Satellite well-placed to deliver VoD

Satellite is increasingly being used to deliver advanced TV services across Africa in the absence of reliable terrestrial broadband infrastructure, according to Grant Marais, vice-president, Africa at Intelsat.

Marais said satellite remains a highly relevant distribution tech-nology in a continent where ter- restrial infrastructure is often inadequate or completely lacking. While satellite TV has until recently largely been delivered as a basic linear service, pay TV operators and others are increasingly turning to innovative solutions to deliver advanced, non-lin-ear services.

The region’s leading pay TV operator, MultiChoice, has been delivering push video-on-demand services for some using Intelsat’s capacity. The operator has been delivering an enhanced service to users of its DStv Explora DVR boxes by stacking TV series on the box prior to its scheduled broadcast, enabling viewers to access content on-demand via the DVR rather than have to schedule recordings. MultiChoice also offers a Box Office rental service for premium movies. The service can be accessed by sub- scribers to MultiChoice’s premium HD tier. MultiChoice also provides a hybrid version of the service using a DSL connection over which it trickles content for offline viewing.

Technology provider Altech has also used Intelsat capacity to provide a similar, on-demand only service via the IS-20 satellite for its Node media boxes, which come with a catalogue of content pre-loaded. A return channel is provided via the cellular 3G network for rights management and payment.

According to Marais, push VoD services have “created a buzz in the market” that had traditionally had to wait for recently aired US content to become available on linear broadcast. He said that satellite, unlike any rival distribution technology available in Africa, can deliver the all important elements of reach, robustness and security.

“These are the key reason to use satellite – including the ability to reach areas with relatively low population densities,” he said.

Ultimately, satellite could also deliver a return channel as broadband applications become more mainstream. Marais said Intelsat is showing the way in terms of what is possible in this area. “At the beginning of this year we completed a deal with Vodacom and we are delivering a broadband product on IS-28 that is changing the nature of what people expected could be done over satellite. We have brought satellite broadband closer to terrestrial pricing than people ever imagined,” he said. Intelsat has worked across a number of areas, including making sure the cost of consumer premises equipment is kept relatively low, maximizing the efficient use of satellite capacity, and packaging services to meet different levels of end- users’ expectations, to ensure that the service is competitive with alternative technologies, said Marais.

Interview by Digital TV Europe. Click to download PDF of the December issue where this was first published.