Skip to main content

Calling all digital tiers

Satellite operator GE Americom is introducing a C-band transmission service aimed at digital cable networks. The digital satellite service, called Digital-C, will be demonstrated live this week at NCTA's Cable 2000 show in New Orleans.

Although GE Americom already has several large customers that use digital compression technology to distribute feeds on the space capacity they lease, Digital-C is the company's first attempt to offer MPEG-2 satellite distribution on a turnkey basis. It will be marketed to new networks being launched as part of digital cable tiers, particularly those of start-up cable programmers.

"We'll take it all the way from the customer's studio," says Vice President of Satellite Services Carl Capista. "Customers with one channel can come to us for a full package, and we'll arrange for playback, transport to the uplink center, the uplink, and the transponder capacity."

The MCPC (multiple channel per carrier) service is available immediately on the GE-1 bird, at bit rates ranging from 3 Mb/s to 15 Mb/s, says Capista.

Digital-C will be priced by the bit, although Capista isn't disclosing specific pricing. The service includes fully protected space segment as part of GE Americom's Cable2 neighborhood, which encompasses both the GE-1 and GE-4 satellites and counts Rainbow Sports, MSG Network, FOX Sports Net, InDemand, Pax TV and Telemundo as customers.

For the past few years, GE Americom has been providing headends with dual-feed antennas that can look at both GE-1 at 103 degrees west longitude and GE-4 at 101 degrees west.

Digital-C will offer end-to-end transmission through GE Americom's Digital Media Center in Woodbine, Md., which can accept videotape, fiber or satellite feeds. The service is also available on either the Motorola DigiCipher II or Scientific-Atlanta PowerVu transmission platforms, the idea being that Digital-C customers will probably be passed along in MPEG-2 form from the headend to subscribers' digital set-tops without ever being converted to analog.

"There's very little analog shelf space, and most of the new shelf space will be in digital tiers," says Capista. "Either you go up analog and compress at the headend, or you go up digital as part of a bouquet."