Sat-ND, 20.6.97

Sat-ND 97-06-20 - Freddy Frinton, Zomer TV, GEO/LEO Integration, Digital
Video, Quickies and Golden Words

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* UK


*** Sat-ND summer break: June 24 - July 9, 1997 ***

Editorial note

This is not really a regular Sat-ND. It's much better as it largely
consists of contributions by you, the readers, plus some Quickies. I'd
really like to do this more often, the problem however is that normally
there aren't too many contributions. In fact, there usually are no
contributions at all. So, thank you very much for your input everyone! 
The next and last Sat-ND (before this year's summer break, that is) will
hopefully be out on Monday. 
Lest I forget: thank you for reading Sat-ND anyway.

Even to experts, it is not really clear how the two systems SkyBridge and
Cyberstar can be integrated. The Skybridge system is basically similar to
the Globalstar system: traffic from multiple spot beams will be relayed to
terrestrial ground stations where routing to other satellites or networks
will take place. Because the satellites will be passing overhead, turning
spotbeams off and on (in order to avoid interference with GEO Ku-Band
satellites,) user antennas will have to track the satellites (in fact, the
Skybrige user antenna by definition avoids the GEO arc.)
The real beauty of the Skybridge system, if it manages to get past
regulatory hurdles, is that it is very attractive to local PSTNs [oops -- I
think it may translate to Personal Service Terminal Networks or something
like that] since routing is performed terrestrially. While GEO satellites
are preferred means of broadcasting, the LEO system Cyberstar is being
described as a "switch in the sky", distinguishing it from the current
asymmetric services currently being offered by DirecPC, AstraNet etc. 
Currently, Loral is also saying that the Cyberstar satellites will be
linked, however GEO intersatellite links (probably optical) so far are in
use by the military only. Thus, interconnection will probably have to be
established terrestrially. Supposedly, it can be done through an
intelligent terrestrial network, but linking up both systems this way will
most likely be an extremely delicate feat.
The proposed Motorola GEO/LEO system Celestri is somewhat different from
all that. The system's LEO segment will definitely use high data rate
(optical) intersatellite links to route from satellite node to satellite
node (much like Iridium uses RF [Radio Frequency] links.) For the same
reasons as above, connections to the GEO segment will probably have to be
established over a terrestrial network. The thought of data being
transmitted between LEO satellites, through terrestrial networks and up and
down through GEO satellites is something that up to now may even ask too
much even of extremely visionary experts.
What's all the fuss about, then? Claim your stake before somebody else
does. A fair guess at the moment is that everyone is hedging their bets
while nobody really knows what digital satellite network will turn out to
be the most successful in five year's time when all of them are finally
supposed to be up and running. The bottom line is that whosoever occupies
the market first will be able to set a standard, irrespective of which
technology may be better. 
The game is already in full swing. For instance, the Teledesic propaganda
machinery has done an excellent job brainwashing the public that LEO
satellites, with their inherently lower propagation delays, were the only
way to go. So, at least for the time being, it seems completely out of
question not to offer a LEO segment in any proposed service -- even though
in the meantime some very fast TCP/IP connections have reportedly been
established via GEO satellites. [Something I personally wouldn't have
believed to be possible in the first place, but guess what: I was
brainwashed to a certain extent, too. All right, we live to learn, don't
we? -- Ed.]
(This text is based on a contribution by yet another reader who'd like not
to be mentioned by name. I can perfectly understand that; no true expert
would openly admit reading such a weird service like this ;-)

