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DirecTV planning for Ultra HDTV

US pay-TV giant DirecTV will adopt Ultra-HDTV. DirecTV is already planning its future spectrum needs in readiness for U-HDTV. Philip Goswitz, DirecTV’s SVP/Space and Communications/R&D, speaking at the Satellite 2012 event in Washington, said “4,000 and 8,000-line services are great for the satellite industry, and will ensure that satellite broadcasting continues to distinguish itself for image quality of service. We see this as a key strategic advantage for us.”

Goswitz continued: “At DirecTV we see a couple of things happening. First, our subscribers are migrating away from Ku-band, and upgrading themselves to Ka-band and its HDTV services. In four or five years, our Ku-band [transmissions] could end. We are also developing the so-called Reverse Band for DBS services, and these are on our Road Map for future international services. 4000-line is exciting to us because of its image quality, and the potential for glasses-free 3D.”

While Goswitz did not say when 4,000-line services would start, and it is fair to say that there is still a great deal to be done on compression and other enabling technologies in order to bring these super high-resolution images into viewers’ homes, it is nevertheless clear that DirecTV wants to see its lead maintained over terrestrial TV, cable and DSL-type delivery services, and Goswitz sees satellite as maintaining that technological edge.

Japan’s planned introduction of Ultra-HDTV is scheduled for 2020, and will use Ka-band, a largely unused set of frequencies. In February, the ITU’s World Radiocommunications Conference in Geneva also agreed that Ka-band would be used as the future carrier of U-HDTV signals.

DirecTV is already transmitting very successfully in the Ka-band to its North American customers. Indeed, DirecTV could successfully argue that its Spaceway Ka-band satellites are the most profitable satellites being used anywhere as they are helping generate some $20 billion a year in revenues for DirecTV because of their spot-beam and ‘local into local’ HDTV services over North America.

Goswitz admits that few people even know that Ka-band is being used, such is its seamless integration into DirecTV’s overall portfolio of satellite assets.  “I am not even sure our own executives know! They don’t know the difference between Ka and Ku-band, and why should they?”

“But Ka-band doesn’t just mean broadband. To us it means broadcasting. The truth is that as our Ku-band transmissions end, then increasingly every dollar in revenue is attributable to Ka-band. We’ll be entirely Ka-band in about five years. Currently, of our total $27 billion in annual revenues, about $20 billion comes from Ka-band,” said Goswitz.

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