Archive for October, 2007

Arctic Russian Telecom

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007


Gilat’s SkyEdge Networks will be expanding their satellite-Internet services in the Russian-arctic North.

Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq:GILT) today announced that North-West Telecom, one of Russia’s largest telecommunications companies, is expanding its Gilat SkyEdge satellite network to bring telephony and broadband Internet services to a growing number of remote communities in North Western Russia.

North-West Telecom originally deployed a SkyEdge VSAT network earlier this year to serve several hundred sites in the Arkhangelsk region. The network expansion will serve many more sites in the Murmansk, Karelia, Komi and Vologda regions and will comprise hundreds of SkyEdge Pro VSATs and more than 60 SkyEdge Gateways that provide high-speed mesh trunking and IP connectivity.

North-West Telecom’s deployment of the SkyEdge VSAT network fulfills a Universal Service Obligation (USO) to meet the modern telecommunications requirements of rural communities. The network is operated by Russia’s leading satellite service provider, Global-Teleport, which will use its SkyEdge satellite hub station based near Moscow. Gilat has been working closely with Global-Teleport to develop several major communications networks in Russia.

“This is the third major USO project that we are deploying based on Gilat’s SkyEdge product. Combined, those projects span Russia. The expansion of the North-West Telecom project reflects the successful completion of the first phase this year," said Alexey Ostapchuk, General Manager of Global-Teleport. “Gilat’s effective combination of leading-edge technology, seamless integration to our existing network, and global experience in USO projects have opened new opportunities for us in the Russian telecom market," he added.

Arie Rozichner, Gilat’s Regional Vice President, Eurasia, said, “A contributing facet of our success in Russia has been our local office that provides the support that our customers require. North-West Telecom’s decision to expand its network with SkyEdge means that our VSATs will continue to help improve the quality of life for citizens in North Western Russia’s rural areas.”

Gilat’s SkyEdge is a satellite communications system that delivers high-quality voice, broadband data and video services over a powerful unified system. SkyEdge represents Gilat’s extensive knowledge base and field-proven product offering, acquired through two decades of experience. SkyEdge’s flexible architecture and efficient space segment utilization make it an ideal platform for operators and service providers.

For an idea of just how "out-there" these provinces are, check out this map. Murmansk, for example, is well above the arctic circle, home port to Atomflot, the world’s only fleet of nuclear-powered ice breakers, and an important Russian naval base. The average January low in nearby Arkhangelsk? Try two degrees farenheit.

To their credit, NW Telecom has been able to brave the cold now for a while: they are celebrating their five-year anniversary by exhibiting at InfoCom-2007 in Moscow, which opened today.

Laser-linked Military Satellites — TSAT

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007


Wouldn’t it be great if our enemies stretched dark fiber across the battlefields, if Baghdad linked T1’s to our bases, if an entire fiber optic network was in place—ready for use—before an invasion.

Think again. As our military becomes increasingly relient on network infratructure to share information, to operate weaponry, to plot strategy, it cannot rely on the local library’s free wi-fi. The solution: satellites, of course. Enter the Transformation Communications Satellite System (TSAT)

As video communications is integrated into robots, soldiers, and UAVs, and network-centric warfare becomes the organizing principle of American warfighting, front-line demands for bandwidth are rising sharply. The Transformation Communications Satellite (TSAT) System is part of a larger effort by the US military to address this need.

The final price tag on the entire TSAT program is expected to reach $14-18 billion through 2016, which includes the satellites, the ground operations system, the satellite operations center and the cost of operations and maintenance. By mid-2007, the U.S. Air Force will either decide to build the TSAT system on its current schedule and launch in 2013-2016, or postpone TSAT, take stopgap measures and add Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites 4 & 5 to the three slated for launch from 2009-2012.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing have won a total of $514 million each in risk reduction contracts for the TSAT SS satellite system, in hopes of making that Plan B unnecessary. The bids are in, and both teams await a decision. TSAT’s $2 billion TMOS ground-based network operations contract is already underway.