In 1996, Radio Netherlands launched an extremely successful Dutch language
television service on an experimental basis. The results were fantastic.
Research showed that for three months, "Zomer TV" (Summer TV) broadcast
programmes to an audience of half a million. Dutch and Flemish holiday
makers, as well as those permanently resident outside The Netherlands were
able to watch special shows aimed at a European audience, such as Studio
NL, as well a selection from the best of public domestic television. This
year, the project is to continue, again in co-operation with the domestic
public broadcasters. In fact the co-operation between broadcasters is being
expanded to include new elements. We'll be working together with the
Regional radio and television organisation ROOS, compiling the best of the
week's news from the regions. We hope this will improve our coverage of
events outside the "Randstad" area which lies between Amsterdam, Rotterdam
and Utrecht. We're also glad to be working with our colleagues at BRTN
television in Belgium. 
There is also a difference from the distribution point of view. For this
time we're using both analogue _and_ digital satellite services. The
digital service runs from 1900-0000 Dutch [Central European] summer time
(that's the same as 1700-2200 UTC/GMT) daily on Astra channel 102. The
service is free-to-air so you don't need a smart-card to decode the signal.
For those still using analogue sets, we're also on the air from 2100-0000
Dutch summer time (the same as 1900-2100 UTC) on Astra transponder 58,
10.847 GHz vertical. 
For more information phone the hot-line on +31 35 6724 333. Please note
that this satellite television service is in the Dutch language for the
moment. Radio Netherlands Television (RNTV) also produces programmes in
English, including a wide range of documentaries, and regular contributions
to CNN World Report.
(Jonathan Marks, Radio Netherlands)

I would just like to say something about the sketch by British comedian
Freddie Frinton. [His sketch 'Dinner for one'] has also become a new year's
eve cult in Sweden. I don't know how many times I've avoided it on new
year's eve. I just hope that it has not spread to every European country!
[It's probably completely unknown in the UK ;-]
Regarding that useless digital VHS: it's just an attempt from JVC to keep
life in its technically obsolete system, VHS. I've seen numerous ads where
they proudly state that they are the founders of VHS. Well that's really
something to be proud about. [Especially as there were much better video
systems that unfortunately did not prevail.]
There has been much talk about a new, yes digital system, DVC for quite a
time. I haven't seen any VCR yet, but there are cameras on the market from
Panasonic and others. [In Germany, their suggested retail price is around
DM4,000, the equivalent of US$2,350. A bit too much for a camcorder when
even semi-professional S-VHS C equipment is available for just half the
price.] Personally I don't think that people will run off and buy these new
gadgets. They are happy with their old equipment. You can easily compare
this to the digital satellite services. 
(Slobodan Vukcevic)

You state that digital compressed video offers no better quality than VHS.
This is not true, at least in many cases. There are several points that
raise MPEG-2 high above VHS:
1. Resolution -- While a VHS recording has a resolution of only 250 to 350
lines per frame, resolution of MPEG-2 main profile provides up to 576 lines
per frame (50 Hz).
2. Noise -- A digital video, compressed or not, is much less affected by
noise (not counting artefacts of course).
3. Multi-generation recording -- You can record and re-record a digital bit
stream as many times as you like, with (almost) no degradation. A one is a
one and it don't matter if there's a 0.9 on the tape, the recorder will
know it's a one anyway and record it like that. Of course, bit errors might
occur and conserved on the next generation tape, but is that comparable
with a 30 percent loss for each generation in analogue VHS?
On the other hand, I fully agree that digital compressed video isn't always
of superior quality. But this is a trade-off between content, bit rate and
cost, not a matter of the technology itself.
(Hanno Basse)


* Kyrgyzstan plans to launch its own telecommunications satellite with
Russian help by 2000, President Askar Akayev said according to Itar-Tass. 
He announced that the republic had reached an agreement with the Russian
Space Agency on launching the communications satellite aboard a Russian
rocket. Reportedly, the Kyrgyz Defence Ministry, the Security Council and
the Communications Ministry are the clients in this project. Services of
the Russian rocket-booster will cost about US$3-5 million. 

* The U.S. American airspace corporation Lockheed-Martin has invited
Russian President Boris Yeltsin to visit its facilities during the G-8
summit in Denver. 
Lockheed-Martin spokesman James Fetig told Itar-Tass that in the course of
preparations for the summit "we informed the Russian government that we
would welcome President Yeltsin's visit to our facilities." He said the
Russian president was invited to inspect the facilities in order to learn
more about "our partnership with the Russian space industry."

