New effort to set the standard for satellite broadband

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4 March 2009

ESA is supporting a new initiative to define the next-generation technologies that will deliver interactive broadband connectivity anywhere on Earth.

In the same way that satellites can offer direct-to-home television all across the planet, they are increasingly serving up broadband access to areas lacking ground connections – provided the end user has a suitable return satellite link.
 
During the last decade the ESA-backed DVB-Return Channel Satellite (RCS) standard has established an open technical protocol for this uplink process and the hardware that makes it happen. Now the authority responsible for maintaining the standard is seeking ideas for an upgraded DVB-RCS, dubbed RCS-Next Generation.
 
The current DVB-RCS is the only multi-vendor Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) standard, serving to define the way that two-way data transmission between satellites and interactive user terminals is carried out. In contrast to rival closed systems, which lock customers to a single supplier, the open standard of DVB-RCS enables interoperability of broadband satellite products coming from different companies, encouraging competition and consumer choice while reducing user costs.

DVB-RCS: a worldwide success story

ESA, together with commercial satellite operators, was among the original founders of the DVB-RCS standard, originally launched in 2000 as an extension of existing Digital Video Broadcasting standards. The Agency's Telecommunications Directorate is a prominent backer of the SatLabs Group association, which encourages take-up of DVB-RCS, with ESA Telecom also supporting related R&D and industrial activities.
 
To date DVB-RCS has been deployed to more than 200 networks worldwide, serving more than 80,000 remote terminals. DVB-RCS underpins the running of lotteries from Nebraska to the Ukraine, for example, while the Indian government has utilised the standard for its Edusat interactive distance learning service.
 
The US Department of Defence is another prominent user, while the Chinese and Russian governments among others have mandated the adoption of DVB-RCS for state applications – including the continent-spanning network of the Russian Central Bank. Within Europe DVB-RCS is, with ESA Telecom support, forming the basis of a growing number of mobile broadband services, including enabling net access aboard ships and high-speed trains.
 
Now the DVB Project – the global industry-led consortium that sets digital broadcasting standards – has initiated a revision of DVB-RCS, following research carried out by the SatLabs Group to evaluate the potential market for the revised standard.
 
The DVB Project has issued a Call for Technologies, inviting submissions for candidate technologies that could be considered for inclusion in a future DVB-based interactive satellite communications system. The aim is to optimise the revised system to current and future market needs, supporting solutions tailored for the growing consumer market as well as institutional users.
 
ESA is supporting the process through SatLabs, its internal research and development activities plus industrial studies sponsored through ESA Telecom's Advanced Research in Telecommunication Systems (ARTES) Programme. The intention is to put European industry in a good position to contribute to the development of the standard and benefit from its future success.
 
Proponents are requested to indicate their interest by 2 March, and submit a draft description of the contribution by 20 March. The final mandatory deadline for contributions is 4 May 2009.

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