Telecom innovation opportunity for early-stage satcom businesses
"Innovation from smaller, entrepreneurial companies has a vital role to play in shaping the future of satellite communications. In ESA Telecommunications, we appreciate that the satcom field can be daunting. To encourage participation from smaller businesses with fresh ideas for satcom-related applications and services, we are offering a unique in-road to the satcom arena", says Andreas Mauroschat who is responsible for the new initiative.
"Our initiative for start-up companies provides support for the realisation of your ideas in the form of funding, expertise and contacts". It is aimed at small and start-up companies in the IT or telecommunications field with promising new business concepts. Ideas relevant to the scheme include the creative use of existing satellite technologies to provide new services, or new systems and technologies with the potential to facilitate or improve existing services.
ESA Telecom department already has experience of supporting a wide range of new projects with great commercial potential. Francesco Feliciani, responsible for ESA Telecom's Multimedia Applications Line, explains, "We have experience with numerous smaller companies who have successfully brought to life new concepts for multimedia satellite communication. With the necessary ESA support, they have worked their ideas through the challenging first stages of research, fine-tuning the plan and prototyping, to the development of workable applications and services leading to new business opportunities. To date, we have helped nearly 40 projects, in turn helping European and Canadian companies to a better competitive position within the satcom field".
Buying music by satellite
Under ESA Telecom programme, the British company Avanti Communications Ltd has established an e-commerce satellite-based internet platform, known as ABARIS (Advanced Broadcast Architecture for Retail internet Services).
ABARIS links content providers with registered consumers, focusing initially on the delivery of CD quality audio products. It enables consumers to order a wide range of music products via an easily accessible website. The system combines terrestrial internet for the handling of ordering and payments with fast, satellite-based internet for the direct distribution of the audio products. A music encryption scheme safeguards copyright of material by preventing unauthorised performances or recordings.
The first trial system served a community of 75 users and demonstrated successfully the distribution of music from the V2 Music Group's stable of artists, as well as the distribution of music videos and multimedia products.
As the system on the subscriber site utilises a standard satellite receiver linked to a normal PC, ABARIS enables cost-efficient distribution to a potential user base of 24 millions households already equipped with ASTRA Direct to Home (DTH) TV receiver equipment. Adding to this the potential subscriber base offered by the Eutelsat HOT BIRD™ satellite, the system could reach 40 million households.
IP-services via satellite
The German National Research Centre for Information Technology (GMD) has developed a new fast internet protocol (IP) service scheme via satellite thanks to ESA Telecom support. The German spin-off company, Vsatnet.com AG, now markets this ADSL-like internet access-services via satellite with the new brand name: SatXpress.
SatXpress provides two-way, high speed, secure IP-services via satellite using DVB and actual VSAT technology. In addition to classical fast internet access, the satXpress simplifies any digital communication, including intranets for distributed companies and organisations, video conferencing and broadcasting TV-like services.
The Vsatnet.com AG exhibited its SatXpress IP-service at the CeBIT fair in Hannover as a commercial partner of Eutelsat. Since then interest has grown significantly, with pilot projects now successfully underway.
Vsatnet.com is planning a spin-off product, "intra-SatXpress", responding to the high demand for secure VPN and intranet services via satellite. A third, dedicated product is planned for multicasting and broadcasting.
Direct connection to stock exchanges
The Dutch company Computer Tools and Services BV (CT&S) is currently developing the Jupiter project under ESA Telecom to provide simple and secure electronic connection between the Euronext exchange in Amsterdam and a pilot group of stockbrokers in the US. The two-way connection is over satellite and provides the required speed and security for financial and settlement services at low cost. Distribution of market data via satellite ensures that the data is received by all recipients simultaneously, thus adhering to the “fair of trade” rule.
In Europe, in contrast to the United States and Asia, investing over the internet has not met with great interest. Most brokers currently do not provide this service and are reluctant to invest heavily in this new technology on behalf of their existing customer base. The Jupiter system will meet this need by initially providing a reliable, proven and secure on-line trading system for US stockbrokers to access Euronext.
Jupiter's first two phases have already been completed, and testing with the first pilot user has proved very successful. The third and last phase will be completed by the end of 2001, after which CT&S plans to commercialise the Jupiter system for simpler and faster on-line internet trading.
Small and start-up companies are invited to apply
With the new initiative the ESA Telecommunication team are hoping to reach smaller European companies not usually involved in satellite communications. The emphasis of the scheme is on:
- new services or applications emerging from the creative use of existing satellite technology such as multimedia, internet, navigation or mobile applications,
- systems or technologies to support new, or improve existing, services.
Andreas Mauroschat outlined the intentions: "The new initiative is aimed at small, entrepreneurial businesses with bright ideas. Perhaps, until now, they have only thought of implementing these ideas terrestrially. We want to encourage them to consider developing their ideas using the advantages of satellite communications. Our team, with many years of experience in the satcom field, will provide the vital step-by-step support necessary."
A fast-track application process is provided to make it simpler for applicants to obtain initial feedback on their ideas before producing a full-scale proposal.
For further information about the new initiative, see the ESA's Telecommunication home page http://telecom.esa.int.