Ka-band offers cost-savings to TV Newsgathering

With more than 40 Ka-band satellites expected to be launched over the next couple of years, the massive additional capacity is expected to have a considerable impact on the TV newsgathering industry.

Richard Lamb, Senior Director, OU Operations, SES
One of the satellite operators taking a share of the market is SES which sees Ka-band playing an increasing role in the transmission and distribution of video. Richard Lamb, Senior Director OU Operations, said he believes Ka and Ku-band will have their separate roles but that Ka will not replace Ku.

He explained, “If you’re covering a big game in the Premier League you're probably not going to be using Ka, you'll be using Ku. But if there are four or five other simultaneous cameras at the match, one behind the goal, one in front, one from a helicopter, well actually they could be Ka - saving you some costs.”

The price differential between wholesale Ka and Ku space segment is large. “Ka is significantly cheaper and can be as much as 50% cheaper,” said Richard. “If somebody is adding value - an uplink chain, a distribution model, a complete proprietary network landed into the internet and delivered - then that statistic doesn't work. You're still probably cheaper but it's probably in the order of 10 or 15% cheaper than a similar managed Ku network.”

Ka has been used by satellite operators for more than a decade but with prices coming down and hardware much more readily available, its adoption by broadcasters is expected to be fast.

However, sceptics say Ka-band will always be vulnerable to adverse weather conditions and rain fade. But Richard counters this argument saying: “People didn't like Ku when it came out first because of rain fade. Well everyone is using Ku now. Some people don't like Ka because of rain fade. Rain fade is much more severe in Ka - I'm not trying to belittle the rain fade. But we have more advanced technologies and methodologies for mitigating that rain. Or, if the event is so important, you have a choice so don't use Ka, because Ku is not going away and I think that's an important message. This isn't a change of technology from Ku to Ka; this is an additional bandwidth that's opening up which will provide much lower cost per megabit to customers who have the right application to use it.”

Currently SES is offering space segment only, rather than the fully managed Ka service provided by Eutelsat. Richard said, “We like being in the wholesale arena selling raw bandwidth for other people to use. But just because SES today does not have a managed system, I fully believe that a company - a reseller or a service provider that is neutral and independent of SES - will take our wholesale capacity and they will build a network for a clientbase. So I fully expect within a year or two, there will be a similar product as the Eutelsat managed network or the Avanti-typesystem on our satellites.”
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