The TSAT constellation of satellites, receivers, and infrastructure has seen a recent resurgence of news coverage, and its central role in next-generation US military infrastructure makes it worthy of in-depth treatment. Yet its survival is not assured by any means. Outside events and incremental competitors could spell its end just as they spelled the end of Motorola’s infamous Iridium service.

The report details all aspects of the program, from its background to future challenges.

TSAT promises higher speeds as it uses a new generation of laser-linked satellites. Some prefer more established technologies but at a huge cost — speed:

The AEHF [Advanced Extremely High Frequency] program is running over cost and schedule, but it incorporates more mature technologies. TSAT promises dramatically greater bandwidth and processing capabilities and is considered integral to DOD’s efforts to network all of its weapon systems, but there is much less certainty as to how much the system will cost or when it can be delivered because critical technologies are less mature. Ultimately, the question facing the Transformational Communications Office is whether the TSAT program can successfully integrate leading-edge technologies in time to provide its advertised capabilities, or whether AEHF satellites with just 1/20 the bandwidth capacity represent a safer bet that is guaranteed to deliver something to a bandwidth-starved military.

The reality of space programs is harsh, and unbending. They cannot use the standard ‘fly, fix, fly…’ development approach because the vehicle is placed in orbit. Which means the Air Force has just one shot to be successful. This changes one’s risk calculus, and one’s systems engineering overhead and methodologies as well.


The bottom line remains. Mature technologies are less risky over the short term, but they limit innovation and may lack enough "upside" to meet longer-term needs. As an earlier DID article noted, if the goal of the current set of satellite systems is bleeding edge dominance for reasons of planning or policy, then given the requirements of space launches, the GAO’s findings throughout the TSAT program are what one would expect as the price for having that capability potential.

The greatest threat to the project may not be technology or feasibility — but an inability to defend against external threats. Last January, China succesfully test-destroyed a satellite using an anti-satellite missle. This raises a lot of questions, as Aviation Week reports:

Finally, Wynne said the United States cannot afford the "exchange ratio" of building and deploying multibillion dollar "Battlestar Galactica" satellites that can be destroyed by $100 million antisatellite (ASAT) missiles. In the debate over trying to harden or duplicate space-based capabilities after China’s ASAT test in January, Wynne suggested putting up "enough" assets to beat an enemy but apparently not trying to guarantee an insecure realm.

Space Diving

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007


That’s Captain Joe Kittinger jumping out of a helium balloon in 1960, at a altitude of 20 miles. According to his Wikipedia entry, he actually made three jumps:

The first, from 76,400 feet (23,287 m) in November, 1959 was a near tragedy when an equipment malfunction caused him to lose consciousness, but the automatic parachute saved him (he went into a flat spin at a rotational velocity of 120 rpm; the G factor at his extremities was calculated to be over 22 times that of gravity, setting another record). Three weeks later he jumped again from 74,700 feet (22,769 m). For that return jump Kittinger was awarded the Leo Stevens parachute medal.

On August 16, 1960 he made the final jump from the Excelsior III at 102,800 feet (31,330 m). Towing a small drogue chute for stabilization, he fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds reaching a maximum speed of 614 mph before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet (5,500 m). Pressurization for his right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, causing his hand to swell. He set records for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (14 min) and fastest speed by a man through the atmosphere. [1]

The jumps were made in a "rocking-chair" position, descending on his back, rather than the usual delta familiar to skydivers, because he was wearing a 60-lb "kit" on his behind and his pressure suit naturally formed that shape when inflated, a shape appropriate for sitting in an airplane cockpit.

For the series of jumps, Kittinger was decorated with an oak leaf cluster to his D.F.C. and awarded the Harmon Trophy by President Dwight Eisenhower.

A flat spin at 120 RPM, 22 G’s at his extremities? Would you pay to do something like this? While some are looking to profit from a new extreme sport, others see very practical research objectives, according to the Telegraph (U.K.):

Forget about bungee jumping and hang gliding. The next adrenaline pumping daredevil stunt will be hurtling back to Earth by "space diving," if entrepreneurs and extreme sports enthusiasts have their way.

