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French Open tennis will debut HEVC for OTT HD delivery

The French government-backed research and development project 4EVER will trial delivery of HD content OTT using the recently ratified HEVC codec at the 2013 French Open Tennis championships starting May 17.

This will provide one of the first large scale demonstrations of OTT HD delivery using HEVC, which reduces, by half, the bit rate required to encode video at a given quality level compared with the currently deployed H.264/MPEG4.

4EVER, whose collaborators include French companies Orange Labs, France Televisions, Technicolor, TeamCast, Doremi, GlobeCast, Institut Telecom ParisTech and encoding vendor ATEME, is about one year into a three-year project investigating use of HEVC for distribution of HD to remote populations and mobiles, as well as Ultra HD to the home and cinemas. In 2012, the project started by shooting 4K footage of Paris streets and of sea events in the Brest area, but in that case encoded in H.264 before HEVC had been ratified. From now on it will focus on HEVC.

In Europe, France has taken a lead over HEVC deployment, rather as it did with H.264 in becoming the world’s biggest IPTV market until overtaken by China last year. France Telecom’s Orange, which is still the world’s number one IPTV operator with almost 6 million subscribers, has announced it will launch an VOD service in 1080p HD using HEVC by June 2013. For IPTV operators, a major attraction of HEVC will be the ability to extend the distance range of their services by being able to sustain the same quality at the lower bit rates prevailing further from the DSLAMs where fiber is terminated.

Outside Europe, Japan is proving fast off the blocks in HEVC deployment, with the emphasis on mobile TV, which has been a success there already unlike most other parts of the world. The interest for mobile TV is in enabling HD quality over emerging 4G services rather than reducing bit rate or extending range. At the same time, though, it is hoped that HEVC will postpone the need to find additional bandwidth within the core and backhaul infrastructure.

Japanese mobile operator NTT DOCOMO has just stated it will license video decoding software for HEVC this month, to enable full HD video streaming on smart phones and other devices. DOCOMO hopes this will galvanize development and adoption of HEVC across the delivery ecosystem, including mobile video services, as part of efforts to reduce loads on its 4G network. The operator has played a major role in HEVC’s development since the process began in 2007, especially over technical requirements for its use in mobile video services.