Satellite operator SES has demonstrated a new way of distributing satellite signals in the home. SAT-IP converts satellite signals to internet protocols for distribution to devices and displays within the home. Programme streams are forwarded over the data network transparently, without transcoding, using standard network protocols. This could radically simplify multiroom and multiscreen distribution. SES operates a fleet of 50 satellites, including the Astra constellation that is used to deliver services such as Sky television.
The SAT>IP protocol was developed jointly by SES, BSkyB and the Danish television software company Craftwork. It was designed to support anything from consumer-in-home distribution to larger multi-dwelling unit, hospitality and other professional applications.
It envisages a satellite signal being received and demodulated by a SAT>IP server. That could take place in a master set-top box, a receiver close to the satellite dish, or even be integrated in the antenna itself. The server is connected to a data network, over which the streams can be delivered using existing wired and wireless network infrastructure.
The SAT>IP protocol is based as far as possible on existing internet protocols and is designed in such a way as to be integrated easily into DLNA compliant environments and devices. Servers can provide satellite media streams in unicast or multicast mode and also support HTTP stream delivery.
Clients request access to satellites, transponders and streams using standard internet protocols, based on either RTSP or HTTP. Only requested streams are carried over the IP network. Multiple servers and clients can coexist on the same network. The system is intended to work for both free to air and pay-television.
A demonstration was given at the annual SES industry conference, showing satellite programmes distributed over various IP networks, including Ethernet, PowerLine, Plastic Optical Fibre and WiFi.
Network connected devices, such as personal computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, connected televisions, games consoles and media players are able to receive satellite programming delivered using the system.
It is claimed that many network clients and existing set-top boxes can be upgraded to SAT>IP reception through a software upgrade.
Companies like Elgato have pioneered terrestrial and satellite receivers that enable broadcast signals to be delivered to computers connected to a home network. So far this has been the province of early adopters.
SAT-IP will become an official standard, open to all manufacturers, allowing a neutral environment that can support multiple devices.
Current prototypes allow for the reception of up to eight channels on eight different screens in the home.
“SAT>IP is a quantum leap for the industry and the TV viewers and shows SES’ role in pioneering technological developments in the media and TV industry,” said Thomas Wrede, their vice president for reception systems.
“We see how consumers are increasingly complementing their TV viewing experience with alternative devices. Our new way of connecting devices will allow millions of consumers to enjoy satellite TV on multiple screens with the highest convenience and quality. With SAT-IP, we also give an important impulse to the industry, creating an open standard that allows manufacturers to realise innovative distribution solutions.”
The first SAT-IP based products are scheduled to be available later in 2012.
The Craftwork DVB>IP home network technology could equally be applied to digital terrestrial or cable television signals.
Confidence in the security of conditional access will be critical to industry acceptance for premium pay-television programming.