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PBS Taps Harmonic For Next-Generation Compression

PBS has deployed compression equipment from Harmonic Inc. for its new satellite delivery network, the Next Generation Interconnection System (NGIS). PBS, which is both upgrading its satellite broadcast gear and designing a file-based, non-real-time delivery system as part of the $120 million NGIS project , has deployed Harmonic's DiviCom MPEG-2 high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) encoders, DiviTrackXE statistical multiplexing and NMX Digital Service Manager monitoring and bandwidth management software..

The Harmonic encoders, which comply to the Digital Video Broadcasting satellite transmission scheme, will be used to deliver roughly 10,000 hours of SD and HD content per year to all member stations of the PBS community across all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Those stations have installed new Sencore integrated receiver/decoders as part of the NGIS project to receive the DVB-compliant feeds. Harmonic is also providing professional services, support and training for the new PBS system.

"In designing the PBS next generation interconnection system, we were looking to implement technologies that would allow us to optimize real-time processing and distribution of our video content," said Jerry Butler, Senior Director, Interconnection Replacement Office of PBS, in a statement. "Harmonic's DiviCom HD and SD encoders and DiviTrack statistical multiplexing offered the best MPEG compression, performance and picture quality. This bandwidth efficiency was particularly important in improving the service carrying capacity of our satellite transponders, enabling us to cost-effectively accommodate more high-definition and standard-definition programming."

While PBS has now completed Phase 1 of the federally-funded NGIS project, it still hasn't selected a vendor to provide "edge servers" to facilitate non-real-time delivery over both terrestrial and satellite links. PBS originally issued a request for proposal (RFP) for such a system in May 2005, and last year at NAB it seemed that the network was close to a deal with OmniBus for its iTX automation system. Funding delays slowed the NGIS project, however, and no deal was reached. PBS is now in the process of creating a new RFP for the edge servers, and hopes to select a vendor by Q3, with beta testing scheduled for Q4.