6 March 2001
In recent years, standardisation has proven to be one of the critical success factors in the introduction of new telecommunications systems and services. The recent success of systems like GSM mobile phones and digital video for professional and consumer video equipment is probably the best supporting evidence.
Standardisation brings enormous benefits to industry and users alike. It is the single most important factor in economies of scale. It allows equipment manufacturers to focus on the same technical solution, thus providing a healthy and open competitive environment.
ESA has always been a strong supporter of standardisation in the many fields of telecommunications. In particular, ESA has been heavily involved in the definition and development of the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) standard which is used today in Europe and many other parts of the world.
In recent years, the multimedia revolution has created a huge demand for high speed connections to the network. Satellite systems have been designed to respond to that demand. In particular, regenerative satellite systems will form the heart of the next generation of telecommunications satellites. They will provide very high speed internet connections to corporate and consumer users equipped with small (60-80cm diameters) antennas. This is achieved by employing high frequency bands, multi-spot coverage areas and high speed digital signal processing onboard the satellite.
Following the emergence in Europe of a number of proprietary regenerative multimedia satellite systems (Skyplex, Domino II, Web/West, Euroskyway), ESA in 1999 took the lead in studying possible ways of facilitating the convergence of different systems on a common standard in order to maximise commonalities. By adopting an open-systems approach, satellite operators, satellite manufacturers and terminal manufacturers will ensure mutual compatibility of services and equipment, securing significant economies of scale and reducing business development risk.
On ESA’s initiative, and with the cooperation of the main parties concerned, a group of experts was set up in late 1999 with the aim of formulating recommendations that could form the basis for standards for satellite terminals to be designed to operate with a variety of regenerative satellite multimedia systems.
The group includes representatives of ESA, a number of satellite operators (Eutelsat, Hispasat, Intelsat, SES, Telenor), various satellite system designers (Alcatel Space Industries, Alenia Spazio, Astrium), CNES and independent entities with observer status, such as ETSI (European Telecommunication Standards Institute).
Meeting regularly throughout 2000, the group of experts reviewed a number of reference models, service requirements and system architectures for regenerative satellite multimedia systems.
Star and mesh network topologies were considered. The connectivity topologies range from point-to-point or multipoint-to-multipoint (physical or link or network layer) scenarios to point-to-multipoint (including broadcasting) and multipoint-to-point.
The main outcome is full convergence by a number of systems that were mutually incompatible at the outset on definition of a common air interface and hence on the ability to provide services using the same terminals. Since the proposed terminal characteristics are based on the DVB-RCS (Return Channel for Satellite) standard already adopted for interactive services, the potential economics of scale will be even greater. In fact all regenerative and non-regenerative systems operated by the group members will make use of the same terminal.
In January this year the group’s findings were presented to the DVB Technical Module and to ETSI for consideration and possible adoption. The DVB-TM decided unanimously to accept the group's input and initiate a top-priority work item on regenerative satellites within the DVB-RCS standard, which would lead to incorporation in their standards of the common requirements expressed by the group of experts.