At a conference hosted by the Satellite Interference Reduction Group (sIRG) and Global VSAT Forum (GVF), which was held in Amsterdam on 8th September, Eutelsat announced that from 30th June 2012 Carrier ID will be integrated into transmission parameters for SNG transmissions and new DVB broadcasts for all Eutelsat customers. This announcement from Eutelsat is a huge breakthrough in the fight against interference and I fully expect it to have far-reaching and positive consequences for the entire industry.
In The Beginning
Satellite interference has been the scourge of our industry for a number of years now, and until very recently we dont seem to have moved forward with putting a stop to it. We are putting more and more pressure on satellites, with a phenomenal amount of media and data streaming, for broadcast, military, global positioning, and a whole host of other uses.
With so much data, and so many different sources, you can see how it is easy for the system to breakdown, whether that be through human error, equipment failure or bad installation.
With so many satellites orbiting our planet, (and more to come!) the first thing that a user must do is point it at the right one, and with orbital spacing as little as 1.5 degrees, mistakes are easily made. As important is the frequency at which the user transmits to the satellite this has to be correct. In addition, the power at which the signal is transmitted is often forgotten, yet another important factor: Too low and its too weak, too high and it shows up in adjacent satellite spectrum. As a consequence, this delicate setup is inherently prone to human and equipment error.
Carrier Identification is one of the key initiatives being driven by sIRG and other organisations dedicated to reducing interference. It is important to remember that it is not the whole solution, but it will drastically reduce the impact of satellite interference, by enabling operators to pinpoint the source the instant that interference occurs.
At the start of 2011, sIRG announced its intention to get the entire industry on board with video Carrier ID in time for the 2012 Olympics. As I have said many times before, surely for broadcasters, there could be no better goal than one of the biggest broadcasting events. Given the scale of the event, there will naturally be additional satellite activity, with broadcasters from across the world descending on London to transmit feeds to send, via satellite, to their home countries. And with so much activity, the risk of satellite interference increases, and so too does the need to take measures to reduce it.
That said, I do appreciate as much as anyone that the goal of getting the entire industry on board by summer next year is no mean feat, especially considering that it really does mean integrating it throughout the entire chain, with Carrier ID firstly needing to be embedded into all relevant satellite products, as well as being used on all video satellite transmissions. No easy task and one, which many could have said was not possible. However, this announcement from Eutelsat takes us an enormous leap closer toward achieving that goal.
From June 30, 2012, all SNG transmissions and new DVB broadcasts over Eutelsat satellites will have to integrate Carrier ID. That means Eutelsat customers now have to ensure they can comply with this. What is interesting is that many of them already can, they simply didnt realise that their existing products have Carrier ID integrated. So my advice to anyone in that boat is to double check whether its already there before buying new equipment. Indeed, for many, it will be a free firmware upgrade!
The Correct Equipment
At the other end of the supply chain, it is equally important to ensure that manufacturers are integrating Carrier ID into their products, otherwise the Eutelsat announcement will be a moot point. We have been working closely with manufacturers to ensure their involvement, and IBC brought yet another breakthrough which will also take us closer to our global goal of Carrier ID on all transmissions by January 1st, 2015.
Comtech EF Data developed a technology called MetaCarrier that is used to embed Carrier ID on video and data SCPC carriers within the modulation process. The Meta prefix is used in its meaning of a carrier used to describe another carrier. In this case, MetaCarrier means that we have a separate carrier that contains the ID information, which is used to describe the working carrier it is associated with. What is unique is that the MetaCarrier is embedded using spread spectrum techniques within the carrier, without appreciable degradation to the working carrier itself.
At IBC, a number of modem manufacturers agreed to work together to formalize a standard for the insertion of new Carrier ID technology within the DVB specification, leaning towards a technology based solution such as the Comtech MetaCarrier. Those discussions had already begun before IBC finished! We now hope to have the DVB Carrier ID process started as early as October 5th, 2011!
Naturally the announcement from Eutelsat caused ripples throughout the industry. Eutelsats customers are taking immediate measures to ensure they can be ready to comply, and other satellite operators are defining their strategies. One of the difficulties however for other operators are the different demographics involved, and those operators will have to take a more tiered approach to implementing Carrier ID.
That said I do fully expect to begin seeing announcements from other operators to initiate that process of integrating Carrier ID throughout the chain and I still fully believe that we can make this happen for video transmissions in time for the 2012 Olympics. With industry support we can achieve Carrier ID, globally.
The Satellite Interference Reduction Group (sIRG) is the global industry organisation, whose mission is to combat and mitigate radio frequency interference (RFI) for an interference-free Satellite Frequency Spectrum. The organisations main mission objectives are:
Increase, improve, and expand interference awareness, inform and support operators, users and agencies
Coalesce regulatory entities, operators, users, industry groups, and equipment manufacturers to help stop interference
Promote improved practices and investigate new technologies and techniques to mitigate satellite interference