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VOOM Plans Major HDTV Channel Expansion

Beginning in March, the HDTV-centric satellite TV service VOOM will add more than 30 new HDTV channels to its service, expanding its current HD offerings from 39 to more than 70 channels, said the service’s owner, Rainbow Media Enterprises, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems.

“The increase in VOOM’s HDTV channels from 39 to more than 70 will allow us to continue to provide more high-definition video services than any other cable or satellite provider,” said Tom Dolan, Rainbow Media Enterprises’s CEO, in announcing the move. “Our plan is to simultaneously add nearly 200 standard-definition channels.”

To add necessary bandwidth to carry the channels, VOOM will lease 16 transponders on the SES Americom AMC-6 satellite, which is known as “Rainbow 2,” and will shift encoding systems from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4, using a software upgrade. The new MPEG-4 system was developed by Harmonic.

“Today’s announcement is a step forward in our plans to advance VOOM to MPEG-4 later in 2005. All VOOM customers have been provided with set-top boxes capable of receiving the MPEG-4 signal, and we remain committed to offering more than 400 full continental U.S. channels before the end of 2005,” Dolan said.

Rainbow Media also said that Lockheed Martin will construct five Ka-band satellites that will help VOOM increase its capacity to enable carriage of more than 5,000 high-definition channels when operating in spot-beam mode at the 62W, 71W, 77W, 119W and 129W orbital locations. The first of the high-powered satellites is to be launched in 34 months, the company said.

VOOM will use spot beams to cover the entire United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.