* Australia's state-owned Telstra Corp said today that "Telstra and [Rupert
Murdoch's] News Corp. have agreed to work with PBL towards the
rationalisation of the pay TV industry for the benefit of Foxtel," the
service owned by Telstra and News. PBL, Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd,
run by Murdoch's local rival Kerry Packer, is a key financial backer of
satellite-based pay television operator Australis Media Ltd. "PBL will be
given the opportunity to equalise its interests in pay TV with News
interests," Telstra said. PBL, controlled by the Packer family with a 45
percent stake, said in a statement that it will share its economic interest
in Australis with News and Telstra. Interestingly, the deal was reportedly
negotiated by James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch, the elder sons of the two
media barons.
The Australian pay-TV industry is estimated to have lost more than A$2
billion since it began operations about three years ago.

* TeCom Inc. announced today that it has entered into a co-operative
marketing agreement with Colorado-based EchoStar Communications Corporation
for its DISH Network satellite television system. The agreement adds direct
broadcast capabilities to the list of value-added services which TeCom's
InterLane Interactive Systems will be able to offer. 
The agreement allows TeCom to market the DISH Network to companies in the
energy industry, such as gas, water, and electric utilities as well as
energy service companies. The offering gives these companies access to
recurring revenues from the sale of additional value-added services.

* WebTV Networks Inc. (http://www.webtv.net), creator and operator of a
fledgling Internet service for TV viewers, has upgraded the service's
software and is giving subscribers the option to choose their own Internet
service provider. The free upgrade, which incorporates what WebTV claims is
"the Internet television industry's first electronic program guide," will
be made available to subscribers at the end of this month. It includes --
how exciting! -- printing capability and online transactions backed by a
Secure Sockets Layer system. To use the printing feature, the service's
subscribers (so far roughly 85,000 in the U.S.) will need not only a
parallel cable and a printer but also an adapter from Sony or Phillips

* Executives from Microsoft Corp., Compaq Computer Corp. and Intel Corp.
are in Europe to try to influence the establishment of standards for
upcoming digital satellite broadcasts, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The paper said that the three companies envisioned nonsense products such
as big-screen PC/TV hybrids for the living room that would offer all the
functions of a personal computer with the benefit of broadcast and cable-TV
viewing. (Complete rubbish that only technicians can envision. 90 percent
of TV viewers just couldn't care less.) 

* A senior conservative politician called for the UK's new Labour
Government action to curb the growing media strength of Rupert Murdoch's
News International. Baroness Miller of Hendon, a Conservative Whip, asked
if ministers were concerned about the "ever-increasing influence of Mr
Rupert Murdoch, a foreign citizen." Mr Murdoch controlled five UK national
newspapers with a readership of 26 million and, through cable and satellite
TV, one of the main news channels in Britain, with 70 million viewers
world-wide. "What does the Government propose to do about that?" 
Have there ever been questions like that being asked by Conservatives when
they themselves were in power? I don't know. But Lord Thomson of Monifieth,
the Former Independent Broadcasting Authority chairman, said for the
Liberal Democrats the previous government had "steadfastly opposed any
effective regulation of Murdoch domination on these matters".


"Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Bernard Shaw are all on their
way to the soon-to-be-former British colony for the June 30 hand-over to
China, part of the largest American TV army in years to cover a foreign
story that isn't a war." 
(Dow Jones)


"Boxers are getting older and older. What's wrong with a 58-year-old
fighting a 66-year-old?" Ted Turner says he's deadly serious: The Time
Warner vice president says he wants to compete with his arch enemy (and,
via PrimeStar, indirect new partner in the DBS industry) in a boxing match
that would accompany Turner's 1998 Goodwill Games in New York. "It would be
like 'Rocky,' kind of only for old guys. If he wants, he can wear head
gear. I won't." The proceeds would go to a charity of the winner's choice
while "the loser has to leave the country," Turner suggested.
A spokesman for Murdoch declined to comment on the challenge. He probably
did not comment on any other remarks made by Turner, for instance about
more or less naked women featured in Mr Murdoch's UK tabloids. "We think
that's both demeaning to women and kind of semi-pornography. That alone
makes him a little bit questionable," said Turner who himself reportedly
once compared satellite TV dishes neither to pizzas (common U.S. version)
nor to garbage can lids (uncommon Canadian version) but to a woman's
breasts. Jane Fonda?

Copyright (c) 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights

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