Skip to main content

Europe: 2006 Could Be Big for HD

The 2006 FIFA World Cup--a month-long soccer tournament watched by hundreds of millions of people worldwide--will be the first truly global sports event to be covered using widely delivered HD services throughout the world. DBSers SES ASTRA and T-Com said this month they would offer a global full-services solution for TV broadcasters during the event, including HD, satellite capacity, uplink and downlink. Also, the Yankee Group says Premiere of Germany, TPS and Canal+ of France, and BSkyB of the United Kingdom are rolling out HD programming this year and in early 2006.

However, that does not mean World Cup soccer and other HD programming will actually reach many European homes anytime soon; for a variety of reasons, many cable operators will not be able to carry HD channels because most of them don't have the 860 MHz bandwidth necessary to transmit the signals.
The Boston-based Yankee Group also finds the business model for content providers and content distributors remains basically undefined. But one industry consensus apparently has emerged: Both 720p/50 and 1080i/25 will be acceptable for HD, and content distributors will market receivers and set-top boxes that transmit both European standards.

To date, as many as 16 cable networks across Europe carry the pan-European channel HD1, transmitted in 1080i. In the pipeline is the launch of HD2, which will be a pay-per-view channel. HD1 went up in early 2004 from Alfacam of Belgium. Consumers must purchase an HD STB from Dutch manufacturer Quali-TV for somewhat more than North American HD STBs go for--about 600 euros (U.S. $755).
Fortunately, the satellite standard DVB-S is similar to the cable transmission standard DVB-C, according to the Yankee Group. The signal for the Euro 1080 from SES ASTRA is delivered to the headends at 19 MB using a QPSK modulation. Currently, the Yankee Group said on its Web site, "many cable operators waste network capacity because they do a one-to-one modulation, which usually takes 7 to 8 MHz of the bandwidth--half of the size of an entire cable channel. Cable operators might invest in the upgrade of their networks when new compression standards such as MPEG 4 become the norm. These will lower the necessary bandwidth for HDTV by 50 percent."