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FEATURE: Changing DBS Delivery
by Troy Brandon, Product Manager, Entropic Communications

Over the last five years, the satellite market has continued to increase subscribers globally and is projected to grow at 10.5 percent compound annual growth rate through 2012.

This growth is largely driven by the attractive packages and the availability of HD content, live sporting events, ethnic programming, local content, and premium movies which provide entertainment value to the end consumer. Consumer demand for advanced entertainment options such as digital video recorder (DVR), or personal video recorder (PVR), and their high satisfaction with the experience is lowering service provider churn rates. The phenomenon is helping service providers offset the investment required to deploy these advanced services and remain competitive.

Installation Complexity
Changes in the TV viewing experience and the adoption of DVRs, sometimes multiple DVRs per household, have created an increasingly complex, difficult, and expensive installation for DBS service providers. Traditional DBS installations consist of one or more dishes with an applicable low noise block (LNB) converter.

The output(s) of the LNB is either run directly to each satellite set top box (STB) in the home, or to a multi-switch in which the outputs are then run to the STB. An individual cable run is required from either the LNB, or multi-switch, to each tuner in the STB. A typical DVR/PVR has at least two tuners to support watch and record functionality. For a traditional DBS installation, this DVR would require two cable runs to the STB. A home with three DVR STBs would require six cable runs. One can see how this complex cabling architecture would be an area of concern for the DBS Operator and homeowner alike.

Many new customers are unaware of these cabling complexities when signing up for a new DBS subscription or DBS service. In San Diego, local installers report initial installation rejection rates as high as 15 percent. For the operators, consumer rejection not only represents lost subscription revenues, but also higher operating costs. For example, at the point of rejection, the DBS Operator has invested in the installer’s truck roll and all the equipment required for the expected installation, but has nothing to show for it. The customers, who do not reject the DBS installation, have to live with unsightly large cable bundles required to support the complex cabling network

However, in most U.S. homes, there is a cabling network already in place. This usually consists of a single point of entry at the curb or garage with splitters used as required to support multi-room outlets. This preexisting network goes largely unused during a traditional DBS installation, resulting in a lost opportunity to leverage the existing cabling and extra labor and material costs to the Operator.

DBS customers and operators alike face another problem with traditional installations when upgrades or additional services are implemented. For most installations, an installer would typically add exactly enough cabling to support the customer’s initial order. For example, if the customer wanted a DVR in the main viewing location and a single tuner STB in the master bedroom, the installer would run the required three cables, hook up the STBs and leave. A few months down the road after the customer has fallen in love with the DVR convenience, they call up the Operator to swap out the single tuner STB in the master bedroom with a DVR. This upgrade will require another truck roll to the premise, another cable run to the master bedroom, and then the simple swap out of STBs.

With most large DBS Operators offering some form of Pay Per View (PPV) or Video on Demand (VOD) services, each STB is typically required to connect to a phone line. In many cases, the DBS installer must install a phone jack near the STB or run long phone lines around the room. In addition to these advanced services, DBS Operators need to incorporate Home Networking capabilities such as Multi Media over Coax (MoCA) into their systems. Traditional DBS systems require the full 950MHz to 2150MHz band to be used to support all the channels, below this band is Cable and Terrestrial TV. This does not leave large gaps of open bandwidth on a cable network.

The Single Wire Solution
Satellite service providers are investing in ways to reduce the problems associated with providing advanced services to their subscriber base and simplify the overall installation and upgrade process. The viable solution should allow for easy installation, easy upgrades, multiple tuner support and enhanced aesthetics for the subscriber.

This solution exists and is being adopted today by DBS providers in the U.S. and Europe. The solution leverages the coax infrastructure already in the house and delivers DBS programming over a single wire.

Channel Stacking Switch (CSS) products support multiple polarity bands down a single cable. Instead of switching the entire polarity band down the cable as in traditional multiswitch products, a CSS IC allows just the customer requested 32MHz channel to be switched down the cable. This allows many tuners to be supported inside the home across the 1.2GHz of total BW available. There is filtering required to ensure that each video channel (or User Band) does not interfere with each other, which bumps the channel spacing to ~102MHz. This allows for 12 unique tuners to be supported down a single cable run.

With a CSS integrated solution the DBS Operator can provide a customer installation experience without the complexities tied to typical installations. A single cable feed into preexisting coax wiring not only drastically simplifies the installation but also provides substantial material costs savings. The “No New Wires” ideal is a reality with CSS products. The Installer is in a much better position to up-sell equipment at the customer site and utilize best practices for the installation. Fewer HW connections lend to higher reliability and an improved HD experience for the end user.

This product provides the future proofing needed for allowing plug and play upgrades. When a user wishes to upgrade to a DVR the DBS Operator can ship the product directly to the customer versus an expensive service call.

A single cable network allows VOD and PPV support with only a central conveniently located phone line connection versus a connection at each STB location. Additionally, with the CSS frequency agility, a DBS Operator is able to create large chunks of BW within the 950MHz -2150 MHz band. This entire band is reserved for DBS service, which provides the Operator means to incorporate a whole home networked system. Providing a solution for advanced services has a major positive impact on the DBS Operator’s ability to compete in the competitive business of Pay-TV.

A CSS solution enables DBS Operators to lower their Subscriber Acquisition Cost (SAC) by reducing equipment and installation costs, increase Annual Revenue Per User (ARPU) by enabling churn reducing DVRs and advanced commercial services such as VOD and Whole Home Networking. Installation complexities are removed as a barrier to entry and upgrade costs are drastically reduced. A single cable network increases reliability and quality of service while providing a shielded closed network to each home viewing location. When CSS and home networking solutions such as MoCA are combined, DBS Operators increase their competitiveness and ability to satisfy the consumer.

About the author
Troy Brandon has more than 18 years of experience in the RF Industry.  Troy retired from the Navy in 1995 where he maintained and integrated various Radar, Communications, and GPS systems. At Space Systems Loral, Troy ran the RF Products Microwave division. Using advanced techniques Troy’s team enabled complex and tightly specified MIC and MMIC designs for >15yr on orbit guaranteed performance. Troy transitioned to REMEC Wireless and Defense where he managed the ODU product line for their highly integrated RF Microwave Outdoor Unit point to point and point to multi-point radios used in the cellular and data backbone market. Troy made the transition to the RF on a chip sector when he joined RF Magic, which was later acquired by Entropic Communications. Troy currently manages all Marketing aspects of the DBS ODU Product Line from New Product Proposal to End of Life.