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N° 22–2000: Faster access to web data via satellites and a "SiMPLE" software package

30 March 2000

The very rapid growth of the internet, internet services and the world wide web has created high demand for communications bandwidth for fast access to web contents and also the need to design innovative network concepts harmonising satellite and terrestrial network technologies.

GCS GmbH of Salzburg, in cooperation with the computer department at Salzburg University, has developed the "SiMPLE" software package: Satellite Interactive Multimedia Platform for Low-cost Earth stations. This work has been partly funded by the European Space Agency under its Telecommunications programme within the activities specifically intended to support industry in developing the satellite multimedia market.

Satellites are playing an increasingly important role in high-speed multimedia delivery, given the lack of cheap high-bandwidth "last mile" solutions. Moreover, satellites also cover those areas where no - or only very limited - terrestrial connectivity is available. Using Digital Video Broadcasting technology, reception of internet data via satellite is easily achieved with a less than 90cm dish and a standard DVB receiver card, which can be plugged into any standard PC. However, there are few satellite multimedia services available today that take advantage of the broadcast (multicast) capability of satellites.

Delivering focused-content web data fast, SiMPLE offers multicast (point-to-multipoint) web caching and replication services to deliver the most frequently accessed web contents to registered sites or directly to end-users. This combines interactive web access and "push technology", because specially selected information is broadcast to users on request or even unrequested.

The web content is then held locally on hard disk, so that when a user request is received for this data, it is displayed almost instantaneously. SiMPLE is an extension of point-to-point caching schemes already in operation on the internet which have been shown to significantly improve perceived speed-of-transmission and therefore reduce the download time from primary web servers.

Because of its reliance on multicasting techniques, SiMPLE is ideally suited for use in a satellite environment, where it also eliminates slow speed-connection to Internet Service Providers and efficiently utilises the space segment capacity.

The SiMPLE development phase is now complete. As a step towards commercialisation, Austrian Telekom is currently evaluating the platform in operational field trials providing high-speed web access to schools, mainly on the Upper Austrian education highway. This data highway is a private network to which all the schools in this federal state are connected, typically by means of dial-up ISDN connections. The satellite connectivity, in conjunction with SiMPLE, gives this network additional bandwidth for internet access.

For further information, please contact:

ESA/ESTEC

Roberto Donadio - Tel : +31 71 565 3134

GCS GmbH

Bernard Collini-Nocker - Tel +43 662 450025


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