By Jonas Verhaeghe
When Polaroid announced its own 4K TV and above all priced it at only $999.99, my initial thought was “Damn, we just bought a new TV!”. A couple of seconds later another thought questioned the impact on the satellite communication industry and market.
Only an Interesting News Item?
Fact, Polaroid has grabbed headlines with this news, question is will the consumer market act up on it? That remains to be seen, as currently there isn’t much 4K content available. Of course it is just a question of supply and demand. If people start buying 4K TVs en masse, content will swiftly follow, but how will it be delivered to those TVs?
What Are the Technical Implications?
Due to those large 4K resolutions and screen sizes, high frame rates become very important, especially for high value content like sports. In parallel also the audio is improving, meaning that for a couple of minutes of uncompressed 60p 4K footage you need to start thinking in terabytes.
In short, for 4K Ultra-High Definition TV broadcasting key considerations like compression (e.g. HEVC) and transmission (e.g. S2 Extensions on satellite and other fiber and terrestrial efficiency improvements) will be key to making it happen.
Satcom Industry Ready or Not?
In theory the satcom industry is ready for it. Throughout 2013 several technology providers all over the world tested transmitting 4K UHDTV signals over satellite, like the end-to-end 4K video transmission at Turner Broadcasting and the DTH demo of Canal+ in June of that year. The demos which probably received most media attention were those of Eutelsat and Intelsat. In cooperation with a series of partners they presented the first ever live 4K UHDTV transmissions of a live sport event at the IBC 2013 Trade Show.
From a practical point of view a lot still needs to happen before 4K content can be transmitted over satellite without further ado. An important step, although not a prerequisite, is the new DVB-Sx standard. These extensions to the current DVB-S2 standard are anticipated to be released end of February of this year. Satcom equipment which complies to this standard will be able to handle the higher data rates required for contributing 4K content to the studio’s and between studio’s and affiliates/customers.
DVB-Sx ready equipment like modems, modulators, etc. are already available, like our very own MDM6100 which is software upgradable to the new standard when it’s released. The biggest question is when exactly the first customers will require UHDTV on satellite? Because from that moment on satellite networks will need to upgrade their equipment to handle the higher bitrate needs. My guess is that it will depend on supply and demand. If sales of 4K TVs soar, the demand will soon arise and the satellite industry will be expected to deliver 4K content (especially high level sports content) to their customers.
Things can change fast. A cocktail of inexpensive 4K TVs, the announcement of Sony and FIFA in September last year to broadcast the Brazil 2014 World Cup Final in 4K Ultra HD (and probably other games) and football fans wanting the best resolution to watch and experience their beloved sport, could do the trick.
In my honest opinion, keep a close look at the market and be ready to act, or even better gear up because 4K seems to be here to stay.
Would love to hear your comments!
- White Paper on Migration Strategies S2 Extensions, UHDTV and HEVC