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Typical Boeing 702 satellite
More bandwidth could mean better quality

Millions of Americans use DirecTV's satellite network to enjoy digital programming. The shift from Standard Definition to High Definition has boosted demand for more bandwidth, especially for channels in 1080p. More bandwidth also reduces the need for signal compression, mitigating the risk of unsightly artifacts.

The company claims that their new DirecTV 12 satellite will boost their HD capacity by 50 percent and enable them to dish out more than 200 national HD channels and 1,500 local HD channels. DirecTV currently offers around 130 national HD channels.

DirecTV 12 is a model 702 satellite built by Boeing in El Segundo, California. It will join four other DirecTV satellites in broadcasting HD signals to North America, including Hawaii and Alaska. 131 national and spot-beam Ka-band transponders are used, while the payload includes two 9.2-foot reflectors and nine smaller antennas.

"With the successful launch of our DirecTV 12 satellite, we will have the capacity to dramatically expand HD and movie choices for our customers and further extend our content and technology leadership," said Romulo Pontual, DirecTV's Chief Technology Officer.

"With a robust fleet of 11 satellites, including five spacecraft delivering HD programming, advanced transmission and set-top box technology, we are able to provide our customers with an unparalleled viewing experience and maintain a significant competitive advantage for many years to come."

DirecTV 12 is currently being maneuvered into a circular orbit at 102.8 degrees West longitude for testing. It is expected to begin regular broadcast operations in the second quarter of 2010.

Dish Network, DirecTV's primary competitor, recently began broadcast operations on Nimiq 5, a Loral FS1300 satellite that uses 32 Ku-band transponders. That capacity was originally supposed to be used by Canadian satellite TV provider Bell TV, but a last minute deal resulted in Dish Network leasing that capacity instead. Meanwhile, Bell TV has resorted to heavy signal compression as it awaits the launch of a substitute satellite.

There are currently no plans by DirecTV for more satellites, according to a company spokesperson.



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lets not be naieve
By tastyratz on 12/30/2009 10:59:07 AM , Rating: -1
Satellite HD is notoriously under par compared to land line offerings because of obnoxious over compression. The reality is they wont turn back now and relax the over constriction they have... they will just cram more channels in. Most people don't understand the concept of bitrate, but they DO understand 1080p (even if its squished so much it looks much worse than 720p)




RE: lets not be naieve
By mdg1019 on 12/30/2009 11:23:02 AM , Rating: 4
It's just the opposite in my area. Cable HD sucks totally. Only a handful of channels and the quality is really bad. :(


RE: lets not be naieve
By v1001 on 12/30/2009 11:30:35 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah I don't know what you are talking about. At least with DirecTV it looks awesome to me. Cable is always the one that is way overcompressed and can't keep up with satellite bandwidth. Only so much you can through that cable line. Comcast is constantly cutting quality to try to add more HD.


RE: lets not be naieve
By Adul on 12/30/2009 11:29:58 AM , Rating: 2
You on satellite at all? The quality on directv and dish is far better than cox ever had in my area. Every since the new satelites went up, directv reduce the compression used on their channels so the quality improved greatly. I don't see compression artifacts.

Still not as good as blueray, but far from subpar.

Just read the avsforum or sateliteguys.


RE: lets not be naieve
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2009 4:04:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Every since the new satelites went up, directv reduce the compression used on their channels so the quality improved greatly.


I think back when sat #11 went up, that allowed DirecTV to finally switch some of the HD running in restricted bandwidth mode to higher def and for the legacy MPEG-2 HD channels (w/high compression) over to MPEG-4 for much improved performance. That was something like a year ago I vaguely recall.


RE: lets not be naieve
By Adul on 12/30/2009 11:31:52 AM , Rating: 2
another note, I think you are being ignorant.


RE: lets not be naieve
By tastyratz on 12/30/2009 1:14:14 PM , Rating: 1
of what? spec's? maybe simple math? Please let me enlighten you.

1920x1080 is 2.1 megapixels, 1366x768 is 1.0MP. right there we are talking about double the information for a single frame. Breaking 1080p up to 1080i lessens that burden of bandwith quite a bit... but a 1080p signal requires MUCH MUCH higher bitrates to produce a good clean signal.

Now lets look at 256quam for cable with a bandwith of 38.8Mb each. Comcast is currently doing 3 channels per quam making it 12.93Mb

Dish does 7 HD channels on a 43meg transponder, Directv has 5 on a 38meg transponder. This makes an averaged 6.14 & 7.6 respectively.

