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Satellite Communications Video Markets: Dynamics and Trends

Authors: Peter Marshall,

Publish Date: 2013
Volume: , Issue:, Pages: 135-161
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The advent of satellite communications brought a new era to the TV industry. In the early years, however, these transmissions were quite costly and limited by the modest capacity of the first commercial communications satellites. The evolution of satellite technology and development of satellite aggregators such as Brightstar, World Communications, Bonneville, IDB, Keystone, and Globecast, allowed costs of satellite television to decrease sharply. The development of full-time, annualized satellite transponder charges – as opposed to per minute fees – were also critical to the development of much lower satellite television fees.The evolution of digital television services was another important breakthrough. Instead of the one or two television channels per transponder with analog systems it became possible to derive up to 18 channels per transponder. Digital transmission speeded up the evolution of domestic television satellite systems and played a key role in the growth of direct-to-home satellite broadcasting.The development of satellite based video systems was not seamless and encountered periods of major market difficulties. One of the most prominent market development issues was the failure of early direct broadcast satellite systems (or BSS in the terminology of the ITU).However, DBS (or BSS) satellite markets are now well established in international, regional, and domestic markets. They are not only highly successful but represent by far the largest single satellite market in terms of revenues. Most recently there has been a rapid growth of high-definition television (HDTV) service via satellite.These satellite services compete with coaxial cable and fiber-optic-based CATV systems. The economics of satellite television are quite different from terrestrial networks because once a direct broadcast satellite system is launched and operational there is very little incremental cost beyond the consumer terminal needed to receive service. The advent of new digital interface standards known as digital video broadcast with return channel service (DVB-RCS) and Digital Over Cable Service Interface Standard (DOCSIS) have allowed the rapid development of digital television over satellite and cable systems. DOCSIS is now widely used for both satellite and cable television systems. These digital standards, together with high-power fixed satellite systems and broadcast satellite systems – that by definition have high power – allows not only the distribution of a large number of video channels to consumers but also low-cost distribution of high-speed digital data service to both home consumers and businesses. These digital satellite video systems can be – and indeed are – used to provide broader band digital services to the “edge” of digital networks at low cost. Thus DBS and higher powered FSS satellite systems are now being used to provide commercial broadband data services to business as well as broader band digital services to remotely located consumers.



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