Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST)


Good to see they’re keeping the platform. However, I’ve got a bad feeling that this $10 million will just keep the engine ticking and nothing more.


What would the alternative be if VAST was to fail? Streaming? Is that reliable on satellite connections?


Yes, sounds like an expensive service to run…


$10 million won’t be enough for commercial networks to have channels like 7flix and 7food available on VAST.


It’s as reliable as satellite TV in terms of connection and availability. But internet on satellite is expensive, slow and always reaching capacity very quickly. The distance data has to travel results in huge ping times, so live sport for example would be really delayed.


Curious, what is the bitrate like on the FTA VAST channels? I’m wondering if they are not limited to the same level of datacasting that is terrestrial broadcast. If one were to record the transport stream off the satellite receiver through VAST, would it be as compressed/pixelated to that of DVBT?


The bandwidth allocation is usually more generous on VAST. I took a quick look at ABC HD WA just then. Almost 7 Mbps on VAST and between 3.5 and 4 Mbps on terrestrial. Both MPEG-4 HD. Surprising because DVB-T is not meant to be as efficient as DVB-S2.

But some services are starved of bandwidth and show similar signs like you mentioned. The WA commercial transponder in particular is maxed out. It affects mostly the datacast channels but WIN HD seems to cop a bit too - very pixelated and blurry with even slow movement. You record whatever format/compression/pixelation the service gives you.


This is an interesting read - I don’t think that there was any doubt that the platform wouldn’t exist moving forward (acceptable alternative delivery options just don’t exist)

My guess is some of the extra funding will go into the streamlining of approvals - but it still baffles me that if you live in a terrestrial area, you can duck down to your local Harvey Norman/JB Hifi/Big W etc and pick up a set top box, plug it in and it works; but if you live in a VAST area you don’t have that option and you have to go through an approvals process

This poses some interesting issues for the remote broadcasters - a number of them are already on notice about not meeting content requirements from ACMA because they don’t broadcast these services


Exactly. In the UK where they have a similar satellite service, anyone can grab a dish and box from a store and set it up in minutes.

A lot of TVs there now even have the satellite tuner built in. So easy!


My ideal solution to VAST (which would require more than $10m I think!)

Launch a new Optus satellite with more transponder beams that only cover individual states and individual existing license areas. That way for example they could have the full suite of regional channels in every state covered in local transponder beams. No more need for the Remote Eastern Australia license area for example.

This may seem over the top and expensive and I’m not technically literate with satellite technology, but with the centralisation of playout for most regional networks out of Mediahub and the new joint-venture playout facility that Nine/Seven are launching - it should be relatively easy to get every localised version of a channel uplinked centrally.

By doing this there is then no need for the consumer to go through an approval process (red tape cost savings there too) as the localised channel you receive in your area terrestrially is also what you would then get via VAST so there is no need to protect local terrestrial networks anymore. Anyone can then go to their local Harvey Norman/JB Hifi/Big W etc and buy a box and dish and receive their local channels via satellite instead of terrestrial.
Also no need for all those local news channels anymore as you would just receive your local news on the local channel.


That would be great but only if the networks were moving towards primarily satellite delivery of their services and were going to wind down terrestrial transmission otherwise the takeup would be low and the costs huge. How many regional commercial channels would need to go up there? 60+? 70? To put it in perspective, 1 transponder can barely hold one regional market’s worth of commercial channels (not including ABC and SBS). Optus C1/D3, the current VAST/Foxtel/Optus Sports satellite holding all channels, has 22 transponders.


A newly deployed satellite with narrow spot beams could surely have capacity for the entire country. Transponders are able to be re-used this way. Similar to how NBN Sky Muster works with a mix of narrow spot and wide spot beams.

For example the existing national beam could cover ABC/SBS. Smaller but still wide spot beams would cover commercial multi-channels and also local market channels in outback SA, WA, NT and QLD and then use narrow spot beams to provide the local market channels in the higher populated areas. ie. VIC, NSW, TAS, SA, Coastal QLD.


That would be the best way to tackle it without needing conditional access.

Optus was toying with the idea of adding commercials at the set-top box instead of having separate linear channels for each market. Commercial breaks would be downloaded to each STB either as data or from a ‘push’ channel and they would then be inserted as if they’re part of the live feed. A bit like how catch-up inserts ads only more efficient and less glitchy. This way they could theoretically get away with having only 1 multi-channel per timezone. The idea could extend to local programming too.


I think there is value in retaining CA - just remove the need for convoluted approval, and have three zones that line up with the three licence areas - authorise the card via an online portal or phone call

If there is a desire to bring more localism, why not look at how the local news channels are used and use them to deliver other local content and or ads.


I’m not sure if any of you are aware, but Optus recently moved Optus 10 into the spot where C1 was. That basically added another 8 transponders available on the Ku band. This move happened at the end of October 2018. I’m not sure if C1 is still co-located with 10 and D3, but nonetheless, it’s no longer used for VAST and Foxtel services.

I think this move may have happened because C1 was EOL (launched in 2003 with a 15 year lifespan) and/or to increase capacity for Foxtel and Aurora Digital (which includes VAST) services.