Sat-ND, 12.9.97 Sound Power
No jokes, no HTML debate, no OS discussion, no politics, no nothin'
The next seven Iridium satellites will be placed into orbit by a Russian Proton rocket on September 14 at 7:36 a.m. Baikonur time, or 9:36 p.m. EDT on Sept. 13.
The seven satellites will be part of the 66-satellite Iridium network and will be placed into the fifth orbital plane of the satellite constellation. This launch is the second of three Iridium system Proton launches scheduled to take place in the Republic of Kazakhstan. This Iridium launch is the fifth in five months, bringing the total of orbiting satellites to 29 (of the planned 66-satellite constellation).
Apstar-IIR, the first Hong Kong satellite to be launched after its handover, is expected to be put into orbit at the end of this month.
The satellite and its launch vehicle, a Chinese Long March-3B rocket, are at the final stage of preparation for the launch. Experts of the launch service provider, China Great Wall Industry Corporation, were conducting detailed tests to prepare for the forthcoming launch from Xichang, Southwest China, news agency Xinhua reported.
Apstar-IIR is capable of covering more than 100 countries in the entire Asia-Pacific region and most parts of Australia, Europe and Africa, in effect reaching approximately 4 billion, i.e. 75 percent of the world's total population. The satellite is a replacement for Apstar II, which did not survive a Long March launch attempt. It is the third satellite procured by APT Satellite Company Ltd. of Hong Kong.
The usual question when it comes to Long March launches: Who pays for the fireworks should anything go wrong? Three well-renowned insurance companies, the People's Insurance Company of China (PICC,) Ming An Insurance (Hong Kong,) and Top Glory Insurance (Bermuda.) The total sum insured for the whole launching project is around US$220 million, Xinhua said.
Japan's space agency NASDA has postponed the planned November 1 launch of its H2 rocket.
However, the defect that causes the delay is with one of the scientific satellites that are going to be put in orbit. A new launch date has not been set. According to NASDA, the delay will be some two or three weeks.
"With what is suspiciously looking like Zeppelins, at least in artists' renditions, Sky Station International Inc. wants to introduce a revolutionary concept to telecommunications. Floating platforms will hover 21 kilometres above the Earth almost maintenance-free, providing millions of wireless high-speed Internet links directly to consumer laptop and desktop computers." (Sat-ND, 7.5.97.)
Sat-ND has frequently reported about this venture. Commenting the very first article last November, a reader wrote saying he could remember experiments in the early sixties with aeroplanes flying at an altitude of 10 to 20 kilometres, broadcasting TV programmes. (Must have been in the U.S. where, indeed, a converted army plane transmitted public television signals to schools in the Midwest for several years.)
Maybe this will happen again, except for the fact that it's not about television. Angel Technologies Corp. from St. Louis thinks that all the existing and planned GEOs, MEOs, LEOs, combinations of such and even stratospheric platforms will not be enough to supply the population on metropolitan areas with what else high-speed Internet access.
It would just take three planes at an altitude of 17 and 20 kilometres, each doing an eight-hour shift, to provide around-the-clock services for an area of 80 to 120 kilometres in diameter. The planes would carry transmission equipment that would enable users to connect to the service using dish-shaped antennas of just 45 centimetres in diameter.
Will it work? Of course. There's obviously no revolutionary new technology involved; a system like that could become operational just tomorrow. In theory at least, because it needs a license for utilising parts of the electromagnetic spectrum which Angel Technologies admits it does not have. Instead, officials said they would try to team up with companies that already hold such, adding that negotiations were under way. Executives hope to begin offering service in selected metropolitan markets in 2000, Arnold said.
To make that perfectly clear: a system like that is possible. But am I the only person in the world who thinks that the race for more bandwidth, for high-speed Internet access and so-called multimedia services is becoming increasingly absurd especially as nobody seems to care for the content that is going to be transmitted? Not just that, by the way what devices will display those services? Who's going to pay for it anyway?
http://www.skystation.com/ [I did not manage to find any URL for Angel Technologies; sorry!]