They are preparing skydives from the edge of space to beat a record set by Captain Joe Kittinger of the US Air Force in 1960, who jumped from an altitude of 20 miles, reaching a speed of around 700 miles per hour in his 13 minute descent to the ground.

They aim to start with a jump from 22 miles to break Kittinger’s record, then build up to 57 miles, which would be the first true space jump. If everything works as planned, paying customers might be able to start their fiery descent from space as early as 2009.

Instead of jumping from the gondola of a helium balloon, as Kittinger did, New Scientist reports today that they will be bailing out from the nose-cone of a rocket ship, one of half dozen or so being developed to loft paying passengers into the heavens for a few minutes of weightlessness and a spectacular view of the Earth.

However, there is a serious underlying purpose since space jumpers will rely on the kind of gear that will be needed in case of emergencies if commercial space travel is ever to become routine.

advertisementThat is the driving force of one of the pioneers, Jonathan Clark, a former Nasa flight surgeon and military high-altitude parachutist, whose wife Laurel was killed during the disintegration of the shuttle Columbia in 2003 during reentry.

Developing space diving as a sport for thrill-seekers is the first step towards equipment that may spare future space travellers the same fate. "It’s almost a passion for me," says Clark, who works at the Space Biomedical Research Institute at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

Armadillo Aerospace of Mesquite, Texas, has been developing a computer controlled vertical take-off, vertical-landing spacecraft for the tourist trade, and the Space Diver team thinks the craft could offer the perfect jumping-off point.

The diver would trigger an airbag, springloaded seat, or a small parachute to move away from the spacecraft as fast as possible, so as to avoid a collision as he tumbled into the abyss. Then it would be up to the spacesuit to make sure the he copes with frigid temperatures and near vacuum to return safely.

Space promoter Rick Tumlinson, who has created the company Space Diver with Clark and others, also founded Orbital Outfitters, Los Angeles, to design, manufacture and lease spacesuits (motto: "Have space suit – will travel").

At an altitude of 20 miles, the air is so thin that there will be no rushing of air and little impression of falling. Gradually, as the air becomes denser, pressure against the diver’s body will increase and air friction will heat the suit, which will contain a circulating liquid cooling system.

One problem under study is how to prevent divers from going into a spin, which could leave them unconscious.The team is still debating whether a head-first posture or the traditional spreadeagled horizontal position is likely to work best. Once within a mile or so of the ground, the main parachute will deploy automatically.

Armadillo’s craft will be commanded from the ground, so after the diver has ejected it will return to Earth automatically. By early next year, Space Diver aims to begin low-altitude tests with dummies, then people, starting at a modest altitude of about two miles. "We need to show that we can leave the vehicle safely," Tumlinson tells New Scientist.

Ultimately, Tumlinson aims to develop technology to allow astronauts to bail out of orbiting craft and return safely to Earth, for instance in small inflatable "lifeboats".

If you can’t wait until 2009, there’s human gliding in the Alps:


STS-120 Launched

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

 Great launch this morning…


Here’s the video, with rocketcam:



Digiturk to Offer IPO

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Digiturk, Turkey’s largest digital television broadcaster, plans to raise as much as $550m in an IPO of 25 per cent of its business, MSNBC reports:

The company is controlled by Istanbul-based conglomerate Cukurova and Providence Equity Partners, a private equity group specialising in media, entertainment, communications and information services. The pair are selling down their holding from 100 to 75 per cent.

The Turkish media sector is experiencing a boom as the country’s strong economic performance drives up advertising revenues. Last year Turkish companies spent 3.7bn lira ($3bn) on advertising, a 23 per cent jump from 2005.

A banker familiar with the situation said: "Advertising spend per capita is still comparatively low in Turkey, at $15 per capita compared to $43 per capita in eastern Europe. This is an under-penetrated market with a relatively young population and these things together add up to good prospects [for Digiturk]."

In the six months to June Digiturk derived 73 per cent of its revenues from subscription fees and 19 per cent from advertising and sponsorship.

