Tech Talk


Hungry Harris Makes Another Acquisition

Harris Corp. is further bolstering its broadcast business with a $35 million deal for video-networking and encoding supplier Aastra Digital Video.

Harris, which bought video-server and infrastructure supplier Leitch for $450 million last fall and acquired traffic-software vendor OSI last month for $32 million, is boosting its content-delivery offerings by signing an agreement to acquire Bridgewater, N.J.-based Aastra Digital Video, a business unit of Aastra Technologies Ltd.

Aastra makes video-networking, encoding, decoding and multiplexing technologies used by broadcasters, telcos and satellite operators and has been supplying video-networking products to Harris under the Flexicoder and NetVX brand names.

Aastra Digital Video, which counts Turner Broadcasting, the NFL and DirecTV as customers, tallied 2005 revenues of approximately $18 million.

Broadband Satellite Service Gets Nod from fcc

The FCC has granted the necessary licenses for Inmarsat's new broadband satellite communications system, Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN), to be marketed in the U.S. It hopes to find adoption among public-safety agencies and broadcast-news crews looking for an ultra-light satellite link.

The FCC has approved five North American distribution partners to offer BGAN, including BT, FTMSC and Telenor. BGAN uses compact satellite uplink terminals that connect to a laptop and provide up to half-a-megabit (0.5 Mbps) of broadband throughput, with broadband connectivity across 85% of the world's landmass.

The BGAN terminals, which weigh as little as 5 pounds and are built by such manufacturers as Hughes, are priced about $3,000.

Transmission pricing ranges from $3 to $7 per megabyte, says Inmarsat COO Michael Butler, who adds that news organizations like CNN and the BBC are already using BGAN overseas to transmit video and handle more-mundane tasks like checking e-mail, performing research on the Internet or making a voice-over-IP phone call.