FTA platform Freesat has taken satellite capacity to link its channels to a dedicated EPG. Julian Clover reports.
One of this week’s more interesting announcements concerns Arqiva’s contract to provide a satellite distribution contract for the free-to-air satellite platform Freesat. In itself Arqiva’s win is not that great a surprise as the company has contracts to provide the digital terrestrial infrastructure for Freesat’s shareholders the BBC and ITV as well as providing satellite uplink facilities.
The interesting bit is what Freesat is doing with the small amount of capacity that it is leasing from Arqiva. “What we’re providing is capacity for the home transponder, effectively the EPG data,” explained John Bozza, director of broadcast sales, Arqiva Satellite Media Solutions. “Any channel that wants to be on the Freesat electronic programme guide will need their transponder to carry a small amount of linking data.” It makes no difference which company is responsible for uplinking a channel. The EPG will use the same MHEG-5 API adopted by the DTT platform Freeview.
Freesat is now in the process of signing contracts with each of the 200 or so channels that broadcast in the clear at the 28.2 degrees East satellite position over the UK. Although signing up for extra distribution seems like an easy business decision, each of the channels will have to carry a small amount of data in order to link back to the Freesat EPG, in the same way that the channels already transmit similar information for their inclusion on the Sky platform. If as is often the case an independent channel is one of a number contained within a multiplex then the information need only be carried the once. “If there’s a number of channels that want to be on the Freesat EPG that data is then shared between those channels,” confirms Bozza.
The actual amount of data that the Freesat EPG will take up is only in the region of 20 Mbit/s. “Obviously it has to be very secure and very resilient as that’s shat people will be tuning into when they log in to Freesat,” says Bozza. Multiple circuits are being put in place for the platform with the primary circuit in Bedford and back up at Crawley Court in Hampshire and the BBC’s Broadcast Centre in London.
The technical infrastructure for Freesat is clearly coming together, and will assist the Digital TV Group’s testing regime for the new platform, and the first four confirmed manufacturers of Panasonic, Sagem, Alba and Humax. Observers must now wait for the marketing to get underway and how it will be positioned against older brother Freeview, now an established part of the UK broadcasting scene, with access to nine million homes.