In a notice posted on its website on Thursday, Shaw Broadcast Services has confirmed what many Digital Home readers had already suspected. Shaw will not convert any existing MPEG-2 signals to MPEG-4 until the launch of the Anik G1 satellite at the end of 2012.

The announcement is significant because it means that Shaw Direct, Canada's second largest direct-to-home (DTH) distributor is unlikely to add many, if any, new HD channels to its line-up over the next 12-18 months.

The explosion of new bandwidth hogging HD channels over the last few years combined with a recent CRTC ruling that requires Shaw Direct to add thirteen local OTA channels to its line-up has left the satellite provider critically short of satellite capacity.

The result is Shaw direct carries just over 75 HD channels vs. over 100 for its primary competitor, Bell Satellite,

Shaw Direct customers had been hoping the company would make the migration to MPEG-4, which offers greater video compression than MPEG-2, in order to free up capacity and be able offer more HD channels with its existing satellite bandwidth.

Instead Shaw Direct customers will need to wait until a third satellite - Anik G1 - is launched into space in late 2012 before they will see any significant increase in the number of HD Channels it offers. Anik G1 will join Anik F1 and F2 which have been used to beam Shaw Direct signals to consumers since April 2001. By using MPEG-4 compression, the new satellite will support the equivalent of over one hundred HD channels and increase capacity by approximately 30%.

Discuss this week’s news and the Anik G1 satellite in our Shaw Direct discussion forum.