iPSTAR sets sights on HDTV

With the iPSTAR satellite up and running and another new satellite set to enter service in July, Shin Satellite is gearing up to offer new services, including HD video on demand.

iPSTAR - which shifted from a soft-launch using conventional satellites to a full-on launch late last year after the long-delayed iPSTAR-1 reached orbit - serves almost 40,000 terminals. That's compared to 26,000 at the end of 2005 and just over 8,000 in 2004.

Full commercial broadband satellite services are available in the six countries where iPSTAR has gateways, said Shin Satellite chairman Dr Dumrong Kasemset.

"We also completed a gateway in Beijing last month, but we will wait until Q4 to launch services, because we are required by the MII to build gateways in Guangzhou and Shanghai ," Dr Dumrong said during a press briefing at CommunicAsia2006 Wednesday.

Dr Dumrong didn't give details on revenues, but said that in Australia , iPSTAR broadband packages were being offered for A$29.95 a month - on par with DSL services in that market.

Going forward, in addition to building a planned gateway in India, Shin Satellite is looking at offering a triple-play service in the form of "push HDTV," a form of video on demand featuring high-definition video.

"We can do multicast as well as unicast, so we can do things like pushing HD movies to end-users," said Dr Dumrong.

However, he added that several challenges would have to be overcome first - most notably because of the nascent MPEG-4 chipset market for set-top boxes.

"MPEG-4 chipsets aren't quite fully developed yet, and our manufacturer had trouble getting enough of them until recently," Dr Dumrong said. "They're starting to get them now because of demand [related to] the World Cup, but it will take time before we see large volumes."