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Mexico runs first satellite-delivered digital code.

The most respected of Mexican higher education institutions is taking a major step forward in its use of videoconferencing to reach 48,000 students in 25 cities across Mexico, a country where only 7% of the 80 million citizens have a college education. The Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Studies (ITESM) is converting to a digital compressed video network to educate students via satellite.

It is the first satellite-delivered digital video system for higher education in the world. Four thousand ITESM faculty members will reach students located at 26 campuses.

"The impact will be significant," says Manuel Caselle, ITESM director of technology innovation. "We can provide excellent instructors with doctorates in their disciplines at every site. Without the system, we could not teach the specialized courses that industry needs in the rural areas. With the system, we have a cost-effective way of doing what we have to do, and it is the educational model for the 21st century."

ITESM pioneered its interactive Education by Satellite project in 1989 to provide a balanced mix of resources, courses and knowledgeable instructors at all campuses. ITESM is required to use a high percentage of instructors with graduate degrees, while delivering the same standard of education at every campus to maintain its accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). As ITESM added more campuses, it was no longer feasible to continue adding instructors. Qualified educators for highly technical subjects were in short supply and other instructors needed training. Distance learning was the solution.

Classes are broadcast from a fixed site at the main Monterrey campus or from a transportable remote truck that can be sent to any other campus. To encourage interaction, a small group of students attends the lecture in the originating classroom, while 2,000 students network-wide view the live, three-hour broadcast. Students at receiving sites can communicate by computer with their professor during the class.

"There was no other way to do it that was cost effective," says Caselle. "We could not continue to train the faculty at the main campus, and no other institution could provide graduate courses in their disciplines."

The new digital instructional delivery system was designed and installed by Vitacom, a value-added system integrator based in Mountain View, Calif. It uses the SprectrumSaver satellite-based broadcast television system developed by Compression Labs Inc. (CLI). The satellite portion of the network is implemented using digital satellite tranmission products from ComStream Corp. ComStream modems at the uplink site transmit signals over the satellite to ComStream multirate video demodulators integrated into the SpectrumSaver receiver/decoder at the receiving end.

When compared to analog video networks, the digital broadcast system provides breakthrough economies in satellite-based broadcast television and has multiplied opportunities for ITESM to offer a broader curriculum in the most efficient, flexible, cost-effective way.

With the digital network, transponder fees are reduced by a factor of 10, while program capacity is doubled. ITESM projects that it will recoup its original investment in less than 18 months and save $1 million annually on transponder fees thereafter. ITESM is adding two more digitized channels, and there are plans to add others.

The network consist of two CLI SpectrumSaver 3 Mb encoders with Dolby audio and integrated receivers/decoders (IRDs) located at each of the 26 campuses. The broadcast system digitizes and compresses the video so it can be transmitted in just 2.3 MHz of transponder bandwidth, a fraction of that required for analog video.

At the receiving site, a satellite antenna feeds the IRD a signal containing the digital data stream that the IRD converts to analog television with associated audio. Each site in the system can simultaneously receive two signals through IRD. The two-channel network uses only 4.6 MHz of the total 36 MHz bandwidth of the transponder.

Core technology of the network is three new VLSI chips developed in early 1990. The compressed digital format created by the chips provides a much clearer video image that is immune to ghosting, drop-outs, color smearing and snow associated with standard analog broadcast techniques.

Moving ahead, ITESM is working with Mexican businesses to use the expanding digital video network. Three contracts are in place, primarily for Mexican banks with multiple branches. Bank employees have had to travel to the Mexico City campus for training, but once the bank training network of about 200 sites is in place, employees will train via the video networks at their worksite.
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Title Annotation:Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Studies
Author:Halik, Greg
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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