Founded in 1999, Digiturk is run by its original management team. It broadcasts 151 Turkish and international channels, 99 of which are exclusive to the provider, and has 1.77m subscribers, having achieved compound annual growth of approximately 40 per cent since 2000.

Digiturk’s programming is carried by Eutelsat’s W3A satellite at 7 West, whose coverage area can be seen here. Digiturk also provides a crucial cultural link back home for the estimated 3 million Turks living as expatriates in Europe. Eutelsat’s sales jumped 6.2% in Q1 of this year.

Also check out this commercial for Digiturk, courtesy of Youtube:

More IPTV via Satellite

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007


I see a competitor to IP-PRIME® on the horizon. EchoStar’s ViP-TV is an interesting adjunct to it’s direct-to-home DISH Network service. The news, via, with discussion thread:

EchoStar Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: DISH) and its subsidiary, EchoStar FSS Corporation (EFSSC), today announced the launch of ViP-TV™ service, through which EFFSC has the ability to transport over 300 channels of secure broadcast quality popular television programming via satellite to Telco, private and rural cable operators, municipalities and master planned community video providers that have obtained rights for distribution of programming over their wire-line networks. ViP-TV is EFSSC’s turn-key solution for wholesale multi-channel content transport and distribution, and offers customers affordable, scalable and aggregated MPEG-4 Internet protocol encapsulated radio and television programming channels from a high-powered Ku-band satellite.

ViP-TV’s suite of channels includes ViP-Premier™, which offers over 100 channels of the most popular television programming, ViP-HD™, which boasts 40 channels of industry-leading high definition programming; ViP-Movies™, a menu of 40 of the most popular movie services; ViP-Latino™, offering 30 of the top-rated Spanish-language programming services; and the ViP-International™ programming package, providing over 30 programming channels in 10 different languages.

The ViP-TV service is also offered in connection with transport of local broadcast networks from more than 165 local designated market areas (DMAs) currently provided by EchoStar to over 1,000 cable and Telco systems in standard definition. VIP-TV also offers transport of high definition local broadcast networks in over 30 local DMAs.

EFSSC’s ViP-TV delivers its service using a high-performance, high-powered Ku Band satellite with full continental United Sates coverage, so that the service can be rapidly deployed and is low cost to maintain. In addition, EFSSC offers full-service design, engineering and installation of head-end equipment together with its award-winning ViP™ series set top box technology and applications.

“ViP-TV is one of the most comprehensive video iP transport and distribution platforms available in the marketplace,” said Michael Kelly, executive vice president of Echostar Fixed Satellite Services. “More than just programming, it is a premier service buoyed by industry-leading technology, service and support. With over 12 years of experience in the transport and distribution business, EchoStar can create a true end-to-end solution offering everything from set top box technology to satellite distribution to service and customer support.”

Add this new entrant to AT&T’s U-verse (read about their outage on Sunday) and Verizon’s FiOS-TV, who are also rolling out IPTV. What ever happened to AvailMedia?

Ballistic Re-entry for Muszaphar

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Ripping through the atmosphere, landing in Kazakhstan. Just a little off target, via

The Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan today, bringing outgoing space station commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, flight engineer Oleg Kotov and Malaysia’s first man in space, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, safely back to Earth after a steeper-than-usual descent that left the ship well short of its intended landing site.

The spacecraft undocked from the aft port of the Russian Zvezda command module around 3:14 a.m. EDT. Yurchikhin fired the capsule’s braking rockets for four minutes beginning at 5:47 a.m. to begin the hourlong descent. At 6:14 a.m., the craft reached the discernible atmosphere at an altitude of 400,000 feet.

Plunging back to Earth from west to east over central Kazakhstan, the flight plan called for a landing near the town of Arkalyk. But for reasons yet to be explained, the Soyuz flew a steeper-than-planned trajectory and landed short of the intended touchdown point, subjecting the crew to higher-than-normal braking forces. It was the first "ballistic" re-entry since the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft returned on May 3, 2003, with the space station’s sixth full time crew.

