|Company Name:||Bell TV|
|Foundation:||September 10, 1997|
|Location:||Montreal, Quebec, Canada|
Bell TV, formerly known as Bell ExpressVu, Dish Network Canada and ExpressVu Dish Network, is the division of Bell Canada Enterprises that provides satellite television service across Canada. It launched on September 10, 1997 and as of 2004 it has been providing "ExpressVu TV for Condos", a VDSL service provided to select multidwelling units (condominiums and apartments) in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. Bell TV provides over 500+ digital video and 90 HD and audio channels to, as of May 2008, over 1.8 million subscribers. Its major competitors include satellite service Star Choice, as well as various cable and communications companies across Canada, such as Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications, and Vidéotron.
Bell Canada constructed the name ExpressVu for its universal recognition by both English and French speakers. Anglophones--and Bell's own English-language advertisements--pronounce the name as "express view", while francophones understand "vu" as the past participle of the word "voir", "to see" or "seen".
ExpressVu was conceived in 1994, at the time of American DSS systems launch, as a consortium of Ontario-based Tee-Comm Electronics, Canadian Satellite Communications (Cancom), Vancouver-based Western International Communications (WIC) and Bell Canada (BCE), with a projected startup date of late 1995. High technology development costs and delays placed Tee-Comm in a severe financial position, prompting the remaining partners to pull out in 1996. Instead, U.S. satellite-TV provider Echostar Dish Network was chosen to provide the receivers and uplink equipment. The Hughes DirecTV system had already been optioned to Power Broadcasting, in Canada; it has since been withdrawn. Tee-Comm on its own managed to launch the first DBS service in Canada, AlphaStar, in early 1997 however in a matter of months the company went bankrupt and the service was discontinued, leaving thousands of consumers with useless receivers. ExpressVu launched service in September 1997, initially as "Dish Network Canada", followed by "ExpressVu Dish Network", in both cases using the Echostar logo. However, by 2000 Bell took over full ownership of ExpressVu.
Bell rebranded the names of its services as of August 2008. The ExpressVu name and the beavers used in the advertising campaign were retired, along with the "Sympatico" internet name. ExpressVu became "Bell TV". Plans have been shelved for any additional ExpressVu satellite expenditures assuming pending FCC and Industry Canada approval for Dish Network to use all 32 transponders on Nimiq 5. As a result of this, SES has announced that they will not be replacing the ill fated AMC-14 now that Dish Network has cut this deal with Telesat & BCE for Nimiq 5 usage.
Bell TV broadcasts from four geostationary satellites: Nimiq 1, 2, 3 and 4iR. Nimiq 4iR is temporary and is being replaced by Nimiq 4.(nimiq 4 has replaced nimiq 2 site is 82.05w) All follow an equatorial path, giving coverage to most of Canada. Nimiq is an Inuktitut word for "that which unifies" and was chosen from a nationwide naming contest in 1998. The four satellites are owned and operated by Telesat Canada. ExpressVu's uplink site is located in North York which is in the Toronto area.
Nimiq 1 was launched on May 20, 1999 and contains 32 Ku-band transponders at 91° W. (From the time of service launch in 1997 to the switch to Nimiq in 1999, ExpressVu used the already crowded Anik E2.) Nimiq 2, launched on December 29, 2002, also includes 32 K-band transponders. Nimiq 2 provides HDTV, international programming, and all newly released channels. It occupies the 82° W slot. Nimiq 3 went online on August 23, 2004. Originally called DirecTV3, it is an old DirecTV satellite moved to a new orbital slot near Nimiq 1 to offload some of the transmitting work from the original satellite. In February 2006, Nimiq 3 was moved behind Nimiq 2 to support it, while another satellite, Nimiq 4i (formerly DirecTV2), took Nimiq 3s spot behind Nimiq 1. Nimiq 4i was replaced with Nimiq 4iR as it ran out of fuel on April 28, 2007 and was de-orbited. Both Nimiq 3 and Nimiq 4iR feature 16 Ku-band transponders. Nimiq 4 was launched by a Proton rocket which lifted off on September 19 2008 at 21:48 UTC.
Each satellite typically has 32 divisions of signal, ie. transponders. A transponder usually has enough bandwidth to broadcast approximately 10 channels. Because HDTV requires more bandwidth, some transponders on Nimiq 2 will typically broadcast only 4-5 channels. LyngSat provides a listing of channels on Nimiq 1 and Nimiq 2 broken down by transponder.
