Freesat plans third generation set-top-box




Freesat is seeking proposals from manufacturers to develop its third generation set-top box, which will include support for UHD and HbbTV 2.0. 

The new product will give manufacturers a significant opportunity to develop a new range of innovative set-top-boxes at scale for subscription-free satellite TV customers across the UK. 

Following the launch of Freesat in 2008 with its first generation of boxes, in 2012, the subscription-free satellite service launched its second generation box, originally branded Freesat Freetime, which came with a backwards EPG and enhanced on-demand offering.

For the third generation box, Freesat have defined a number of customer-focused features, which it considers to be key to delivering a market leading smart TV device, including:
  • An ultra-high-definition ready device for encrypted broadcast and IP to meet the consumer demand for UHD,
  • In-home multiscreen streaming allowing users to watch TV across multiple set-top-boxes in the home,
  • Additional tuners to help customers plan their recordings and avoid programme clashes,
  • Fast channel change for better usability 
  • Support for HbbTV 2.0.1 applications 

The product requirements will be based on an open technical specification set by the Free TV Alliance, which is a collaboration between four major European digital satellite television broadcasters: Fransat (France), HD Plus (Germany), Tivusat (Italy) and Freesat (UK). The RFP signals the ongoing commitment of the Free TV Alliance to create common standards for free-to-view satellite TV services and technologies across Europe for the benefit of viewers, manufacturers and broadcasters. 

With the inclusion of HbbTV 2.0 support, Freesat follows the course of Freeview Play, which has also chosen to support the latest HbbTV standard. The BBC, a shareholder in both Freeview and Freesat is seen as a key driver behind the move to HbbTV 2.0. The move to support encrypted broadcasts appears at odds for a free-to-air satellite platform, but is necessary given the collaboration with other operators who encrypt services, such as fellow Free TV Alliance member HD Plus, which effectively operates a pay TV business. Meanwhile, Italy's Tivusat encrypts channels, but they are available on a free-to-view basis.

Alistair Thom, Managing Director of Freesat said: 
“We’re thrilled to announce plans for Freesat’s next generation product. The requirements for our set-top box have been developed with the customer in mind and our aim is to continue to bring UK audiences the best subscription free TV service, and a fantastic alternative to Pay TV. Furthermore, developing an open technical specification signals our ongoing commitment to expand beyond the UK through our collaboration with the Free TV Alliance and partnerships with international TV companies through our Metaphor business.” 

Freesat will announce manufacturing partners in the autumn with a view to bringing a next generation set-top box to market as soon as possible.




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