PanAmSat Corp. last week hosted high-definition-television
technology vendors and prospective HDTV programmers for a multisystem HDTV demonstration
in California's Napa Valley.
HDTV system vendors such as Sony Electronics Inc., Thomson
Consumer Electronics, Mitsubishi-Tektronix, NEC America Inc. and NDS Americas Inc. got a
chance to test their professional receivers and decoding systems with live programming
feeds beamed from a PanAmSat satellite orbiting over the Pacific Ocean. The video was
encoded into bit rates of 19.3 megabits per second.
PanAmSat held the meeting to prove to the industry that
satellite technology won't be a roadblock to the deployment of HDTV.
However, Robert Bednarek, chief technology officer for
PanAmSat, said the demo did point out some potential slowdowns.
"There's still no interface between the receivers
and the display devices," Bednarek said. That point hit home as Bednarek observed
each vendor using a different type of digital connector to hook up their systems.
"That has to be rectified before it's even a
professional product, let alone a consumer product," he said.
As far as PanAmSat's technology is concerned, there
are no real advantages between the 720p (progressive) and 1080i (interlace) video formats,
"We think in terms of occupied bandwidth,"
Bednarek said. "This allows us to stay out of format issues, which will be swirling
out there forever."
In recent months, the satellite industry has witnessed
several anomalies, including a high-profile system outage on a PanAmSat bird servicing the
pager industry. Despite the recent problems, PanAmSat senior vice president David Berman
believes that video programmers remain confident in PanAmSat's commitment to
"There was no shortage of customers here examining our
service," he said, pointing to major programmers like The Walt Disney Co., Home Box
Office, Viacom Inc. and Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
PanAmSat is increasing the size of its satellite fleet in
order to meet demand for capacity from programmers that are making the move to HDTV.