SES Astra an SES Global company has signed an agreement with Canal
Satellite, Canal+ Technologies, Newtec, STMicroelectronics and Thomson
to develop a low cost satellite-based response channel for direct-to-home
set-top-boxes. SES Astra owns and operates the Astra Satellite System,
Europe's leading analogue and digital satellite television broadcast
system, reaching in excess of 91 million homes in Europe. It is
a wholly owned subsidiary of SES Global the world's premier satellite
The 49 million euro project will be funded both by the consortium
and by the European Space Agency (ESA), through a contract under
its ARTES program, which supports the development of advanced-technologies
related to both the satellite and media industries. The contract
between SES ASTRA and ESA was signed at the DTH World Summit for
Pay-TV Financing in Paris.
Satmode (satellite modem), will provide an always-on satellite
return path, in Ka Band through Astra 1H, between a digital TV set-top-box
in a user's home and content providers. The interactivity enabled
by the Astra return link will greatly enhance future applications
such as video-on-demand, messaging, gaming. SES Astra says that
Satmode will add a new dimension to satellite distribution for its
media customers. The television industry is embracing all forms
of interactivity and Astra's ability to provide satellite-based
interactivity on a large scale, and at a low cost, will further
encourage the development of additional interactive services.
When fully implemented, the Satmode system will enable simultaneous
and real time responses by millions of TV viewers to choices, questions
or other types of interactive material presented on screen. Since
Satmode is fully integrated into the set-top box and connected to
the satellite system, the use of telephone return channel or other
terrestrial technologies will no longer be necessary on these set-top
boxes. on in various types of shows.
ESA and SES Astra claim to be focussing on a market driven development,
reflected by the partners cofinancing the development. Furthermore,
SES Astra claims to be committed to the emergence of an "open system"
which can be freely adopted by broadcasters all over Europe, through
the release of the system interface specifications.