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BSkyB Claims First 4K TV Satellite Broadcast

OSTERLEY, ENGLAND —U.K. pay television provider BSkyB successfully demonstrated what it claims was the world’s first satellite broadcast done in 4K resolution. The event took place Aug. 31 and featured coverage of a soccer game between two British teams, Stoke City and West Ham. The match was linked via satellite to BSkyB’s main office and broadcasting facility located in Osterley (West London).

The action was captured with four Sony F55 cameras and originated from a outside broadcast van specially equipped for UHD production. A 2160 x 3840 resolution was used, with images sent at 50 frames per second. Two UHD video file servers from EVS provided replays and graphics. Content was sent via a Eutelsat transponder, with Ericsson encoding/decoding gear providing four separate HD “tiles” that were used to construct the full 4K image at BSkyB headquarters. Viewing was done on a Sony 84-inch UHD television set.

BSkyB officials made it clear that the transmission was intended only as a demonstration of technology in connection with sports broadcasts, not the launch of a new service. However, Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis did state that it proved that there is interest in UHD sporting events capture and may pave the way for future projects and services.

“We saw enough in this test event to know that live sport in Ultra HD has real potential,” said Francis. “The broadcast also demonstrated the capability of our satellite platform, which is ideally placed to continue supporting high-bandwidth video.”

The soccer match transmission followed an Aug. 22 test of 4K image relay by satellite that involved UHD signals being sent from High Wycombe, a city located about 30 miles northwest of central London, to BSkyB’s Osterley facility. SIS Live, a satellite transmission firm, coordinated that test, with the four video carriers muxed into a 140 Mbps stream and transmitted via a 72 MHz transponder on Eutelsat 3D. According to SIS Live, an additional test with the same equipment configuration was performed on Aug. 25.

According to Francis, BSkyB plans to continue experimentation with UHD, noting that there was yet “much more to learn.” He added that as the organization continued with its UHD R&D work, it would also be keeping close tabs on penetration of 4K television receivers into U.K. homes.