Hamid Ouddane, TBS contributing editor
year's CABSAT attracted around 400 companies from some 50 countries
and a number of national pavilions, including the UK, China,
Germany, and Korea. The event focused on three main sections:
Cable & Satellite, Communications, and Broadcast & Production.
It also marked the kick off of the first Middle East Broadcasting
Conference, and the Middle East Satellite Summit. The Middle
East Broadcasting Conference was organized by APBU (Asia Pacific
Broadcasting Union) in association with ASBU (Arab States Broadcasting
Union) and IABM (International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers),
while the Middle East Satellite Summit was organized by the
GVF group (Global VSAT Forum). The first highlighted technologies
and systems for the broadcast market, the second provided insights
into new broadcasting and telecommunications applications.
its content management, storage, archival and retrieval solution
for production and broadcast environments. Despite its young
age (two and a half years) as a Media and Entertainment Unit,
IBM has managed to get right into the ME market with deployments
in Cairo for Rotana TV and Melody TV. Of the two deployments,
the most exciting is Rotana's, as this project was to digitize,
store, and manage Rotana's music library, some five thousand
multimedia clips, and more than a thousand feature films. Rotana's
choice of an IBM solution over other TV industry veterans such
as the 33-year old Leitch and its NEXIO Servers deployed at
rival ART in Amman is another example of how IT companies and
TV-centric companies compete on the same ground.
Of the ME
broadcasters, al-Majd and e-Vision (Emirates Cable TV &
Multimedia) were the only ones present at CABSAT. Al-Majd signed
a $3.5 million contract with Homecast, a Korean STB provider,
for the supply of 50,000 receivers. At $70 per unit, al-Majd's
goals are most likely based on a channels package offer with
little room for possible added-values services.
e-Vision came to CABSAT with a demonstration of High Definition
Television (HDTV) supported and carried by its infrastructure,
using Thomson HD decoders. Although e-Vision did not provide
information on the possible provision of such a service, the
demonstration was a tacit commitment to capitalize on the adoption
of the latest technologies in TV entertainment. However, one
might be excused for wondering why an Electronic Program Guide
is absent from its platform. The battery of channels they offer
from the three ME DTH players, its own channels and other pass-through
ones, makes e-Vision a very compelling destination, but the
lack of a what-to-watch map emphasized by an EPG could turn
back many new subscribers, or, even worse, inflate churn numbers.
operators and services providers ranged from the likes of Eutelsat,
Hellas, and Globecast to the Arabsat and Dubai-based SamaCom.
In an effort to claim a leading position in the Middle East,
Arabsat showcased the "First Live HDTV Broadcast"
in the region, in the form of a Sony HDTV camera shooting live
from the Arabsat booth at CABSAT and a Harmonic MPEG-2 HD encoder
with the signal uploaded by Samacom teleport onto Arabsat 2D.
From a receiver, the feed ends on an HDTV screen. Although CABSAT
booth images were a poor choice for an HDTV prowess demo, Arabsat
made its point. The other big news was about Arabsat fourth
generation satellites. Named 4A & 4B and scheduled for launch
in the 4th quarter of 2005 and 1st quarter of 2006 respectively,
both will be co-located at 26E.
the disappointing part of CABSAT: there were no interactive
applications companies, with the exception of e-Vision announcing
its basic interactive service (mainly plane games for now, developed
by French HTTV) and a keynote at the Middle East Broadcasting
Conference by the German company Frauhofer IMK, presenting the
advantages of adopting MHP for iTV applications developments.
It seems the Middle East region is of little interest to iTV
companies, or at least that the market is not yet mature enough
to justify participation at CABSAT.
is the case of satellite-broadband where many companies are
trying to grab a share of the region's market in providing a
fast, reliable, two-way connection, with Internet being the
main offer. The Middle East Satellite Summit debated whether
satellite broadband could compete with fixed-line broadband.
Some panelists based their arguments on the Middle East's tele-density
and distances, which make telcos reluctant to wire all regions.
According to them, this should make the satellite broadband
a winner. But with a $2,000 terminal to buy, I can see only
SME and corporates signing for it. The PanAmSat panelist's presentation
was the most interesting to me, as it demonstrated that satellite
broadband is complimentary to the fixed-line offer. If the region
can adopt prices such as US-based Hughes Network Systems DirectWay
offer in New York, priced at a monthly $59.99, and a terminal
priced at less than $600, then satellite's broadband future
might become brighter here.
considers Dubai's location, all the media-centric things that
are happening there, and all those big Arab and Asian regions
that still yearn for quality entertainment at the industry's
highest standards, one can look forward to bigger and richer
CABSATs in the years to come.
Ouddane is DVB Interfaces Specialist at Orbit's Broadcast
& Technology Department in Rome. With more than eight years
of experience in the broadcast industry, he works on solutions
related to digital TV.
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