European pay-radio gets closer
Written by Chris Forrester Thursday, 04 February 2010
Solaris Mobile is the satellite joint-venture between SES Astra and Eutelsat. Despite technical problems last year it is now geared up for operations. European viewers – and listeners – might shortly get satellite TV to their mobile phones, and a pay-radio service similar to Sirius-XM.
Solaris has kitted out a car which is currently being road-tested and shown to “interested parties” in Paris, Berlin, Barcelona (for the 3G Global Forum show) and elsewhere in Europe.
Eutelsat’s new CEO Michel de Rosen said: “Our short term intention is to showcase the [Solaris Mobile] system, and to continue working with regulators at national and European level to see the licences fully developed. Our friends at Inmarsat, to my knowledge, have yet to be active in the field. Obviously regulators want to know what Inmarsat and Solaris are doing and going to do. It is our common duty to answer clearly and convincingly these legitimate requests.”
Mr de Rosen said that Solaris is now re-addressing the whole market, especially in regards to potential partners. “The rate of development of mobile video services in Europe has been slower than anticipated, and the fact that we ourselves have not moved faster than the market is not a handicap.”
But the technical result is now a tangible reality. The transmission system is beaming S-band/DVB-SH video and audio signals to some test vehicles. Customers – or more accurately potential customers – have already seen the snazzy set-up, and the vehicle is now on a true road show to most of Europe’s major cities, which will include Barcelona for the upcoming 3G Global Forum, showcasing what a real system can look and sound like.
And it is impressive. A test drive offered up a half-dozen video channels, a few radio services, and most importantly rock-solid images with zero video drop-out or other troubling artefacts. Moreover, Solaris’ clever technical solution beams a mini-WiFi signal into the car enabling up to 3 different images to be viewed (including your editor’s iPhone). It was seamless to set up.
Solaris Mobile’s next iteration will be a more powerful chip-set allowing potentially dozens of different users (on a bus, or a train, for example) to pick and choose their own channel, or data stream. Indeed, it will be obvious to any operator that the concept’s ability to handle data and other vehicle-based telematics is a key advantage. Currently the scheme assumes the satellite will beam its couple of Muxes to Europe’s major regions with terrestrial repeaters filling in the local urban gaps but also complementing the core channel offerings with, perhaps, local traffic, weather or other personalised information.
Solaris is also working on a battery-driven ‘dongle’ receiver that will have a similar chip-based battery driven device that will transmit content to mobiles without an on-board receiver. The Paris test uses four 30-Watt transmitters to cover the city. Solaris’ key target markets, remembering the problems with the antenna, are currently France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Ondas Media is seen by most as being a strong contender in this space and already has contracts signed with Renault, BMW and Nissan. Interestingly, the specification also allows SMS-type short messages to be sent directly from a vehicle up to the satellite. Transmission power is just 1 Watt, but the technicians say it all works fine. Solaris is looking to see standards body ETSI establish an open standard for this aspect of the technology.***
SOLARIS MOBILE ANNOUNCE CORPORATE PARTNERSHIP WITH EUROPCAR
Sunday, 07 February 2010
Solaris Mobile Ltd, the Dublin based operator of new hybrid satellite and terrestrial wireless networks across Europe today announced a major new partnership with Europcar.
The new corporate partnership is another in the long list of Pan-European businesses that are now working with the Irish company to evolve broadband services and develop superior quality mobile television, radio and broadband services.
Yet again at the forefront of innovation both in terms of technology and new services made available to their customers, Europcar will showcase next generation communication services installed by Solaris Mobile in a small selection of cars in Paris. In a first instance, Europcar will be equipping a handful of cars with TV and radio services either via devices located in the vehicles or directly in the embedded car multimedia systems. In addition, Europcar vehicles currently driven by Solaris Mobile employees have also been equipped with the system.
Commenting on the announcement of the partnership, Steve Maine, CEO, Solaris Mobile, said; “The partnership with Europcar gives Solaris Mobile the opportunity to showcase the potential of delivering next generation broadband and broadcast services to people on the move. Solaris Mobile’s new hybrid network enables video, data downloads and ubiquitous voice services, services which have previously only been available to fixed line services”.
Eric de Saint-Louvent, Director of Sales & Marketing Europcar France added: “Europcar as N°1 Car Rental Company is always looking for ways to innovate its product offering and improve its customer rental experience. This partnership with Solaris is a perfect opportunity for Europcar to be at the forefront of technology, and trial these new services for & with our customers”.
A demonstration of the newly equipped cars and their communication capabilities will be available at the Solaris Mobile stand in The App Planet, Hall 7, Stand 7G4 at the GSMA Mobile World Congress (Barcelona, 15-18 February 2010.
Solaris Mobile, a joint venture between Eutelsat and SES-Astra was set up in 2008 to develop next generation mobile communication services. The company intends to deploy a hybrid satellite and terrestrial network enabling the provision of mobile television, radio and data channels as well as broadband and voice communication services to be delivered to mobile phones, portable terminals and in-vehicle devices.
In May 2009, the European Commission awarded Solaris Mobile the right to operate satellite & terrestrial services in S-Band in all 27 EU member states. S-Band is spectrum residing in the 2GHz band and is adjacent to UMTS used by mobile 3G operators.
At present, Solaris Mobile is carrying out trials in Paris, demonstrating the broadcast of TV and radio services to phones, other handheld devices and cars – across the city and surrounding areas.