Landing some 211 miles west of Arkalyk, there was no live television coverage of the landing. But NASA commentator Rob Navias, monitoring the re-entry from the Johnson Space Center’s mission control in Houston, said Russian recovery forces aboard search aircraft spotted the capsule as it descended under its main parachutes at an altitude of about 5,000 feet. Russian flight controllers said recovery crews contacted the cosmonauts during the final moments of the descent and were told the crew was in good shape.



The account, as provided by the Associated Press

A technical glitch sent a Soyuz spacecraft on a wild ride home Sunday, forcing Malaysia’s first space traveler and two Russian cosmonauts to endure eight times the force of gravity before their capsule landed safely.

All three were fine, with medical tests showing they were not injured during the steeper-than-usual descent, Russian Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov said at a news conference at Mission Control in Korolyov, just outside Moscow.

He said space officials and experts had "a few tense moments" but the spacecraft landed safely with the crew in good condition.

The Soyuz — with Russians Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, and Malaysian Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor on board — veered off-course and touched down at 6:36 a.m. EDT, more than 200 miles west of the designated landing site on the steppes of Kazakhstan, Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said.

"That meant that the crew were subjected to higher than normal gravity load on their descent," he told The Associated Press.

Soyuz crews typically must bear four times the force of gravity when the spacecraft returns to Earth. But Lyndin said the glitch meant the crew was subjected to eight times the force of gravity.

Russian teams quickly located the craft, NASA said on its Web site.

Alexei Krasnov, head of the Russian space agency’s manned space programs, said an official commission would investigate the glitch.

"It’s difficult to immediately name a specific reason behind the problem. We need to do an in-depth analysis," he said.

A similar problem occurred in May 2003 when the crew — Russian cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin and American astronauts Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Pettit — also experienced a steep, off-course landing. It then took salvage crews several hours to locate the spacecraft because of communications problems.

Yurchikhin and Kotov were returning home after a six-month stint at the international space station. Sheikh Muszaphar, a 35-year-old physician, had been at the orbital outpost since Oct. 12.

"This is a very momentous and historic occasion for Malaysia," Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters.

During about 10 days in space, Sheikh Muszaphar, fulfilling both his own dream of space travel and his country’s aspirations, performed experiments involving diseases and the effects of microgravity and space radiation on cells and genes.

"I am also very proud … that finally we have joined the small number of nations that have sent their sons and daughters to space," Sheikh Muszaphar wrote in his Web journal before returning to Earth.

The $25 million agreement for a Malaysian astronaut to fly to space was negotiated in 2003 along with a $900 million deal for Malaysia to buy 18 Russian fighter jets.

Back at the space station, the remaining crew — U.S. astronauts Peggy Whitson and Clayton Anderson, and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko — monitored the progress of the Soyuz on its return journey.

Whitson, the station’s first female commander, arrived along with Sheikh Muszaphar and Malenchenko on another Soyuz that lifted off from the Russian-leased launch facility in Kazakhstan Oct. 10.

She and Malenchenko are to spend six months in orbit, while Anderson — aboard since June — is to be replaced in the coming weeks by U.S. astronaut Daniel Tani, who is to arrive on the U.S. shuttle Discovery later this month.

The station’s new crew is to perform space walks linked in part with efforts to expand the station, which is due to add a European Space Agency module and a Japanese module in the coming months.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)



The Man From Hughes

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

We’ve discussed HughesNet at length here at ReallyRocketScience — their ability to expand high-speed Internet access to rural America, to remote villages in Brazil, to Middle-eastern networks, to name a few.

The man behind the plan? Pradman P. Kaul. On Saturday he was interviewed by the New York Times:

Q. It seems that Americans communicate more via high-speed cable and digital subscriber telephone lines than via satellites, suggesting that satellites have not lived up to their promise. Do you agree?

A. No, each technology has its place, and its advantages in terms of applications and when it’s used. Clearly, significantly more bits of data are transmitted on cable and DSL than satellite, but what satellites do well is broadcast and multicast applications, as in the case of DirecTV and EchoStar broadcasting television. They have close to 30 million subscribers. In almost every country in the world, direct-to-home television is going great guns.

