Datacasting, Texas Style

The Texas Public Broadcasters Educational Network (TPBEN) is undertaking a datacasting project that leaves previous efforts in the dust in terms of size and scope.

TPBEN will use Triveni Digital's SkyScraper datacasting system to test broadband data delivery to the service base of the state Telecommunications Infrastructure Funding Board (TIFB). Content will be sent to grammar schools, universities, non-profit health-care providers and public libraries.

"The purpose is to provide an alternate broadband delivery channel or, in some cases, an enhanced delivery channel for IP-based content," says Wayne Pecena, the project's technical director. "Monetary savings would come from providing an alternative to traditional terrestrial-based network connectivity."

Initial deployments in the next few months are KAMU-TV College Station, KUHT(TV) Houston, and KERA-TV Dallas. Future deployments include KWBU-TV Waco, KMBH(TV) Harlingen, KLRN(TV) San Antonio, KEDT(TV) Corpus Christi, KLRU-TV Austin, KCOS(TV) El Paso, KACV-TV Amarillo, KNCT(TV) Kileen, KTXT-TV Lubbock and KOCV-TV Odessa.

The SkyScraper system includes three main components. A DataFab manages data-content selection and scheduling, and a DataHub allocates bandwidth to content providers and inserts the scheduled data into the broadcast stream. A DataReceiver extracts data from the stream for the end user and acknowledges receipt. New features to be unveiled at NAB include receiver targeting, encryption and support for multistation networks.

A terrestrial intranet will provide QoS-enabled multicast connectivity between the stations, Pecena says. Cisco hardware (router, content engine and switch) will be installed at each to provide IP connectivity. A Triveni Data Hub will interface the intranet to the station's ATSC encoder platform to insert the IP content into its ATSC transmission stream; a Triveni basic datacast receiver will provide monitoring and QC verification.

The focus will be on delivering services to schools, libraries and health-care providers, but "we'll conduct trials with individuals using a personal USB-based receiver in the home to determine the potential viability of such a delivery method," says Pecena. "I believe the trial will include a CPA continuing-ed class and a for-credit class from Texas A&M."