Right there - Sattelite is working with around HALF the bandwidth per channel by that math. Trying to squeeze 1080p signals now in that much room means its being compressed to HELL. The times I have had to watch satellite at a friends how I was awestruck at the difference as well as whats passed off as HD these days.

By no means do I think cable even looks good, fios gives 30% o so more leeway and bluray is far more than that... but land services certainly overshadow any satellite offerings right now. Do your research.


RE: lets not be naieve
By omnicronx on 12/30/2009 3:02:34 PM , Rating: 5
A few things wrong with your post..

First, you can't just gives an HD resolution and talk about bandwidth without knowing the HZ value. The reason being is that this is how many times the frame/field is shown on the screen per second. I only bring this up because as far as I know DirectTV uses 1080p/24HZ for their 1080p broadcasts.(This is actually the default for 1080p content such as BD too). Where things become tricky is when you actually do the math and you will find that 1080i/60 (normal 1080i broadcast) actually uses more bandwidth than 1080p/24 (about 20% more actually).

1080i/60: 1920 * 540 = 1036800 pixels per field * 60 fields per second = 62208000 pixels per second.

1080p/24: 1920 * 1080 = 2073600 pixels per frame * 24 frames a second = 49766400 pixels per second.

Second, ALL cable companies still use Mpeg2 based encoding, while DirectTV is moving to Mpeg4. You could get almost 2 times the compression just because of this.

Third, While QAM256 supports up to 38M per 6mhz space, no service, even FIOS has ever even come close, nor will they any time soon. I think the best channel hits around 18Mbps. This is for two reasons, bandwidth concerns, and the lack of scalability of mpeg2.

So.. as for the math..

Using 1080p/24 20% deduction
Using Mpeg4 40-50% deduction

Suddenly your math doesn't seem so clear.. I would expect the service to be slightly inferior to Fios depending on your TV. (With the opposite results you would think, a cheaper TV could potentially look better on DirectTV as Fios @ 1080i would require your TV to do the heavy lifting, while DirectTV is already a progressive signal.)

Satellite can roll-out new technologies much faster than Cable, while I would never have satellite as I've seen and heard the nightmare stories (during thunderstorm etc), DirectTV is definitely looking like a nice solution, especially with the mass amount of HD channels.

Of course this all assumes mpeg4, which is what DirectTV will rely on more and more as time goes on. Meanwhile Cable is still stuck with mpeg2, and while they are already rolling out boxes with mpeg4 support, the signal will most likely remain mpeg2 for some time.


RE: lets not be naieve
By tastyratz on 12/30/2009 3:48:41 PM , Rating: 2
Excellent points, I didn't even consider the 24p rate dropping down requirement down to less. Thank you for pointing that out.

Sat. based broadcast is moving to mpeg4 h.264 - but it is NOT all already there. Future channels and some existing ones are - but more often than not hd channels right now are all mpeg 2 as well.

Mpeg4 is certainly better and should have probably been adopted long ago by ALL parties. Cable is looking at it but Satellite has the jump on them there. They will probably all be mpeg4 before real catv rollout begins.

To clarify on your third point - each qam256 supports 38M however they fit 3 HD channels into that single space... so while each CHANNEL might not hit 38m, the 3 channel wide space will.

I also probably will never get Satellite myself due to service concerns. I have manually set up a dish myself (for fta) once and know JUST how finicky they are. I want my service reliable in all weather.

My personal choice here is not due to bias - I also have no allegiance to either technology and would love to see them drive each other to new heights.


RE: lets not be naieve
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2009 4:10:15 PM , Rating: 2
From what I've read, only the legacy HD channels on DirecTv were MPEG-2 (rest all MPEG-4) and schedules had all of those MPEG-2 ones already long gone by now and switched over to MPEG-4.

I've had DirecTV for a long time and currently have three HD-DVRs throughout the house.


RE: lets not be naieve
By Spuke on 12/30/2009 4:17:40 PM , Rating: 2
I believe the only HD offering on MPEG2 is the 101 Network but that depends on which channel you're on. You can see the 101 Network on MPEG4 too.


RE: lets not be naieve
By Spuke on 12/30/2009 4:11:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Satellite can roll-out new technologies much faster than Cable, while I would never have satellite as I've seen and heard the nightmare stories (during thunderstorm etc),
I've had DirecTV for 10 years with no issues whatsoever. Where I live we have hurricane force winds and my DirecTV works just fine. Thunderstorms are a non-issue too. Most any problem with reception is directly attributable to an improperly mounted dish. Those people with the "horror stories" need to see their installer. I'd suggest learning how to mount your own dish if you really want it done right. My installer is awesome (3 homes in 10 years and done right everytime).


