Asian mobile broadcasting satellite launched

A satellite built to deliver digital audio and video services to portable devices in Japan and South Korea was launched early Saturday from Cape Canaveral in Florida, satellite owner Mobile Broadcasting Co. (MBCO) said the same day.

The MBSat satellite was carried into orbit aboard an Atlas III rocket at 12:40am local time (5:40am GMT) on Saturday morning, said International Launch Services, which was responsible for the launch. The satellite successfully separated from the rocket 29 minutes later.

The craft will be used to deliver a multichannel audio and video service to subscribers using portable terminals. MBCO is expected to provide around 70 channels to Japan while TU Media, in which SK Telecom Corp. is a major shareholder, is expected to offer around 40 channels to South Korea.

The service will use the MPEG-4 format and broadcast on frequencies around 2.6GHz, close to the 2.1GHz band used by third-generation (3G) telephone services and much lower than the frequencies used by conventional satellite broadcasting.

The lower frequency means that a tightly aligned dish antenna is not needed — something that would make it impractical for mobile use. But a clear signal is still required so Mobile Broadcasting has been building a network of repeaters across Japan to provide fill-in service in areas that are out of the satellite coverage area, such as tunnels and city areas in the shadow of tall buildings.

With the satellite launched, MBCO plans a trial service from April after post-launch testing has been completed. Commercial service in Japan is tentatively scheduled for June while the South Korean launch date is unclear pending an amendment to local regulations.

Earlier this year Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. said it has developed a single-chip decoder for the service and is planning to produce a cellular telephone handset, incorporating the device, that will be able to receive the broadcasts.

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