As a major satellite provider serving Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas, Eutelsat delivers a variety of services. But two thirds of its business is the delivery of television content, and as such it is an important area for the company to target innovation.
Recently Eutelsat Communications S.A.
announced the development of a new satellite, Quantum. Its functions are more software-defined, allowing for greater flexibility in areas such as the uplink frequency used, the power levels at which the satellite broadcasts, and its uplink and transmission coverage. (See Flexibility Vital for Next-Gen Satellites: Eutelsat's Leroy
Last month, Eutelsat announced the first deployment of another new technology, SmartBEAM. This is a hybrid satellite-WiFi TV delivery system that allows for TV channels to be delivered via satellite at high quality to a location, and then converted to unicast IP streams and accessed by mobile devices over a WiFi connection.
Last week Telco Transformation caught up with Eutelsat's chief development and innovation officer, Jacques Dutronc, to get more information on the technology and market drivers for SmartBEAM.
Telco Transformation: You recently announced the first SmartBEAM deployment, with Tricolor TV in Russia. Can you describe the service for us?
Jacques Dutronc: Tricolor TV is one of the largest pay-TV providers in the world. It's the number one pay-TV provider in Russia, with 12 million households subscribing to its service. That works out to about 40 million people -- about a quarter of the Russian population.
We have been collaborating with them for a long time. Tricolor TV has been a longstanding customer for us for broadcast services, having leased capacity for TV services across Russia. Also, we are working with them for satellite broadband, providing consumers and business with Internet access.
Now we have, in addition, launched multiscreen TV services, called Territoria TricolorTV. These are high-quality video services delivered over WiFi. They are well suited to cafés, petrol stations, hotels, train stations, airports etc., where people can use the WiFi and their mobile devices to get access to 50 Tricolor TV channels. And this won't count towards their mobile data allowance.
For the venues this helps strengthen their relationship with their customers/users, enabling high-quality video viewing on mobile.
The service is being offered by Tricolor for 1,500 roubles ($25 approximately) per month, and its paid by the venue owner. So it's an attractive price point. The service is delivered to the venue by Eutelsat 36B satellite, which covers the whole of the Russian federation.
TT: How does SmartBEAM work?
JD: SmartBEAM uses a gateway device that takes satellite services and converts them for WiFi distribution. The system gets content to public venues via satellite, and then an app on smartphones and tablets can pick up channels at high-quality using local WiFi. And it can support encryption and DRM etc.
SmartBEAM: How it Works
The process works like this. Eutelsat receives IP content streams at our satellite teleport. The unicast streams are converted to multicast and sent in standard satellite format DVB s2 transport streams. At the venue they are received by a standard satellite receiver. The gateway device then decodes the channel, extracts the IP stream and delivers to devices via a regular WiFi router.
The venue needs a satellite dish and gateway, which can be labelled with the operator's brand [i.e., Tricolor TV] and the user will need to download a free app from Google Play or Apple's App Store.
TT: Does the gateway have an integrated WiFi router?
JD: We are considering integrating the WiFi as well, but today it is up to the venue owner to add the WiFi. The reason is that is gives the venue owners the opportunity to "dimension" the WiFi it wants to offer.
TT: What led Eutelsat to the development of this technology?
JD: Satellite technology is already the backbone for distribution networks worldwide. But we wanted to address changes in the way video is consumed. And that is increasingly on mobile devices, especially out-of-home. SmartBEAM helps serve a larger audience, even when consumers are out-of-home. And this is a high-quality experience -- it cuts buffering, eliminates connectivity issues. It's basically offering increased reach to broadcasters.
Mobile communications requirements are dramatically expanding. Due to smartphone penetration we are seeing mobile traffic congestion. Broadcasters, OTT providers and network operators can complement their streaming services with SmartBEAM -- offload at times of congestion.
Streaming is also somewhat limited by the rollout of [mobile and fixed-line] networks, and their reach and coverage. They don't cover 100% of a region. SmartBEAM allows video services to go beyond the reach of these networks. It's a global solution for delivering high-quality content anywhere you want.
TT: And what is the benefit to Tricolor?
JD: The technology is helping them expand audiences, as with any broadcaster. They can now get to the out-of-home mobile user in public venues. Even when on the move, [these customers] still have access.
And it helps venues get closer to their customers, who can now access 50 mobile TV channels without buffering at these venues.
TT: What are your plans moving forward in the near future?
JD: We are in the process of launching this solution with Tricolor in Russia. But we have learned a lot working with them, on how to transform these technologies into products, validate the business model and the value.
There are similar [requirements] in EMEA, Africa and Latin America. We see an opportunity to expand this worldwide -- it's an opportunity for broadcasters, OTT providers and mobile operators in many parts of the world.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation