The Direct Broadcast Satellite Association said yesterday that it will issue voluntary technical standards for the construction of direct broadcast satellite systems, which beam television programming to areas not served by conventional or cable television.
The three-year-old association said that it decided it "will select and adopt a single industry standard for a total DBS system to serve the best interests of the consumer." The standard is expected to be formulated by sometime next February.
The standard is meant to create a universally compatible DBS system, which would include technology capable of deciphering any satellite signal, said Harley W. Radin, vice president of Direct Broadcast Satellite Corp., a Bethesda firm that plans to provide the service. Customers then could use the same home equipment with any operator's satellite system without having to buy new home equipment if they decided to switch providers, he said.
"It is absolutely crucial for the end user that we have a standard," Radin said. "Right now, all television sets cover all channels. In the DBS industry, we are talking about two or three different signal formats that would be incompatible."
Another benefit of the standard may be to attract more businesses to the industry, said Paul R. Heinerscheid, director of technical operations for United States Satellite Broadcasting, a Hubbard Broadcasting subsidiary. "It might encourage a lot of people to come in now that we know what we are talking about. By having a single design, you encourage low cost design and merchandising," he said. The systems are currently projected to cost between $300 and $500 when they come onto the market between 1986 and 1988.
Attracting any business backing at all to satellite-to-home broadcasting looked touch and go over the past several months. Four direct broadcast satellite firms are going ahead with system construction, but another four -- CBS Inc., Western Union, Graphic Scanning Corp. and RCA Americom -- declined to pursue the business. A Federal Communications Commission official, however, confirmed that a new round of seven applications for providing the service is pending at the FCC.
The new standard is not expected to affect any current manufacturing plans because no system is up and running.