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Satellite operator SES saw its new president/CEO, Karim Michel Sabbagh make a keynote speech, one of his first opportunities to outline his vision for the company, and the broadcasting industry. Sabbagh was speaking at IDATE’s Digiworld event in Brussels on May 13th.
Sabbagh explained that while satellite delivery of ‘one-to-many’ transmissions was a logical, and low-cost, solution for delivering high-bandwidth video, there was also a definite role for broadband as part of the ‘video mix’ and which the consumer now expected in this age of multi-screen and anytime access to content.
He also stressed the inevitable evolution towards extremely high-end 4K/Ultra-HDTV broadcasting. He quoted recent authoritative market analysis which suggests that two-thirds of consumers express a strong desire to own a UHD display once they’ve seen a demo, and around 25 percent of consumers would happily pay a premium to receive UHD signals.
Sabbagh said that the key elements in the 4K eco-system were now coming into play, with lower cost displays now available (“below $700 for 50-inch units”), HEVC codec now in place, HDMI 2.0 being deployed and 10-bit HEVC-60 frames/second now generally accepted as the route forward.
He said that by 2020 SES expected around 200 UHD channels to be on air, with 100 million UHD screens being used and around 50 million HEVC set-top boxes deployed. Jump forward to 2025, he said, and the number of channels would have expanded to around 1000, with more than 500 million UHD displays in use, and 400 million HEVC set-top boxes deployed. “UHD will become mass-market in the next decade, and by 2025 half of all screens and set-top boxes sold will be UHD,” he stated.
But Sabbagh also outlined the challenge for Europe’s terrestrial networks, saying that if consumers were to shift to ‘full OTT’ consumption of video then there would be problems. He outlined that this pattern would consume around 700 Gbytes a month (and where the EU’s average consumption today is about 20 Gbytes per household). Add in Ultra-HD to that consumption pattern and network providers would have to boost capacity to a sustainable peak-time demand equal to at least 20 Mbit/s in order to cope with UHD, “and where the EU’s current observable average speed is just 4.6 Mbit/s.”
He said these challenges risked creating another digital divide for consumers and would need significant upgrading of terrestrial infrastructure, and argued that sums of around €150 billion would need to be invested to achieve these technical minimums.
Instead, he argued, a marriage between satellite and terrestrial was the “distribution solution”, and where satellite handled the heavy lifting of the most popular content, while terrestrial supply was used for interactive services and long-tail catch-up and time-critical access. “By joining forces we would then be able to deliver a sustainable, state-of-the-art experience”.