Should you happen to watch the Tour of Spain on TV, you will probably have noticed the Via Digital banners alongside the road.
The digital TV service, led by Spanish telecoms group Telefonica, public broadcaster RTVE and Mexico's Televisa, will begin operations next Monday with a bang.
"We will offer our basic package without cost for subscribers from September 15 to December 1," said Via Digital chairman Pedro Perez. "We plan to have 150,000 customers by Christmas and become the principal operator." Next year, Via Digital will charge customers 3,500 pesetas (US$23) per month for a basic tier of 35 channels including decoder lease.
Via Digital faces competition from CanalSatelite which had already begun operations but was in effect stopped when the conservative Spanish government issued a decree demanding digital set-top boxes be mutually compatible. CanalSatelite, which has attracted 125,000 subscribers since it started in January, is led by France's Canal Plus and Spanish media group Prisa.
Via Digital is still in talks with DirecTV, the satellite business of Hughes Electronics of the U.S., which is trying to acquire a stake in the Spanish platform. "DirecTV will be our second shareholder after Telefonica," Perez announced without giving further details.
http://www.csatelite.es/scripts/csatelite/csdprt.asp (It took a dog's age to find out. Funnily, the page reads something like this: "Microsoft OLE DB Provider for ODBC Drivers error '80004005' [INTERSOLV][ODBC Oracle driver]Out Of Memory /scripts/csatelite/csdprt.asp, line 184 ]" It's up to to you to blame other Microsoft or Oracle. Giggle.)
Canal+ officials seemed a bit clueless today. U.S. media giant Time Warner has an option to buy 10 percent of Canal+' French digital Service CanalSatellite but so far has not exercised it.
Should Time Warner do so, it would also mean a capital increase. But the long-awaited transaction did not take place yet. "Time Warner has not exercised its option. We can't say any more," a Canal Plus spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
Generale des Eaux, a company that otherwise does indeed deal with water as its name implies, is indirectly the main shareholder in Canal Plus. It has said it wants to sell its 10 percent stake in CanalSatellite.
Jerôme Seydoux, chairman of French film company Pathé, said his company would maintain its stake of 20 percent in Canalsatellite even if the changes go ahead.
Seydoux eplained the strong rise in Canalsatellite's losses with higher marketing and promotion costs in the face of competition from the two rivalling two digital platforms in France, TPS and ABSat.
Pathé also holds 17 percent of British satellite TV company British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) and is in fact, as far as I know, its second largest shareholder after Mr Murdoch's News Corp.
http://www.absat.com/ (wait until September 16 ;-)
NextLevel Systems, Inc. announced at Amterdam's IBC trade show that its Satellite Data Networks Group has launched a new satellite consumer receiver, the DVB compliant Magnitude SR-3360, designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of customers in Europe as well as other areas of the world.
"What sets the SR-3360 apart from other consumer IRDs, is the incorporation of a DVB standard Common Interface (CI), which will accept a PCMCIA Conditional Access Module (CAM) from any conditional access vendor thus making it essentially conditional access neutral," said Michael R. Bernique, President, NextLevel's Satellite Data Networks Group. "This feature allows both consumers and operators to protect their investments in IRD technology."
DiviCom Inc., a leading provider of digital video networking solutions, announced the first MPEG-2/DVB Internetworking Via Satellite system designed to meet the high-bandwidth, multimedia and multicasting needs of corporate networks, Internet Service Providers and satellite operators/service providers. Central to the system is DiviCom's new SkyGate Local Area Network receiver, an integrated receiver/decoder with Ethernet capabilities.
DiviCom's solution features all the components necessary to deploy satellite-based IP networks. Featuring the SkyGate receiver as well as the new MPEG Media Toolkit high speed data injection platform, the system supports the high-speed transfer of IP traffic, alongside MPEG audio and video over satellite, for point-to-multipoint and point-to-point communications.
The system features the MPEG Media Toolkit (MMT), an MPEG-based tool kit that enables software developers to quickly write applications that merge high-speed data with MPEG video streams in real-time.
Wonder why you can't even get those digital feeds on satellite you received in the analogue age?
