CES: Uncompressed HD via satellite coming to Canada

By Ted Kritsonis, Special to CBCNews.ca

LAS VEGAS - The Sands Expo is usually a breeding ground of innovative ideas from little-known and startup companies. XStreamHD is one of those, with a product and service that aims to shake up the satellite and cable industry.

Essentially, XStreamHD's service could conceivably stream a fully uncompressed 1080p HD signal with 7.1-channel sound (courtesy of DTS) directly from a satellite to a customer's home. All the customer would need is the XStreamHD server and receiver (and an HDTV, of course) to capture the signal.

The premise behind the service is not so much to replace conventional programming already available through satellite providers, but rather to offer HD on-demand service for movies, music, TV shows and possibly even
video games. For example, you could rent a Blu-ray movie for $3 to $4, have it stored on the XStreamHD server, and then watch it at its full visual capacity without any loss in audio or video quality.

It would be able to do this through a gigabit Ethernet connection that streams the video and audio at 80 Mbps. And because the receiver has three tuners, it would be possible to record and store content that can be streamed to up to four TVs in the house. Storage capacity is also scaleable, so that you can keep upgrading it when you need to.

Content delivery would be based on your interests, so if you were a fan of a certain actor or genre, you would receive alerts telling you when movies meeting those criteria are set for release. It would also be possible for TV studios to make entire seasons of their shows available for customers to watch at their own pace.

In an interview, XStreamHD founder and CEO George Gonzalez said he was in talks with movie and television studios. If deals can be made, it would be entirely possible to watch movies and primetime dramas in much
better quality than what is being offered right now on the existing HD channels (which offer signals that are compressed during transmission).

He also stressed that he had no plans to compete with Blu-ray or HD DVD, but instead wants to offer "convenience to the consumer."

Connecting a PC is also part of the mix and it would be possible to stream the content to it, as well as from the PC back to the tuner box.

Gonzalez also said it would be possible to use a Sony Playstation 3 video game console as the receiver instead of the one his company offers. but you would initially have to buy both the server and receiver together. Initial subscribers can buy the two pieces together for $400 US. A $10 monthly fee will be charged for the service.

The XStreamHD setup also supports VoIP calls and a PBX phone system. Calls between subscribers would be free.

An announcement will be made regarding American partners in the spring, with Canadian ones expected in the summer or fall.

The author is a Toronto-based freelance writer