It’s a bird? It’s a plane? No, its DIRECTV 9S, the latest satellite in the DirecTV constellation, one of four launched in the last two years. It supports both standard resolution and HDTV programming, as well as interactive services. The company plans to launch two more birds in the coming year, which will more than quadruple their HD transmission capacity. The satellite rode into space last Friday on an Ariane 5 ECA rocket launched from French Guiana (a French territory north of Brazil) by the European Space Agency (ESA).
According to a company release, the addition of DIRECTV 10 and DIRECTV 11 in 2007 will provide the capacity to broadcast 150 national channels in high definition, as well as more than 1,500 local HD channels.
This is good news. As I have often pointed out, bandwidth is the limiting factor for HD success. If the signal is so compressed that it’s no better than standard definition, or if a channel is dropped entirely in order to make room for another, subscribers are going to wonder why they’re paying extra money to get HD signals. There’s plenty of programming content available already; it’s a matter of delivering it to the customers’ screens in a way that makes good on the promise of better images through HDTV.