect usage?
      Squadron: A charged battery will run for about 120 minutes.
      What people will get for our trial is pretty much what they’ll get at home, so if they have to, they can catch the end of the movie on the cell phone. A couple of channels will be programmed with top shows for the phone. It really will be just a reflection of what will be on your TV set.
      The participants in the trial are going to be very interesting in terms of the data that will be generated. Everyone in the media industry will be interested to see what the business model looks to be, and the advertising world will be very curious, too.
      This will generate a lot more data than anything we’ve seen to date, so it’s very good in that respect.

      Satellite Today: How did you determine which channels you would offering during the test?

      Squadron: The number was what we felt we could deliver — determined by bit rate and what kind of quality we wanted to supply. … We wanted to get a very good mix to appeal to a range of demographics. We may even be able to include local broadcasting stations, which will be interesting to test. The goal is to find out consumers’ interests, so when you give all these choices it’s a very good, balanced lineup.

      Satellite Today: What kind of a sports component will you incorporate?

      Squadron: Sports is tough because the rights make it so difficult to arrange anything. We have Spike TV, which has some sports programming, but if there’s one area that we could use some more of, it would be sports.

      Satellite Today: Do you envision the phones being able to stream non-televised video like YouTube?
      Squadron: This trial is TV-based, but we certainly would be interested down the road to look at that.

      Satellite Today: Is there any limitation on what you can broadcast over the phone?
      Squadron: Not really, depending on [intellectual property] rights and things like that. Technically speaking, we can ingest any content be it from fiber or satellite or any of the rest of what’s out there. We can encode it and transmit it from anywhere to anywhere.
      Satellite Today: Have you been in contact with other companies involved in mobile TV to discuss their expectations or experiences?

      Squadron: We’ve talked with people knowledgeable in the industry about Korea, etc., but this is really something we grew ourselves. Each market in different cultures and regions have different interests and behaviors. It’s interesting to see what they have to say, but you really have to look at each market on its own merits.

      Satellite Today: How do you expect to proceed after the testing?

      Squadron: We’ve all talked about what the possible ways of moving ahead are, but you don’t want to get ahead of yourself and getting out in front of the data and leveraging.
      Satellite Today: How do you see the application developing in the future?
      Squadron: I think that we’ll see over time very increased use of handheld devices and video, especially the on-demand video and live channelling that people most enjoy. As the younger generation becomes older and using devices that they’ve grown up with, the demand for using video on a mobile device will simply increase as time goes on.

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