Bell TV currently provides 20 inch dishes to its customers. Canadians living in the territories and certain parts of British Columbia & Newfoundland require larger dishes between 60 and 120 cm; these are used to compensate for the weaker satellite signal available to these regions. The 20" dish supports two LNBs. The size of the dish was increased from 18 to 20 inches in late 2001 to accommodate a second LNB to acquire signal from Nimiq 2 (BEV 82) satellite. At the end of the dish's arm, a Y-adapter is found which holds both LNBs. The BEV 91 LNB is in the center of the dish while the BEV 82 LNB is offset to the left. Rotating the dish (i.e., modifying the skew angle) changes the position of the 82 LNB while maintaining position for BEV 91. A switchbox, typically an SW21 or SW44, is used to merge both satellite signals into receivers.
Bell TV satellite receivers are manufactured for Echostar by Sanmina-SCI in Guadalajara, Mexico. A multitude of receivers are currently provided, all with internal smartcards:
Current HDTV receivers support resolutions of 480i, 480p, 1080i, and 720p. Although not supported by Bell TV, a component connection to a non-HD television set at 480i will actually give picture, but only 1080i and 720p will actually yield HD quality. The star (*) and PAGE UP buttons of the remote allow the client to change the aspect ratio of their screen enabling them to manipulate the image with a zoom, partial zoom, stretch, and with the use of gray bars. Grey bars seem to be used on 4:3 images to prevent burn-in.
To authorize programming a portable smartcard is used for older receivers like the 1000, 2700/2800/3700, 3000/3500, 4000/4500, 4700, 3100, 5100/5800/5900, and the 6000. Newer receivers incorporate smartchips which are permanently installed inside the receiver. In some cases, Bell TV has switched back to using standard smartcards for the 6100 and 9200 receivers. In February 2008 Bell TV announced that it will start a smartcard swap (the second in three years) involving all its receivers with the exception of the 6141/9241 models. This is required due to the massive pirating of ExpressVu signals due the hacked Nagra 2 encryption, with was previously implemented with a previous smartcard swap in 2005 to end piracy. Although previous hacked in earlier versions, Bell TV will be upgrading to Nagra 3 smartcards.
Many types of remotes have been released over the years. Models 1000 and 2700 came out with very basic infrared (IR) remotes that could be used only to control the receivers themselves and would operate on all 16 remote addresses. Replacement remotes then came with universal functions allowing users to control the power and volume of their televisions along with VCRs and sound system receivers; these remotes can only operate on a single address at a time. Models equipped with a UHF antenna can respond to UHF remotes; these remotes use radio frequencies rather than IR signals to control the receivers. UHF signals can reach up to 30 meters, depending on the restrictions of building materials. All UHF-compatible receivers can simultaneously respond to IR signals except for model 4500. For this model, modification directions exist on the internet to add IR receiving capability, in order for the receiver to respond to programmable universal remotes. Remote #2 of the 3200, 5200, 9200, and the remote for model 6100 are based on "UHF Pro". "UHF Pro" remotes are strictly compatible with the receivers they are provided with and do not function on regular UHF-compatible receivers. Additionally, "UHF Pro" remotes can only communicate with UHF frequencies and cannot control receivers via IR. To prevent interference with other UHF remotes in proximity, clients should change their remote addresses. All secondary remotes for dual tuners may also be converted to remote #1 by flipping the plastic bottom of the remote. This also switches its transmission mode from UHF Pro to regular UHF and IR; similar to how a 5900 remote operates.
Residential accounts are limited to a maximum of six (6) receivers per account but each of them can be a dual tuner receiver and can serve 12 TVs. Having receivers on one account located in different locations is contrary to the Bell TV Residential and Commercial Agreements but it is certainly not illegal, the worst that can happen is cancellation of service. This is referred to as "Account Stacking".
"Account Stacking" is discussed in detail in CRTC Public Notice 2006-133 and 2006-134, where ExpressVu notes that there is no requirement whatsoever in the Regulations that prohibits a BDU (broadcast distribution undertaking) from providing service at more than one location via a single account.
Most customers have the misconception that the phone line is used for software downloads and programming changes. The phone line connection is used strictly for sending information and is solely used for ordering Pay-per-view and to verify the client's location. Clients who do have multiple receivers and who do not connect them to phone lines can expect the shutdown of all their receivers except for one by the Multiple Receiver Verification Process department (MRVP). The MRVP department will call clients with multiple receivers and ask for the location ID number contained within the receiver's system information; the location ID number changes on a regular basis. If the client is unable to confirm the location ID of any receiver, the MRVP department may at its discretion disable the unverified equipment.
