The era of digital, multichannel broadcasting is just around
the corner. Japan Satellite Systems succeeded in launching
Japan's first digital telecommunications satellite at the
end of August, and it will begin broadcasting commercially
from the satellite in autumn 1996.
The start of digital satellite broadcasts is expected to intensify the competition for television audiences among regular broadcasters, analog satellite broadcasters, and cable television companies.
By shifting from an analog transmission format to a digital one, visual, audio, and other data can more easily be transmitted in compressed form, enabling repeaters to handle three to six times the number of channels as hitherto possible.
Multichannel digital satellite broadcasts began in the United States in 1994, and countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America are now planning to launch such broadcasts.
The JCSAT-3 satellite that was launched carries eight repeaters. When they are fully used, approximately 50 channels may be broadcast simultaneously from the satellite. This will significantly broaden the range of programming viewers may select from, since there are only 11 analog satellite channels at present.
Data processing becomes much easier with the digital format, moreover, and this will open the door to two-way communication, allowing viewers to choose what movies to see when and to pay for only those programs that they actually watch. They will even be able to play video game on television.
Experimental broadcasts from the JCSAT-3 satellite will begin in April 1996, and commercial service is expected to start in September. The popularity of the broadcasts will depend largely on the kind of programming offered on its many channels; should the new medium turn out to be a hit, it could revolutionize television broadcasting in Japan.
(The above article, edited by Japan Echo Inc., is based on domestic Japanese news sources. It is offered for reference purposes and does not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.)