SES Expands 4K Cable Trials

SES S.A. said four more U.S. cable operators are using its platform to test 4K/Ultra HD content delivery ahead of subscriber trials that are slated for later this year.

The latest to join the mix are Marquette-Adams in Wisconsin, Buckeye Broadband in Ohio and Southeast Michigan, Service Electric Cable TV in Pennsylvania, and enTouch Systems in Texas.

SES said the first wave of 4K trails got underway in the summer with Cable America in Missouri, Golden West Telecommunications in South Dakota, MTC Cable in New York, Sjoberg’s Cable TV in Minnesota. ATMC was also among the operators identified when SES announced its first round of 4K cable trials in July.

On the technical side, SES 4K platform will use either managed IP multicast DOCSIS 3.0 streams (not “over-the-top”) or traditional digital QAM transport streams. Its “pre-packaged” UHD platform, tailored to small- and mid-sized MSOs, includes the channels, 4K-capable set-tops and reception gear. SES said its global 4K lineup features 30 channels worldwide, including seven that are hosted on two SES satellites (SES-1, SES-3) that can serve nearly 100 million homes across North America. Fashion One 4K, NASA TV UHD, High 4K TV, and SES’s own UHD1 channel are among those being supported on the platform.

In an interview when the first round of 4K trials came to light, Steve Corda, SES’s vice president of business development in North America, said his company will initially be supplying cable MSO trial partners with IP set-tops from AirTies (the Air 7410X), though SES was also evaluating boxes from suppliers such as Entone (acquired by Amino) and Technicolor, as well as the new 4K-capable TiVo Bolt.

“We will soon be testing a great mix of 4K movies, cutting-edge TV shows, news and sporting event coverage from SES’s growing, satellite-based Ultra HD platform, with plans to deliver Ultra HD to subscriber homes on the horizon,” Brad Mefferd, chief administrative officer at Buckeye Broadband, said in a statement. “The fact that the SES solution works over existing, high-capacity DOCSIS 3.0 cable networks and traditional digital QAM will enable us to be flexible in how we distribute Ultra HD content in our markets.”

While SES’s approach is initially being targeted to tier 2/3 MSOs, several major MVPDs have launched or are testing 4K services and apps, including DirecTV/AT&T, Dish Network and Comcast.