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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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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
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 :)

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