ESA backing SATMODE, interactivity via satellite for consumers
The European Space Agency (ESA) has joined forces with a team led by SES Astra (Lux) on a SATMODE development contract totalling EUR 49 million.
SATMODE is a satellite return link system providing ‘always-on’ connectivity between digital TV set top boxes - the interactive version of commercial satellite TV receivers - and content providers. This interactive terminal should add less than EUR 50 to the actual cost of a commercial set top box and antenna providing the possibility of real time interactivity and more.
On 27 January in Paris the contract was signed between Claudio Mastracci, ESA Director of Applications Programmes, and Ferdinand Kayser, President and CEO of SES Astra.
Commenting on the contract, Mr Kayser said, “SATMODE will rejuvenate the broadcasters’ subscription and advertising revenue models by providing instant interactivity and individualised content to viewers.”
The SATMODE system is set to enable permanent, real time responses by millions of TV viewers to content provider’s programmes. It will also allow additional services such as SMS, televoting, management of personal video recorders, access control, pay per view and other impulse transactions.
Upon signature of the contract, Mr Claudio Mastracci commented, “ESA is committed to support developments that reduce the risk to implement commercially viable satcom innovations. In particular, the user terminal is one of the most critical factors for success in the consumer market. SATMODE is a prominent example of the special attention that ESA is devoting to user terminals and applications.”
Both ESA and SES Astra are focusing on a market driven development strategy, reflected by the project’s phasing and partners. In phase 1, Canal+ Technologies (F) and Newtec (B) will design, assemble and integrate the end-to-end SATMODE system by December 2003, leading to a technical (phase 2) and commercial field trial in 2004 (phase 3).
Thomson (F) will build the interactive Set Top Boxes (iSTB) alongside ST Microelectronics (I). The system will be field tested by a panel of Canal Satellite’s subscribers, with applications proposed by Canal+ Technologies and Canal Satellite.
SES Astra is acting as prime contractor, with its parent company SES Global (Lux), providing management and validation of the complete system, to be operative using Astra 1H Ka band capacity at 19.2° East.
The contract amounts to EUR 49 million, each partner investing 50% of its contribution, ESA matching the 50% through the Telecommunications programme. Furthermore, SES Astra has committed to release the system interface specification as soon as possible within the next 18 months, to allow the emergence of an “open system” which could be freely adopted by other industries and broadcasters for new interactive applications.