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INSIGHT: The Hybrid Triple Play Is Here To Stay
Northern Sky Research

by Patrick French

In the satellite industry, the word ďhybridĒ is used in reference to a variety of types of services. Often the context is some combination of satellite and terrestrial technology that is used to provide a service to an end-client. A typical example would be to use satellite to connect a remote location to a teleport, and then use fiber to backhaul the traffic from the remote site to another location, or for access to the greater Internet backbone.

There are about as many different variants on this concept as one can imagine. However, in all instances, the driving principle is to use the individual strengths of the satellite and terrestrial worlds, in order to come up with the most cost effective solution for a specific customerís needs. The whole point (after all) is not to expect that satellite and terrestrial services should always be in competition. Rather, that the services should find ways to be implemented in unison resulting in the whole is better than the individual parts.

An interesting trend for bringing together satellite and terrestrial technologies has been debuting around the world for the last few years. NSR believes the acceptance of this hybrid architecture has reached a cusp that could move it from usage in a few limited circumstances, to a broad, new, and potentially large, emerging market for the satellite industry. This application is the Hybrid Triple Play. In short, NSR defines this application as using the broadcasting power of satellite for television, and the efficient two-way pipe of copper-based DSL for broadband Internet access and voice. This merges all three services onto one single box inside the consumerís home.

Those in the satellite industry are well aware that satellite broadcast of television content is the single, most cost effective way of delivering large quantities of video to a consumerís home. This is regardless of the customerís locale. However, satellite is less cost effective when it comes to competing head-to-head with cable modem, and DSL for broadband/voice services.

Conversely, bandwidth availability for a DSL based service is very much dependent on the distance that the client is from the Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM). Telcos have been extremely successful in rolling out triple play services in high-density populated areas with good copper infrastructure. Yet the telcos face many hurdles when it comes to provisioning these same services to subscribers that are a bit too far from the DSLAM. The rapid growth in HD programming, and desire to offer a large selection of channels, means telcos quickly run into bandwidth problems even just a few kilometers from a DSLAM. Additionally, the cost of upgrading the infrastructure cannot always be offset by new subscribers because the services are provisioned to lower density areas.

An excellent example of the above issue for telcos is Orange, France Telecomís broadband, mobile telephony, and IPTV service provider. France Telecom recently released press statements specifying, while it can offer DSL broadband services to the large majority of households in France, it can only offer its triple play service of broadband access, television, and telephony to about half of Franceís households. Those served are mainly in the city and town centers.

To keep growing their lucrative triple play services, Orange sought a way to quickly increase its addressable market without breaking the bank on infrastructure upgrades to its copper network. This was especially true in areas of the country where it would be a long time, if ever, before the company could recoup the investment. Further, Orange was under time constraints to reach a larger audience quickly, so it could profit by its recently acquired rights to Ligue 1 football for the 2008 to 2012 seasons commencing this summer.

To overcome these challenges, France Telecom recently turned to Eutelsat to supply capacity on its Atlantic Bird-3 and Hot Bird satellites. Using this capacity, Orange will begin to broadcast its Orange TV offer over satellite. They will have, essentially, 100 percent coverage of French households as of this coming summer.

For the end consumer, the result will essentially be invisible, at least inside their house, as all three services (broadband, TV, and telephony) will be integrated into a single box, just as if the consumer lived in a city center and subscribed to the current triple play offer. The only difference is that the television content will be fed into the box directly from a satellite dish on the outside of the residence, as opposed to being piped over the DSL copper infrastructure. Proving you can get what you donít see.

About the author
Mr. French joined Northern Sky Research in September 2003 and has since authored numerous studies, the most recent being the Global Assessment of Satellite Demand, 2nd. Edition and Broadband Satellite Markets 5th. Edition. He has sought to expand NSRís coverage of the satellite industry into areas such commercial satellite supply and demand modeling, video distribution and contribution, DTH, telephony and narrowband VSAT networks. In addition, he has undertaken client specific projects in diverse satellite applications and intends to broaden NSR coverage of the European satellite industry.