DIRECTV 12 to boost available HD channel capacity 50 percent; is 3D next?

A Proton Breeze M rocket that launched from the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Dec. 29 by International Launch Services successfully carried the DIRECTV 12 satellite into orbit, a move that will boost the direct-to-home satellite provider’s available bandwidth and grow its HD channel capacity 50 percent to more than 200 HD channels.

According to DIRECTV, the satellite will expand movie choices on the DIRECTV Cinema and DIRECTV on Demand services. Currently, the company offers more than 130 HD channels and delivers local HD programming to 138 markets, representing 92 percent of U.S. TV households.

Ground controllers confirmed all systems aboard DIRECTV 12, a Boeing 702 model satellite, were functioning properly. DIRECTV 12 is the eleventh owned-and-operated satellite in the DIRECTV fleet. It will be maneuvered into a circular orbit at 102.8 degrees West longitude and when tests are completed, it is expected to begin operations early in the second quarter of 2010.

With the launch coming days before the opening of the 2010 International CES, where 3D television is expected to make a strong showing, speculation on the Internet swirled that DIRECTV also will use some of the newly available bandwidth provided by the satellite to launch an all-3D television channel this year.