In 2007, WEGENER, who provides video and audio equipment for the satellite broadcast industry, upgraded its key product lines and expanded the markets and applications that the companys innovative, patented technology serves.
DVB-S2 and MPEG-4/h.264
The past year has witnessed a continual push by major content providers to launch additional HD channels. The amount of HD programming production has increased, as has the manufacture of HD monitors. There is also increased availability of MPEG-4 encoders, cameras and editing equipment.
Industries in addition to network and cable television are embracing HD technology. For satellite providers, the ramp-up for HD programming includes the adoption of DVB-S2 modulation. By combining DVB-S2 modulation scheme and MPEG-4 video compression, content providers can look to save 40-70 percent on bandwidth when distributing live content. WEGENERs private network customers look to deploy this technology to reap considerable benefits. They continue to investigate expansion of their SD and HD channel lineups, as well as how to lower the overall cost of their operations.
The biggest news of 2007 is our support for DVB-S2 next-generation satellite modulation technology, and MPEG-4/H.264 advanced video coding in our new enterprise grade media receiver, the Unity 550-2, said Gary Pelkey, Vice President and Principal Engineer for WEGENER. We recognized that these enabling technologies have reached a critical point of maturity, and that they are available to be incorporated into our products.
Our customers were expressing strong demand for these advanced compression and modulation standards because they offer dramatic savings of bandwidth and improved network transmission capabilities for live broadcasting with private networks, said Pelkey. With the more efficient coding supported in the Unity 550-2, customers can offer multiple standard definition (SD) video channels; or a single digital high-definition (HD) video channel in similar bandwidth to prior technologies.
Introduced at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in April 2007, the Unity 550-2 Enterprise Media Receiver replaces the Unity 500, which is limited to MPEG-2 and DVB-S broadcasting. With the step-up from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 video compression, and from DVB-S to DVB-S2 modulation, the Unity 550-2 is more efficient, with the ability to cut bandwidth usage by 40- to 70-percent. The Unity 550-2 targets customers operating private video networks via satellite, including gaming, faith-based worship, education, government, medical, and retail organizations.
IPTV Set Top Box
Driven by the ever present need for more flexibility and to control the placement of video screens in out-of-home environments, the adoption of IPTV into satellite applications continues to evolve.
We are encouraged by the opportunities in the private network market for utilizing our SMD 515 IPTV set top box to extend the reach of our iPump media servers, stated Ned L. Mountain, President and COO of WEGENER. MPEG-4 high definition and standard definition video is finally ready for wider-scale deployments, which will allow network operators to significantly lower their monthly operating costs or launch additional services.
At NAB, WEGENER also conducted an end-to-end, bidirectional demonstration to showcase live, simultaneous streaming of one SD and one HD MPEG-4/h.264 video feed over an existing VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) network to an SMD 515 IPTV set top box, provided by SDN Global.
According to Pelkey, VSAT is a new area of interest for WEGENER as of 2007. VSAT is typically used in retail networks as a data path over satellite. VSAT always had the capability to support video, but we specifically integrated our SMD-515 and Compel control system to work over a VSAT network so people who have existing VSAT networks can now add Compel control and our SMD-515 receivers giving them a controllable video network.
COMPEL® Network Control
The cornerstone of satellite media distribution systems is network control. 2007 saw improvements in flexibility, reporting, and network scheduling. Overall, manufacturers of network control solutions continue to focus on flexibility for linear broadcasting, file-based workflows and delivery, IPTV, digital signage, VOD, and targeted advertising services.
At NAB, WEGENER gave attendees previews of its next-generation COMPEL network control system, called COMPEL II. The company plans to unveil this product, upgraded with new features and capabilities, at NAB 2008.
COMPEL allows users to control and monitor which video, audio, and data is sent over secure transmission paths to receivers, such as the Unity 550-2. With COMPEL, the receivers can be controlled as individual sites and as a group, with 10,000 ways to segment the target audience.
For retail clients, WEGENER offers system operators complete control over media scheduling, presentation, and delivery of the content through the Compel network control system. System operators can trigger broadcast equipment, insert localized advertisements, configure WEGENER media players, update or delete content, change channels, and manage sound levels across the entire network from that remote control location, with no end-user interaction required.
While most of our customers are transferring their content via satellite, this year, Kamy Merithew, VP Marketing said, Weve added IP delivery to our system in the COMPEL and iPump product lines. This benefits our customers who are expanding into places that are not currently served, or easily served, by satellite networks. By adding IP delivery, weve created a hybrid satellite/terrestrial network that is more versatile in serving their needs.
Most significant here is that these customers can manage their hybrid network as one cohesive network, since their single COMPEL network control system can feed content and manage both their traditional satellite based iPumps as well as Internet-based iPumps, Merithew added.
Eye on Growth Markets
2007 was an active year for WEGENERs many radio network clients, including Jones Radio, which is in the process of upgrading their network. Jones Radio is using the iPump media server at radio stations nationwide to insert localized content and ads into their national broadcasts. Other radio customers using iPump include faith-based radio networks: EMF and Horizon Broadcast; and, new as of 2007, BBC World Service, which distributes its programming in many languages to radio stations globally.
In 2007, WEGENER announced the Big Ten Network (BTN) is now using WEGENERs broadcast solution to distribute digital HD and SD video content to its affiliate network. The Big Ten Network, which covers sports and academic content emanating from the Big Ten Conference of allied universities, is a joint venture between the Big Ten Conference and Fox Cable Networks.
Also, Merithew noted, The digital signage market really gained traction this year. We added a new distributor, SSL in Mexico, which employs our technology for digital signage. Theyre delivering background music, employee announcements, advertising, and point of purchase retail support to a network of retail locations, all equipped with our iPump media servers.
In previous years, wed seen many companies doing test trials of digital signage, but now many are starting to commit to using digital signage to strengthen their branding and distribute information in both corporate and retail settings, Merithew said.
In 2008, Merithew and Pelkey said that WEGENER customers would see continued research and development in the areas of digital signage, file-based workflows and HD video.