Sat-ND, 28.2.97

My apologies should you receive this for the second or third time. My
Internet Access Provider seems to have some problems; at least, I did not
manage to send out this issue of Sat-ND via email (although it made its way
to the newsgroups.)  
So, I'm trying to send today's issue via AOL alternatively. Please, direct
any complaints not to me but to my IAP (http://www.lynet.de ;-) -- PCK

Sat-ND 97-02-28 - Satellite and Media News

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The launch of INTELSAT 801 on aboard an Ariane 44P rocket has been delayed
for the second time (can anyone remember an Ariane launch that hadn't been
delayed during the last few years?)
However, it was the first time in 17 years that a launch was called off
because of adverse wind conditions. The wind wasn't exactly too high to allow
a launch, but in the unlikely case of an explosion the resulting debris and
poisonous gases would have come down over the city of Kourou, French Guiana.
As a consequence, the launch was called off less than two hours before it was
due to take place. 
A new attempt was expected to be undertaken on March 1 between 01:16 and
02:11 CET (February 28, 07:16 - 08:11 p.m. EST.)

Alcatel Alsthom has re-christened its Sativod project. Under the new name of
SkyBridge, 64 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will provide business and
individual users all over the world with the trendy, mega-hip and ultra-cool
blend of high-speed broadband interactive services, including Internet
access, utilising the Ka-band.
The SkyBridge system will be operational in 2001. If everything goes right,
that is. Alcatel's Alcatel Espace today filed with the U.S. Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) for an application to launch and operate the
project. Besides, Alcatel is still looking for financial and industrial
partners to share the costs while aiming to stay the project's leading

The Danish station Radio 2 starts tomorrow on INTELSAT 707 (1oW) at 11.133
GHz h. A subcarrier of the BBC Prime transponder is being used.
(Michael Husted)

Canada has its first digital direct-to-home (DTH) satellite service. The
Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has awarded
AlphaStar Canada, a subsidiary of Tee-Comm Electronics, broadcast and
pay-per-view licenses. 
"We're off and running," said David Lewis, President of AlphaStar Canada.
"Canadians have waited long enough for a home-grown digital DTH satellite
television service, and we're delighted to be the first company to be able to
offer it to them."
In anticipation of the license, Tee-Comm Electronics had been broadcasting 70
fully-addressable, encrypted services from its new Milton uplink centre as
test signals for more than two weeks. Now, as those test signals are
officially licensed, AlphaStar has begun shipping digital set-top receivers
and satellite dishes to dealers across Canada. The AlphaStar Canada package
-- which consists of a digital set-top receiver "box" and a 75-centimetre
diameter satellite dish -- will sell for Can$499 when purchased with an
annual Can$300 basic programming package.
By the end of March, AlphaStar subscribers will be able to choose from a
line-up of 75 channels (35 video, 30 audio, and 10 pay-per-view), including
both English and French services. By mid-summer, when the network begins
broadcasting from AT&T's new TELSTAR 501 satellite, up to 120 channels will
be available. The video broadcast line-up will include all major Canadian
television networks, as well as most approved U.S. services and several
international networks.

While AlphaStar will use the U.S. satellite TELSTAR, something that would
have been quite unthinkable just a year ago, Telesat Canada has unveiled its
plans to build a new high-powered Canadian direct broadcast satellite. It is
slated for launch as early as the fourth quarter of 1998.
Telesat has teamed up with Spar Aerospace Ltd and tabled its new plan with
the Canadian industry ministry. Under the proposal, a high-powered
32-transponder direct broadcast satellite would be supplied by Lockheed
Martin Overseas Corp. and launched into Canada's orbital position at 91oW.
According to Telesat, Spar Aerospace has abandoned its Borealis light
satellite submission and instead merged its efforts with those of Telesat. In
January, Canadian Industry Minister John Manley refused applications by
Telesat Canada as well as Borealis Space Corp. for a so-called "fast-track"

Sony Chairman Norio Oga was puzzled. "What is this?," he reportedly asked
after it had become clear that Japan, which probably was the first country in
the world to offer high-definition TV (HDTV,) is likely to abandon its
proprietary analogue standard and jump onto the digital train instead. 
According to news agency Kyodo, Oga complained that "When the international
trend was moving toward digital, we departed from that simply because the
government had decided on analogue. Now they are saying it's digital after
It's not exactly the government that's said anything yet, but at least an
advisory panel to Japan's Post and Telecommunications Ministry. In its final
report, the panel advises to discontinue Japan's home-brew analogue system
and calls for an advanced digital standard to be used on at least one of two
planned broadcast satellites. 
So far, TV networks and electronics manufacturers had succeeded in
maintaining the old standard by hampering the government's efforts to adopt a
new one.

The new development in Japan will probably have no impact on any other
country in the world as HDTV is regarded a thing of the past by many experts
in western countries -- there is no consumer demand there whatsoever, maybe
because it requires the purchase of a new, still very expensive TV set.
Ironically, HDTV nonetheless served as a stepping stone for digital TV there.

HDTV cannot be distributed over existing analogue channels as the raw signal
takes up four times the bandwidth of a conventional TV signal. Semi-digital
and digital compression technologies were developed to squeeze the HDTV
signal into conventional channels. But instead of providing a picture with
twice the number of scan lines (and twice the number of rows, too,) the
technology was soon used to transmit four conventional pictures instead. 
From there, it wasn't too difficult to come to the six, seven or eight
channels that are transmitted on a single satellite transponder nowadays,
albeit in a notably lower quality than analogue satellite broadcasts. 
So, in the end, the consumer gets a worse picture instead of a better one.
While the most obvious artefacts such as the dreaded jelly-effect may have
been eliminated to a certain extent, digitally transmitted TV signals are
still clearly distinguished by graininess and a lack of definition. They look
at least as blurred as a VCR cassette recording. Just a few years ago,
broadcasters in Europe would have rather committed collective suicide than to
offer their viewers such an inferior picture quality. 
No, HDTV just didn't work out in the western world.

Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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