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BT Moves Into SNG

Portable satellite transmission systems blossomed during the war in Iraq, proving their worth when it came to covering action on a battlefield. British Telecom is responding to the demand with a line of portable satellite systems that promise a new level of usability.

The BT Satnet newsgathering systems are available for fixed or mobile use. They can be mounted on a vehicle or operated as a flyaway and are available in low-power and high-power configurations.

"Satnet system was designed to be modular and accommodate all forms of digital media transmission, from video and voice communications through high-speed data transmissions and IP and video file transfer," says Bill McNamara, BT North America general manager.

One of the important features of the system is its ease of use. McNamara says the end-to-end system simplifies and automates all the elements of a service that has traditionally been operated by skilled engineers. "It has a simple-to-use windows interface that enables anyone, not just engineers, to book a space segment, operate a mobile satellite vehicle, and undertake a live link from a remote location back into a fully automated Satnet receive system at their studio."

Phone calls, manual dish deployment and manual configuration at the studio will be things of the past in setting up satellite transmission. Scheduler software automatically and dynamically allocates the appropriate bandwidth and configures both the receive and transmission gear.

"It allows the user to make better use of technologies like low–bit-rate streaming video and file transfer for non-live content," adds McNamara. "Because the capacity can be booked on demand at many different bit rates, there is no need to use too much capacity for the needs."

Transmission options include broadcast quality at rates up to 8 Mbps, high-speed data of 64 kbps to 8 Mbps, low-speed data up to 4 Mbps, radio from 56 kbps to 1 Mbps, voice communications, and multicommunication mix of voice, data and Ethernet.

"There are eight standard mobile products with an additional six options," says McNamara. "It's like buying a standard car and then adding climate control, CD changer, etc."

The lineup also has WAN/ LAN connectivity, a service seen as beneficial for many reasons, according to McNamara. "The ability to access corporate networks and information on-site for short durations and at broadband speeds will open up new standards in information flow. It could be getting important information out to people in the field or transferring press articles or important security content back from a remote site."

The standard unit, the SN200 Vpod (a 200-W broadcast video system) comes in two flight cases. The transmission equipment flight case weighs about 45 kg; the "roof pod," about 95 kg. All the units are available for leasing or purchase, with pricing to be determined.

Because of the system's footprint and flexibility, McNamara believes, the system could find a place among those who rely on satellite communications. In the near future, he says, it is likely that Satnet mobile systems will complement high-spec traditional SNG vehicles used for major events and sports broadcasts. "It could potentially replace them in areas where the costs involved in running them and their specifications are too high when compared to the value of the content being gathered."