4K TV will be mainstream TV watching in the US and Japan Soon | Soukacatv.com

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22.04.2019 06:53:37 - Television technology is developing at a fast pace and 4K looks set to be common for mainstream TV watching in countries like the US and Japan soon.

(live-PR.com) - Television technology is developing at a fast pace and 4K looks set to be common for mainstream TV watching in countries like the US and Japan soon. Unless Australia has a broadband infrastructure plan that can accommodate such technology, we could be left behind, writes Nick Ross.

I love technology. It changes almost every day. Last week we saw the stratospheric


rise of the broadband comparison site, howfastisthenbn.com.au but two days later we were reminded on Reddit that it was arguably already out of date.

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Netflix, the video on demand service, which can account for one-third of all US download traffic and represents a mainstream form of US television consumption, will start using "4K" Ultra High Definition quality video in 2014. It's not beyond the realms of reason that 4K TV will be mainstream in the US by just 2016.

Displaying such content right now is something of a challenge. Just three weeks ago, Samsung launched its first 4K TV - an 85-inch behemoth that costs $40,000. This sits alongside Sony and LG's 84-inch equivalents which cost $25,000 and $16,000 respectively. Last week LG announced a new 55-inch version for $7,000. Overseas, however, Chinese company Seiki priced its 50-inch 4K TV at just $1,500. You can buy it now, in the US, for under $1,200.

You don't have to be a numbers-mad analyst to notice a trend there. 4K TVs are collapsing in price faster than any new TV technology before it.

Why is this an issue?

It's been said that only practical way of handling content for 4K TVs is using fiber-based broadband. The commonly-regarded optimal data rate required for 4K content is around 30 megabits per second (Mb/s). You can actually compress the signal down to anything you want, but that comes with a loss in quality.

A significant step forward in this area occurred in Japan where a recent video standard called H.265 (or HEVC) offers good 4K quality at 10Mb/s, "as long as the environment's in place." The addendum likely refers to a fast network with significant overhead to account for traffic spikes. You can see the difference between these new and old standards, here. However, the standard faces challenges for widespread adoption as DoCoMo, the parent company, is expected to license its technology at a high price.

Japan and UHD innovation are becoming synonymous. At the beginning of the year the country was demonstrating "8K" televisions which have a resolution that's four-times higher than 4K. Furthermore, while Japan has averaged over 50Mb/s download speeds for some time, Sony recently announced a 2Gb/s internet service. It's safe to say that the Japanese are ready for the move to Ultra High definition.

What content will there be?

Samsung is adamant that it's worth splashing $40,000 on its 4K TV right now primarily because up scaled, current, Full High Definition video looks better on it. Unfortunately, we've not been in a position to test this, but content is definitely a challenge. I can attest that playing Call of Duty on an 84-inch, 4K TV is certainly an extraordinary experience - it's like taking part in a war movie. Few TV series are currently shot in 4K, but expect the transition to be fast. Netflix already shot its highly-acclaimed "House of Cards" in 4K and 4K production cameras recently got much cheaper. However, it's the movie industry that is well ahead in this area. It's been gearing for 4K content since 2002 and practically all major movies have been released using this format in recent years.

TV manufacturers themselves are in an awkward position. The TV market is stagnant and manufacturers are looking for reasons to get people upgrading. But while they acknowledge that the future of content distribution is online they simultaneously realize that getting access to it is a problem. Last year, Paul Colley, Sony Group Manager for Network Services and Technology, described how all of Sony's new TVs focus on displaying video from the internet because, "Most television will be consumed over the internet in three years." This has been echoed by competitors which is why we hear so much about 'Smart TVs' these days.

Samsung bemoaned the lack of Australian broadband infrastructure at its TV launch but it has knock on effects too: 4K camera sales are likely to be held back as are new content distribution services. [Note: In Australia prime problems for online content distribution are long-term (sometimes 10-years' long) lucrative content deals with the likes of Foxtel and Blockbuster. According to Cisco, this is a major factor for Australia lagging behind the US in online content distribution.]

