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Spaceway to offer news directors alternative to existing SNG operations

It might be a little pre-mature to begin revamping SNG operations, but Mike Cook, senior vice president and general manager of Hughes Network Systems’ Spaceway service, believes it’s a good time to start planning.

By this time next year, the company plans to roll out a Ka-band satellite newsgathering service that offers several advantages over traditional Ku-band and C-band uplinking for news applications.

Among the pluses are Spaceway’s point-to-point satellite transmission capability, lower cost of service, and a size and cost savings in uplink technology that will allow stations to outfit SNG vehicles for a fraction of the cost of a comparable Ku- or C-band rig.

“Spaceway is different from traditional satellite uplinking,” said Cook. “Spaceway is an IP network.”

On board the Spaceway satellite, due to launch by the year’s end, uplinked signals will be demodulated. An onboard processor and fast packet switch inspect the information and determine where it is to be received. Finally, the satellite transmits the packets of information to the specific, intended receive site, closing the point-to-point satellite transmission chain.

The Spaceway system supports 112 individual uplink frequencies and downlinks to 784 micro-cells at rates up to 440Mb/s per second.

To sustain a 2Mb/s transmission with a Ku-band system, a 2.5- to 3.5M antenna is necessary, said Cook. However, the same data rate can be achieved with a 1- to 1.2M antenna in the Spaceway Ka-band system.

“Couple that with MPEG-4 and H.264,” said Cook. “Getting a 2Mb/s transmission in MPEG-4 is definitely broadcast quality. Overlay that with new encoders and decoders, and there’s an opportunity to build a very low-cost SNG environment. You could take an SUV with one of these terminals and an encoder in the truck, and you’re talking about $50,000 to $60,000 per vehicle instead of $100,000 plus.”

Transmitting data via satellite from one point to another over an IP network is not pie in the sky dreaming. Hughes currently offers a similar service called DirecWay for commercial customers, such as car manufacturers, for real-time data exchange with dealers’ parts counters.

In May 2005, Spaceway expects to be conducting proof-of-concept testing with broadcast partners. By the end of 2005, it plans to make the service available commercially.

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