How do you provide a quality UHD service to all homes across a territory?



When Italian state broadcaster Rai planned the launch of the country’s first Ultra HD channel in 2016, it had to decide how to deliver the service to homes across the country.

After careful analysis, Rai was convinced by satellite’s high capacity, cost-effective coverage and ability to deliver a consistently high-quality 4K signal across its entire coverage area.

The first UHD broadcast on the Rai 4K channel featured live coverage of the UEFA EURO 2016 football championship in France. It was delivered to Italian homes through the Tivùsat platform on Eutelsat’s HOTBIRD satellites. Production was encoded and uplinked from Eutelsat’s Rambouillet teleport south-west of Paris.

Many hours of 4K drama, documentaries and live events have followed, as Rai continues to innovate and engage with its audiences.


4K is fast becoming a reality for millions

4K UHD is fast becoming a reality for millions as the broadcast industry adapts to UHD as the new benchmark for broadcasting. As average screen sizes in viewers’ homes are increasing, UHD provides an unprecedented viewing experience, with cinema-like picture and sound quality.

Rai chose satellite for its Rai 4K channel because only satellite ensures continuity of delivery for the high bandwidth requirements of UHD. Satellite guarantees high quality video and audio standards and lower costs compared to internet broadband. As a state broadcaster, Rai also needs to reach the vast majority of homes across Italy and satellite is the ultimate system for ensuring coverage right across its coverage area.

When Rai committed to offering UHD as an option, it wanted an expert partner who could provide high-performance satellite resources and proven experience in UHD innovation. It was naturally drawn to Eutelsat.


A long-term partnership based on technical innovation

Rai and Eutelsat have a long-term partnership based on technical innovation. The broadcaster already has a bouquet of HD channels on the Tivùsat satellite platform on HOTBIRD, Europe’s prime orbital location at 13° East. Today, the HOTBIRD video neighbourhood hosts 10 premium platforms, over 600 pay-tv channels, 400 free-to-air channels, 300 HDTV channels and five UHD channels. It is the main satellite position for Italian TV viewers.

The broadcaster chose Eutelsat to help deliver its UHD channel because of our experience and professional resources for delivering high quality services, according to specific requirements. This includes bandwidth availability on HOTBIRD, with none of the data restrictions of fibre, and the immediate reception of UHD content across the country with consistent quality.

Further crucial factors for Rai in choosing Eutelsat were our experience in delivering UHD channels, our flexible and responsive service teams and our advanced technical facilities, including the fully-resourced Rambouillet teleport in France. Whether it is live sports or cultural events, or movies, drama and factual entertainment, we help Rai deliver the highest quality and innovative services to its viewers.


Scoring at UEFA EURO 2016

For the UEFA EURO 2016, we worked closely with Rai to deliver amazing images to Italian viewers over HOTBIRD, which has proved the benchmark for all our subsequent work with Rai to deliver UHD.

We used the production model we had developed with Rai on previous tests and demos made during important live broadcasts in UHD, such as the Opening of the Jubilee in 2015, produced in co-operation with Vatican Media.

For UEFA EURO 2016, a total of seven matches were covered in UHD, including the semi-finals and final. The UHD feed from the International Broadcast Centre was relayed through the Rai 4K production van and on to the Rambouillet teleport, where the signal was encoded and transmitted to HOTBIRD and broadcast to viewers across Italy with a UHD TV and a CAM certified by Tivùsat. HOTBIRD has been a guarantee for coverage, bandwidth and consistent quality.


HOTBIRD continues to deliver

For subsequent productions, we have continued to support Rai with our expertise, using our proven satellite broadcasting model and resources. We have also worked with Rai on its marketing and communications activities to promote Rai 4K, helping to increase the popularity of the channel across Italy.

Rai again used HOTBIRD satellites to broadcast its landmark documentary series, “Medici: Masters of Florence”, in UHD. The eight-part series, starring Dustin Hoffman and chronicling the rise of the Italian Renaissance political dynasty, was available exclusively on the Tivùsat platform through Eutelsat’s HOTBIRD satellites.

In January 2018, a new four-part series, Alberto Angela’s “Wonders – The Peninsula of Treasures”, was broadcast on the Tivùsat platform on HOTBIRD. This very high-profile content, shot with footage in native 4K, followed Alberto Angela as he discovered some of the most beautiful places of Italy.

RAI & 4K

RAI's CTO comments:

The role of Eutelsat is fundamental, because, historically, satellite diffusion in Italy uses the orbital position at 13° East, from which both Tivùsat and Sky operate.

Eutelsat brings to our supply chain its knowledge in terms of television and 4K innovation, as well as its terrestrial infrastructure, starting from the Rambouillet teleport.

This specialisation translates into reliable solutions for the correct transmission of both large productions, such as films, fiction and documentaries, and live events in Ultra HD that require highly specialised technical skills.

Stefano Ciccotti, CTO Rai