A second thing satellites are very good at is, once you put a bit up on a satellite it reaches anywhere in the region that the satellite is serving. There is no place in North America that you can’t reach. The ubiquitous coverage that satellites offer is a major advantage. For broadband Internet access capabilities, there are probably 15 million households in the United States who don’t get it and will not get it for a long time. So satellites play a great role in bridging the digital divide.

Q. Why aren’t cable and telephone companies making a stronger effort to reach all Americans?

A. It’s an economic issue. The cost of running a piece of wire or a piece of optic fiber is high, and it requires a density of subscribers to give them an economic return on the investment. In rural areas, the economics just don’t pay out. With satellites, it doesn’t cost any more to reach the one guy sitting on top of the mountain in the state of Washington than it does the guy in downtown Manhattan.

Q. Can you offer as fast and as robust communications as the cable and telephone companies?

A. The service is robust and in some cases offers a higher level of reliability than you get from cable and DSL. In terms of speed, that’s an economic issue. We just launched a new satellite called Spaceway 3 that will be in service in the United States by January of next year. The speeds that satellite offers can match any speed that is available terrestrially. The question is what you charge for it?

Perhaps most interesting is the deployment of satellite Internet in suburbs:

Q. What is the divide between those who have access to high-speed communications versus those who don’t? Is it an urban-rural split?

A. It’s actually rural and suburban where people don’t have it. It amazes me sometimes when I look at it. Even in major Washington, D.C., suburbs, which is our neighborhood, there are big pockets where you can’t get DSL or cable.

Mr. Kaul received his undergraduate degree from George Washington University and a Masters in electrical engineering from UC-Berkely. His bio is available here.

International News Explosion

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

When you check into a hotel room anywhere in the world, chances are you will have CNN-International. The network launched in 1985, brining 24-hour news programming in English to every corner of the earth, currently reaching 200 million households and hotel rooms in over 200 countries.

Outside of BBC, there wasn’t much competition. Now, it appears a 24-hour news channel explosion is underway:

CNN may have started it all, but international 24-hour television news is rapidly expanding as a bevy of nations are kicking off their own 24-hour multilanguage services, in what observers describe as a global battle of egos and ideas.

The TV news explosion has been most pronounced in the Muslim world, where, until 1996, broadcasts were strictly controlled by the state. Al Jazeera broke that mold, sending its signal out by satellite first throughout the region.

Al Jazeera is now broadcast regularly across the globe. Financed by the emir of Qatar, a nominal U.S. ally, Al Jazeera now has an English-language service and a robust Web site, and reaches an estimated 50 million people.

Here’s a run-down and some of what they’re discussing today:

Al-jazeera: "Mid-East expert admits: No proof of Iran nukes"

CNN International: "Brazilian Grand Prix: And so it ends"

BBC: "Chinese party unveils new leaders"

CCTV (China): "Moon orbiter, Chang’e I, sets to take off" (Sound familiar?)

And it’s not just ad revenue that some of these stations are seeking. There can be a real propoganda edge:

The success of Al Jazeera, abetted by the rapid expansion of communications satellites, was not lost on others — in particular, Iran.

Last July, Iran’s PressTV began English-language satellite broadcasts; Iranian officials said the global broadcasting effort is to counter the pro-Western bias of more established outlets.

"We are the target of global media war, and there is hardly any media delivering on its commitment," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a widely covered address marking the station’s launch. "The media are used by the domineering powers to occupy lands and people’s hearts."

In addition to Iran; France, Russia, and China have all joined the international news club — led by CNN and the BBC — in recent months and years.

Increasingly these new global networks have an anti-American edge. Earlier this year, the insurgent Islamic Army of Iraq went on the air with Al Zawraa — thanks in part to a cooperative Egypt that gave it satellite access.

Perhaps the most virulently anti-American outlet is Venezuela’s Telesur network. Launched In 2005 by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, the network has been assiduously signing deals to have the station carried on cable carriers throughout Latin America. Telesur’s coverage promotes a left-wing bent. Recently Telesur was advertising a special documentary on Che Guevara, the communist guerilla.