Uploading content

In a 4K world some thought needs to be given to Upload Speeds. It's all very well consuming content but it needs to be created too. Currently YouTube sees three days of video uploaded to it every minute and that figure is climbing quickly. The rise in Ultra High Definition is boosting the traffic size too. But the problem with copper networks is that upload speeds are dramatically slower than download speeds. The prime reasons for this are noise on the line and the traditional web practice of consuming content over creating it. However, if you're like me and you recently had to upload a two-minute child's homework video to YouTube over Telstra's fastest cable connection, it can take around five hours to complete. Alex Kidman recently lamented that his Ewan McGregor interview took 22 minutes to film and over eight hours to upload using his office connection. While YouTube is a pioneer distributor of 4K video, one wonders how Australians will be able to contribute to content.

A Blu-ray solution?

When Blu-ray appeared it was launched as an interim technology. The main reason it was required was that broadband infrastructure wasn't yet fast enough. As Bill Gates said in 2010:

For us it's not the physical format. Understand that this is the last physical format there will ever be. Everything's going to be streamed directly or on a hard disk. So, in this way, it's even unclear how much this one counts.

As Trusted Reviews puts it:

Blu-ray's potential as a carrier of native 4K footage is hindered by its 50GB storage limits (4K movies usually need at least 100GB, and can go up as far as 200GB in their uncompressed form). However, work is underway as we speak to develop and ratify a compression system capable of squeezing a 4K film onto a Blu-ray, and there could potentially be an announcement on this by the end of the year.

But Blu-ray discs haven't exactly set the world on fire in terms of popularity and they still remain very expensive. Having an even-more expensive variant, which requires another expensive player, is unlikely to change matters. As for hard disks, the nature-clip 4K 'movie,' Time scapes is the poster child. It's 45 minutes long and costs between $99 and $299 depending on which 4K format you choose.

This all positions fiber-based broadband as the favored distribution medium (without serious compression).

It's worth noting that current Full High Definition, Blu-ray movies like The Hobbit have an average bitrate of 5 Mb/s with peaks climbing to around 30Mb/s. The data stream varies wildly depending on how much is happening on screen.

Furthermore, when broadcasting a constant stream of video or audio over the internet, you actually need extra headroom to keep things smooth. Anything less and things get choppy.

Copper dependent broadband

Although there are plenty of other bandwidth, reliability, and speed issues surrounding the competing NBN plans - including those needed for the provision of telehealth, aged care and business - it's the question of home video entertainment that has been the focus of the Coalition's pitch.

Malcolm Turnbull says accurately that high-definition video requires a download speed of 6Mb/s. The bulk of the Coalition's plan uses copper connections to the home and initially promises 25Mb/s. Turnbull further points out that this capacity "supports streaming FOUR HD video programs in parallel." He observes that because the majority (58 per cent) of Australian households have two people or fewer in them, application stacking won't be a problem. He continues to argue on his blog that, "While there may well be a number of such households that want (or even need) more bandwidth, a clear majority are likely to be quite well-served by a 25-megabit connection for years to come."

He also contends that "a connection providing 5 megabits per second uploads and 25 megabits per second downloads would permit two simultaneous SD video conferences."

Four concurrent 6Mb/s streams are likely to be very choppy with a 25Mb/s ceiling and no extra headroom, but the Coalition's ultimate goal is a ubiquitous 50Mb/s minimum connection by 2019. Based on current TV specifications the copper-reliant plan may provide an adequate service.

Yet is it realistic to plan on video consumption using current HD models? While the future of TV and the adequacy of competing services can't be assessed definitively, history, growth forecasts and trends may help.

The Australian government defines the minimum acceptable quality of High Definition as standard digital TV quality. That fits with other countries like the US where High Definition has routinely been called anything above standard analogue TV. However, 'HD Ready' and Full HD television sets have since saturated the market and with them came consumer demand for better, sharper images. It begs the question; will the current benchmark of 6Mb/s video still feel like High Definition in a few years' time?

Final questions

If the market wants Ultra High Definition, which infrastructures will be able to cope? The differences in download speed are highlighted by the following graph:

The graph shows that the current NBN "FTTH" infrastructure plan will comfortably handle multiple, high-quality, Ultra High Definition video streams coming to (and from) single premises. The Copper reliant systems (whose theoretical maximum speeds are displayed at the bottom left) may struggle, especially if they have to cope with other simultaneous internet applications.

If 4K is going to be common for mainstream TV watching in countries like the US and Japan by 2016, does Australia need to take account of this with its infrastructure plans?

On the other hand, is watching video enough to, in itself, justify any massive infrastructure build? And, if so, which broadband policy would that affect the most?

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Source: abc.net.au by Nick Ross

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