Monday, February 14, 2005

DIRECTV Selects TANDBERG's MPEG-4 Encoders for HD Expansion

DIRECTV has selected TANDBERG Television's MPEG-4 AVC technology in a deal valued at $9 million. DIRECTV, which has more than 13.9 million satellite TV customers in the U.S., will commission the first of 26 MPEG-4 AVC HD enabled transponders in the summer of 2005, marking the first North American launch of advanced HD encoding technology by a satellite direct-to-home (DTH) provider. The multiplexers will combine the MPEG-4 AVC encoded HD channels into one bandwidth efficient stream for transmission over satellite. With the launch of the new services, DIRECTV will have the ability to bring local HD programming to most of the U.S. population.

Each fully redundant system will feature the TANDBERG EN5990, the world's first real-time HD encoder for MPEG-4 AVC and a TANDBERG 1+1 HD multiplexing system. The EN5990 is designed to operate in real-time TV delivery environments with no frame dropping. Key features include extensive video pre-processing for noise reduction and horizontal picture resolution resizing. It is based on the company's HD ICE platform, an array of high-end, general purpose DSPs and FPGAs. The HD ICE platform is also the basis of TANDBERG's EN5980 Windows Media 9 HD encoder.

The encoding systems will be installed at DIRECTV's Los Angeles Broadcast Center and Castle Rock, Co. Broadcast Center along with multiple TANDBERG nCompass control systems between the two sites.

  • In September 2004, DIRECTV announced the planned launch of four new next-generation satellites aimed at significantly expanding its programming capacity in local and national high-definition (HD) channels, as well as capacity for new interactive and enhanced services and standard-definition programming.

  • The first two of these satellites, Spaceway 1 and Spaceway 2, will launch in 2005 with programming being offered to consumers by the middle of the year. These satellites will have the capacity for more than 500 local HD channels. With these satellites, DIRECTV will have the ability to bring local HD programming to most of the U.S. population, as well as continuing to expand standard-definition local offerings and other enhancements.

  • The next two satellites, DIRECTV 10 and DIRECTV 11, will launch in early 2007. These satellites will have the capacity for more than 1,000 additional local HD channels, more than 150 national HD channels, and other new programming offerings. These satellites will provide DIRECTV the capability to bring local and national HD programming and other advanced services to every U.S. household. Consumers will be able to receive all of these services, as well as existing DIRECTV(R) programming, with a single small satellite dish.

  • DIRECTV 10 and DIRECTV 11, to be built by Boeing, will be among the largest and most powerful Ka-band satellites ever launched. The satellites, which will take advantage of DIRECTV's advanced transmission techniques and state-of-the-art video compression technology, will deliver national HD programming and will be capable of supporting spot beams carrying local HD broadcast channels in all 50 states. Boeing will also build a third satellite for DIRECTV that will serve as a ground spare.

  • The Spaceway 1 and Spaceway 2 satellites, also being built by Boeing, are approaching completion and the satellites were recently converted to be capable of offering both video and a broadband Internet service. Boeing is also constructing a third Spaceway satellite. "Today's announcement is one of the most significant in the history of DIRECTV. We are reinforcing our commitment to best serve our customers with the most attractive and compelling array of programming services available," said Mitch Stern, president and CEO, DIRECTV.

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