Macrovision Corporation announced that Reuters Television has acquired multiple VES-TM MiniCrypt encryption Codecs (Coders/Decoders) to secure news programming which is transmitted over satellite links between Pakistan, [New?] Delhi and Singapore.
To reword their press release: The encryption Codec can be used with fixed as well as mobile transmission points, with terrestrial microwave and satellite video links.
"The Macrovision VES-TM MiniCrypt system was chosen because of its simplicity and price performance, which provides Reuters with an effective way to secure our picture footage during transmission from Pakistan to Singapore," said Phil Thomas, Reuters' project manager.
Scott Gilbert, Macrovision marketing manager for encryption systems, noted that "We continue to find situations around the world where the protection of temporary and permanent video links is hampered by the costs of traditional rack-mount encryption systems or the costs of purchasing new digital transmission equipment. Macrovision's VES-TM MiniCrypt(TM) encryption system offers a new solution to secure these video links."
Swiss company The Fantastic Corp. (TFC) has some high-flying plans following its deal with Germany's cable giant Deutsche Telekom (Sat-ND, 8.9.97.)
TFC President and CEO Peter Ohnemus said there was huge market potential in Europe from people willing to pay premium prices for high quality television programs on sport, fashion and news. Really?
Millionaires' TV again? It works in Germany to a certain extent where there are more than 1.5 million morons shelling out some DM45 (US$ 25) every month for a single TV channel by the name of Premiere probably a world record in stupidity. However, those idiots (and I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course) represent just a tiny fraction of the country's 33+ million TV households.
So, prepare yourself for the next phase of the digital revolution: high-quality TV and live transmissions just for those who can afford it. The rest will have to take up with second-hand programming, most likely to be diluted with even more commercials.
Ohnemus referred to the commercial satellite operator SES of Luxembourg and their Astra satellite system: "People really doubted their plan. You had to buy a dish, re-cable your home, and most people had to buy a set-top box for around 1,000 Swiss francs. And this market over the last nine years has generated a total of 28 million total installed base satellite dishes, which means 28 million set-top boxes. No one nine years ago would have ever thought that would have happened."
Not correct. In many European countries, satellite reception equipment was heavily subsidised, allowing it to be offered much cheaper. By the way, the latest figures from SES claim a total reach of 26.97 million satellite homes in Europe not 28 million.
But where are their main audiences? In Germany (10.69 million satellite households, almost all of them just interested in free-to-air-TV. Premiere is the only analogue Pay-TV channel while Leo Kirch's digital TV venture DF1 turned out to be a giant failure.) Number 2 is the United Kingdom, with 4.12 million satellite viewers almost all of which have subscribed to BSkyB (while the rest of the country can receive just five terrestrial channels.) There are just three unscrambled TV channels on Astra that offer an English language soundtrack. It becomes even stranger when you have a look at the number 3 Poland with 1.82 million households that receive Astra channels directly via satellite, according to SES figures.
This comes as a bit of a surprise as there is neither a Polish language TV channel nor any radio station available on Astra (Radio RFM moved to Eutelsat some time ago.) I do not know whether there are any Polish TV or radio channels available in digital format on Astra I couldn't care less, and the same applies to most households in that country because they are really far from being able to afford a digital set-top box anyway. Instead, analogue cable seems a more promising bizniz there as it offers Polish language channels picked up from several satellites, no matter whether they are originally distributed in analogue or digital format.
But back to digital satellite TV which, more precisely, is just a giant venture to charge you even more for programming you used to have for free in the good old days (except for pubcasters' license fees which you will have to pay in the future nonetheless, at least in Europe.)
"If you get channels with very appealing content, I think you can charge premium prices," said Fantastic's Ohnemus. The problem, at least in Europe, is that all this is not regulated by a free market but dictated by a few monopolists - which Fantastic has obviously has decided to serve as a slave in order to cash in at least a fraction of what European millionaires are prepared to spend on pay-TV.
All others will probably have to prepare themselves for spending even more time searching the fridge for a beer or doing some important business on the loo during commercial breaks.