Others think its all about good old-fashioned ego:

But Stephen Hess, media expert and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, tells NewsMax that propaganda is generally not the driving force behind these networks. His explanation for the explosion in global television news: "Ego. National ego visited through heads of state."

"I felt that particularly when I looked at the French plans. They want to play with the big nations. This is one way that you get there. You’re almost pushing your way in.

"Hey, what is France’s place in the world today," Hess says. "If we were recreating the Security Council of the United Nations and limiting it to the same people, would France be one of those countries?"

The new France 24 network, with a stated goal of matching CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera, launched its service last December. The network broadcasts in French and English, and has found cable and satellite carriers to take it to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Washington D.C. area. As of Oct. 1, it was offering a trilingual Web site in English, French, and Arabic.

"This channel will not be anti-American," network chief Alain de Pouzilhac told The Washington Post upon its launch. "But this channel has to discover international news with French eyes, like CNN discovers international news with American eyes."

NOTE: While we debate the credibility of some of these new networks (Are they anti-American or just releasing an alternative, albeit reasonable perspective?), NewsMax (the source of this post) often receives a similar debate as to its fairness. Many consider the outlet to have a conservative bent.


DIY Friday: IPTV

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Do you want to create and deliver IPTV content? It may not be as expensive or complicated as you’d expect.

You don’t need a professional studio or a souped-up computer running thousands of dollars of software. Just go open-source:

The ‘Open Source IPTV Production Suite’ is an ensemble of high-level animation, 3D, compositing and editing tools that are available as free, open source GPL applications. However, this is not a direct attempt to duplicate the production tools found in Apple’s Final Cut Studio. It’s an attempt to create a fully functional, professional software suite that is capable of generating high end VFX and 3D animation like those found in Shake and Motion and Maya. Don’t be fooled, just because the software is open source doesn’t mean that it isn’t of professional grade.

This production suite "recipe" links to a variety of programs, from GIMP, an open-source Photoshop clone, to Jahshaka a video editing platform, to Audacity, a audio editor. All of these component are free and open-source (meaning that there is a community constantly improving the product).

So, you’ve created the content, now what do you do with it?

Besides the potential of video over the Internet, thousands of schools, businesses, and churches regularly use their own video networks internally.

But until recently, running video and audio over such a network was tough to pull off. Why? RF-modulated analog video, a common solution that’s still in wide use, can be expensive to set up and technically challenging to maintain. It also suffers from limited, VHS-level resolution. And what about two-way interactivity? Forget it. Many such installations simply make use of another analog technology — a telephone line — to return audio.

But over the last decade, the introduction of MPEG-based hardware (MPEG-1 became a standard in 1992) slowly started to solve the problem of delivering good-quality video over closed networks that a business might use, for example, to deliver training. Buyers of MPEG-based systems, however, still faced outlays for gear including servers, encoders, and decoders to send video to computer screens and television sets.

NAB 2000 changed all that. “At the show, you saw the first practical, dedicated AV hardware that employed IP technology,” says Joe Mendonca, director for streaming and video over IP solutions at North Haven, Conn.-based HB Communications. “This dramatically changed the way we could move audio and video over a network, simplifying installation and making it easy for our customers to use.”

What changed? Although streaming video over the Internet was possible via a new generation of PC cards, the actual video and audio compression was still very compute intensive, making realtime use impractical and production-time-consuming. But by the end of the ’90s, improved technology such as DSP chipsets had enabled realtime compression of video and audio signals.

Combining that compute power with TCP/IP (the technology behind data transmission over the Internet) means that video and audio can be just as flexible in their distribution as anything else that goes over the Internet.

There are further benefits. Since IP gear can use the same Ethernet networks that already exist in many of today’s businesses, schools, and other institutional settings, there’s a built-in distribution network. That networking technology is far cheaper and easier to deploy and manage than single-use cabling such as the coax used by RF-based video distribution systems.

In addition to giving some encouragement (and history), the above article also details some hardware and software solutions for IPTV network delivery, mainly VBrick and Winnov.

Also, Ruckus Wirless provides a wirless option worth considering.