Previously, the Nimiq 1 signal was available to most of North America. However the launch of Nimiq 3 cut off access to most transponders in southern United states. Bell TV made this modification to (1) boost signal on most transponders of Nimiq 1 to combat rain fade and (2) prevent American residents and mostly snowbirds in Florida from using its service . The use of ExpressVu's service in the United States is not illegal, however it remains a contentious issue.
Bell TV, due to increased competition, now provides technical support 24/7, however it will only support its products. Customer service and technical support staff work within the same department, and are trained on a tier system regarding their technical support authority. Every representative spoken with will have at least the basic knowledge of how to troubleshoot connections between the satellite receiver and the television, including multiple electronic piggyback - when the receiver is connected through a VCR, DVD player, stereo system, or other device. However, if a loss of connection or other technical issue stems to a device other than the receiver itself, under no circumstances will they support TV, VCR, DVD, or PC-related problems. Any type of picture troubleshooting must be done with a direct connection from the receiver to the television.
Unlike equipment, labor for installations is only under warranty for three (3) months, regardless if the client is even renting the equipment. As the equipment is not physically linked to ExpressVu's network (other than via microwave transmission) and that most of the equipment is outside and subject to weather, installers can not warrant anything more than three months. Out of warranty service calls cost $75 for the first hour, $12.50 every additional 15 minutes. The installation of additional receivers can cost $50 per receiver.
A two year contract entitles clients to free basic installation. All rented receivers require professional installation and must be returned to Bell TV after the committed term; currently Bell TV has no program to sell receivers after the rental period has expired. Monthly rental prices include 3100 / 4100 ($3), 5900 ($10), 5200 (No Longer Available), 6100 / 6141 ($10), 9200 / 9242 ($20). While paying rental fees, receivers are always under warranty. Purchased equipment comes with a default warranty of one year with the option of taking an extended warranty. The extended warranty ("Dish Care Maintenance Plan") costs $6 per month and must be kept for a minimum of a full year. It entitles customers to two (2) claims (in-warranty replacements) per rolling year on any Bell TV receiver or dish; the receiver in question must be documented as having gone through the highest level of technical support and deemed to be malfunctioning. Only manufacturer's defects will warrant replacement of dish under coverage - a strict policy is in place regarding "Acts of God" and dish damage, which includes violent weather disabling a dish or misaligning it, as well as any physical modifications by the customer (e.g. house paint.)
Pay-per-view events may be ordered either via a remote (requiring a phone line connection), via Bell's website, or via an automated phone system. Ordering via remote is the most effective method. With initial use, the phone line technically does not need to be connected; the receiver's smartcard actually has the ability to unlock permissions to a few Pay-per-view events before it actually has to dial-out. Regular movies cost $4.99, adult movies vary between $6.99 and $9.99, adult packaged events are $24.99, while sporting events can vary up to about $50.00. Bell TV carries all popular movies that have recently been released on DVD along with major sporting events including boxing, World Wrestling Entertainment and Ultimate Fighting Championship. Red Carpet Vu is a Pay-per-view movie service broadcasted in a group of up to ten different channels where a daily featured movie starts every fifteen minutes.
A Bell TV receiver can only be activated with a minimum of 75% signal. On a clear day in most of the country, a receiver should be able to acquire close to 85% on transponders 11 and 3, two of the strongest transponders from Nimiq 1. Transponder 13 provides software downloads. Signal levels on Nimiq 4, at 82°W, vary between 90% and 100%. Receivers should only be activated with the proper signal and the correct software. An initial software download or update takes a maximum of 7 minutes. Some clients may mistakenly point their dish to other satellites, typically Echostar 11 at 110°W. This ends up writing Dish Network software to the receiver which makes it completely useless. Older receivers like the 2700 are said to have the ability to overwrite software simply by pointing back to Nimiq 1 at 91°W. Newly activated receivers generally also come with outdated smartcard revisions (the smartcard software). Leaving the receiver on for 2 hours max and then resetting the power of the receiver generally updates the smartcard software or setting the receiver to transponder 13 and turning the power off will do the same. In 2006, Bell TV took measures to improve the Nagravision 2 security system and are constantly updating revisions. Outdated smartcard revisions will leave the client with black screens upon changing channels.