RE: lets not be naieve
By omnicronx on 12/30/2009 4:58:00 PM , Rating: 2
That is just my personal experience in my area, I mainly stick with cable because of the internet, not because of the TV offerings. Having internet, phone and TV all on the same bill also equals cost savings :)


RE: lets not be naieve
By Motoman on 12/30/2009 11:44:36 AM , Rating: 2
...not sure about that. My DirecTV HD channels look pretty damned good. This might be the only thing DirecTV has ever done that I will actually look forward to...


RE: lets not be naieve
By drewsup on 12/30/2009 11:58:32 AM , Rating: 2
Are you out of your friigin mind! Direct TV is WAY better than cable because they are all digital, with their own technology. And HOW do you think the cable providers get their feeds?? That's right, SATELLITES!! The problem is, when cable companies futz with the signal after it comes off the sat dish.
At least with Direct TV, you cut out 2-3 middle steps that cable has to use.


RE: lets not be naieve
By omnicronx on 12/30/2009 3:05:19 PM , Rating: 2
Would you like a flux capacitor with your BS Burger?

Please disregard anything you read in this post..


RE: lets not be naieve
By Flunk on 12/30/2009 12:21:15 PM , Rating: 2
It really depends on the provider. I used to work for Bell TV and their signal is much more compressed than either DirecTV or Dish because of the simple reason that they have about 1/4 the bandwidth (they literally broadcast off the satellites that Dish no longer wants).

In theory cable providers should have the most bandwidth but most are feeding a lot of things through that one cable: analog, digital, internet, phone and anything else you can think of.


RE: lets not be naieve
By Spuke on 12/30/2009 12:59:29 PM , Rating: 2
DirecTV HD is one of the few HD offerings that's NOT ridiculously compressed. They do downrate the incoming signal from 1920x1080 to 1440x1080 and that signal is re-encoded in MPEG4. Unless you have a keen eye and a 60" TV, you won't notice the difference. Supposedly Verizon FIOS passes the original signal unmolested.


RE: lets not be naieve
By omnicronx on 12/30/2009 3:20:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
DirecTV HD is one of the few HD offerings that's NOT ridiculously compressed. They do downrate the incoming signal from 1920x1080 to 1440x1080 and that signal is re-encoded in MPEG4.
By nature, anytime you are downsampling, you are most likely re-encoding (i.e its is very much so compressed) the video, which will add artifacts and such.

That being said, this is the old system. DirectTV 1080p via MPEG4 (which requires new equipement) is the real deal, no downsampling at all.(i.e real 1920x1080)

No TV company sends their signals down unmolested (thats the nature of compressed formats), it all just depends on how much ;) From the little I have seen of FIOS though, it looks like they are pushing MPEG2 pretty much as far as it can go with very bitrates in the mid to high teens.(mpeg2 doesnt scale very well at higher bandwidths )


RE: lets not be naieve
By Spuke on 12/30/2009 4:26:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That being said, this is the old system. DirectTV 1080p via MPEG4 (which requires new equipement) is the real deal, no downsampling at all.(i.e real 1920x1080)
That's not what I read but feel free to post some links to that info. I would appreciate it.

quote:
which will add artifacts and such.
IMO, regardless of the 60" TV and keen eye requirement, I doubt anyone can see artifacting as a result of MPEG4 compression on DirecTV without specialized equipment. Connection glitches or TV issues are confusing people IMO.


RE: lets not be naieve
By Sivar on 12/31/2009 3:12:31 AM , Rating: 2
Specialized equipment? Are you kidding? I was looking at my parent's DirecTV HD setup today, specifically at ESPN HD. The quality was horrible -- like when you set a JPEG photo to quality 5 (of 100) in Photoshop.
The text at the bottom was the most obvious -- black text on a white background should be clean and have no ghosting or blocking. Not the case. Worse though, any grass shown looked like artifact soup when any motion was present. It was like a YouTube video.

Many commercials did look pretty good though, so it could be that ESPN HD's original signal is the problem and not DirecTV. Discovery HD looked better than ESPN, but was still really obvious. The standard-def channels looked extremely overcompressed as well.

Am I picking the wrong channels, or are most people strangely blind to gigantic blurry blocks of color in their picture?


RE: lets not be naieve
By Spuke on 12/31/2009 12:03:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Am I picking the wrong channels, or are most people strangely blind to gigantic blurry blocks of color in their picture?
It's either your antenna or your TV. My picture is perfect. Contact your installer. There are numerous pics comparing DirecTV to other networks on AVSforum. DirecTV is well known to have excellent HD PQ.


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