Will iBlast pay for the transition to digital?

What is the best use of the unused portion of your bandwidth? Digital television is not the same old television we've grown accustomed to. There's a host

What is the best use of the unused portion of your bandwidth?

Digital television is not the same old television we've grown accustomed to. There's a host of new services that come to the table with digital broadcast television, causing engineers to scramble to keep up with what's out there.

The kinds of things of particular interest are the technologies that make use of the unused portion of the broadcast bitstream. The equivalent of one NTSC service over a digital television broadcast system leaves a considerable amount of room for other services, additional NTSC-quality channels or the transmission of digital information that would interest many different kinds of audiences. Keep in mind bits are bits are bits. Once encoded, one kind of digital information is virtually indiscernible from any other to the transmission system.

What is the best use of the unused portion of your bandwidth? Fill it with moneymaking services offered by companies like iBlast. Iblast promises to be a revenue generator and its approach is a significant departure from conventional television. Considering the company recently opened an impressive Network Operations Center (NOC) in Los Angeles, the company looks to be broadcast ready on a large scale.

Peter Ludé, senior vice president of engineering and operations for Iblast said, “Our network now consists of 253 television broadcast stations, which cover 93 percent of the population in the U.S., and we are adding more stations every month.” Ludé explained that what made iBlast different was that each member station of the network was a shareholder and owned a piece of the iBlast action.

“Our service is one of the enhancements that makes DTV worth looking at,” Ludé continued, “and this service is not compatible with analog television; it is a digital television service only. What makes the iBlast service distinctly different, when compared to conventional analog television services, is that the services we offer are not necessarily audio and video related. Think of it this way, anything that can be sent digitally, irrespective of the media, CD, bit stream, games, MP3 and TV programs, can be transported on the iBlast system. Anti-virus software and latest anti-virus shields can be broadcast to users within minutes of their development.

If it can be transported on an IP (Internet Protocol) network,” Ludé said, “it can be carried on the iBlast infrastructure. In addition to what has already been mentioned, iBlast can also deliver videos games to Playstation users and with 27 million gaming consoles in the U.S., there's definitely a market for that kind of software.”

One of the things that sets iBlast apart from its competitors is the way it is distributed. Others distribute their digital content to edge server locations around the country, where the content resides on an Internet service provider's (ISP) server in the user's nearby area until it is needed by the user.

iBlast, on the other hand, is distributed to member television stations and is immediately broadcast over-the-air to users. The iBlast signal is not received by a television set, but by the user's computer system equipped with a receiver board for that purpose. This receiver board is unique in that no MPEG decoding is needed; only an 8VSB chip. For those who support modulation technologies other than 8VSB, Ludé reassuringly said, “the iBlast system is agnostic to the modulation system; it doesn't care, as long as it works.”

Should the iBlast user not have his or her computer on at any given time, it is quite likely the desired information would be broadcast several times throughout the day.

iBlast does not have to send information in real time. This is true of any IP-based system. Multiple bits of material can be broadcast simultaneously. A computer's hard drive can be downloading MP3s while anti-virus protection is updated and the movie you want to watch tonight is slowly filling the bit bucket for recall at your convenience.

Because Hollywood is adamant about copyright protection and because the distribution of the iBlast data is via satellite, the subject of conditional access (CA) and other forms of protection come into discussion. Ludé said, “CA keeps the honest people honest. We have no specific security on our system. The content owners have that kind of thing in place already on their material and our network can accommodate it, if it is IP-based.”

Fear not, with the iBlast system, television programming always has priority, and data will move as fast as the infrastructure can accommodate it. At current bit rates, no less than 50 full DVD quality movies can be transported a day without any noticeable difference in the television service sharing the same transmitter system.

As to the economy of delivery systems, Lud�� pointed out that other delivery methods are from one- to seven- cents per megabyte now, but the iBlast approach is one or two orders of magnitude less.

Says Ludé, “Were not selling anything to broadcasters, they're our partners. We don't sell equipment, only our pipeline. Yes, we do help broadcasters broker this system, it's in everyone's best interest.”