For an installation with one or two receivers, a direct connection from the receiver to the dish's LNB should be made with a maximum amount of 125 ft of RG-6 coaxial cabling. An LNB has two outputs and each receiver should have its separate connection. Any splitters used will cause signal problems on both receivers. Beyond 125 ft of RG-6 will require a repeater (an in-line digital amplifier). Many installers will unfortunately try to cut corners and use existing coaxial cabling; this cabling is typical RG-59 and experiences significant attenuation. RG-59 is generally made only handle CATV frequencies (900 MHz and less) instead of frequency range 950-1450 MHz (In most applications and some commercials systems up to 2050 MHz) and don't have proper shielding against interference. The usage of RG-59 cabling will cause significant signal loss on longer distances but can be used in short distances. Signal level can varie between -69dBm and -10dBm without any change in picture quality. (Signal level should not be mixed with IRD strength which can be obtained from receiver menus, which should be between 75% and 100%) but when signal level is lower, rain fade will have greater effect on signal.
Three to four receivers will require the installation of a 2x4 multiplexer (MUX). It takes the two lines from the LNB and provides four outputs. Some MUX models also require a power inserter; this provides additional current to the MUX to power LNB and the MUX itself. A power inserter is typically connected to separate input on a MUX. Clients requiring service on both Nimiq 1 and Nimiq 4 will require an SW44 or an SW21 switch instead of a MUX. Both lines from the Nimiq 1 LNB and both from the Nimiq 4 LNB come into the switch. The switch then merges both signals and provides four outputs; a power inserter is mandatory on all 4x4 switches.
The installation of more than four receivers is a bit more complicated unless you have a MUX or switch that supports more than four outputs. ExpressVu does not officially provide any MUX or switch to customers with more than four outputs, so typical digital splitters in the range of 2.5 GHz are required to split the LNB lines; this provides additional inputs into a second MUX or switch. It can somewhat complicate the installation, but is still deemed as official and compliant to ExpressVu's standards. The easier (and cheaper) way to install something like six receivers would be to simply install a second dish which costs only $99 vs. installing a second MUX or switch and having to hassle with complex wiring.
Many multidwelling units (MDU) do not allow the installation of more than one dish for an entire building. As a result, an multiplexer system must be installed. These typically involve the installation of larger if not cascaded MUXs. The problem with this is that if anything happens to the dish, the entire building loses service. In some MDU systems signals are stacked using whole bandwidth from 900 MHz to 2050 MHz. Advantage of this one is that signal can be split to multiple receivers but customer requires a destacker (downconverter) to be able to receive the signal.
Installers are responsible for the activation of all professionally installed receivers. A receiver typically takes a couple of minutes to respond to an activation signal, yet queued satellite signals (hits) can sometimes take up to two hours to process. Additionally, installers are supposed to coach the client on how to use the system.
Any receiver manufactured after model 6000 now supports interactive services (iTV). iTV offers information services like weather, lottery results, and horoscopes. A multitude of games are also available. Most recently, the NFL Sunday Ticket package now offers an iTV service that allows clients to keep track of multiple simultaneous football games. Even if the client is concentrating on one single game, he will be notified if there are any other score changes for other games with the option of switching over to that channel. NHL Center Ice now also provides an interactive channel with updates on games.
This implementation of VDSL uses ATM to deliver television service via telephone lines. The network infrastructure can support very large amounts of bandwidth, up to 26 Mbit/s, and is only available in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. VDSL clients use "NextLevel Communications" (now part of Motorola) set-top boxes that receive television broadcasts in ATM form. Upstream Pay-per-view requests are made via Internet Protocol (IP). The modem can communicate with set-top boxes all over the customer prem via standard Cat-5 network cabling (RJ-45), coaxial cabling (RG-59), or via the existing twisted-pair network. As of January 2008, ExpressVu has 17,500 VDSL subscribers. In 2004, ExpressVu promised the launch of Motorola PVR and HDTV receivers. As of September 2006, there are currently no updates on the launch of these receivers.
If Bell TV chooses to expand on its VDSL service, it should cause customers less technical difficulties. No more signal losses due to snow on dishes or misaligned dishes. Additionally, the amount of piracy should be reduced to almost nil as the channel permissions would be dictated by what's defined on Bell TV's side, not by a smartcard on the customer's end.
Bell TV currently features over 300 channels including all major Canadian & American networks, popular specialty services, PPV, sports packages, international services and over 40 High Definition channels. Bell TV's programming changes constantly, for the current lineup see here. Key services include:
Bell TV produces a monthly magazine called Show (the French version is called Extra). Show debuted in September 2007, and replaced BellTV Magazine, the previous name for the customer publication from ExpressVu.
Show is delivered to over 800,000 Bell TV customers and showcases entertainment from Canada, Hollywood and around the world.