Interest in 4K UHDTV is growing, but at present there is little UHDTV content available. One of the obvious problems is that it takes a huge amount of bandwidth to transmit an image containing 8.3 megapixels per frame. This week Intelsat and Ericsson announced the successful demonstration of a true 4K UHDTV, end-to-end video transmission over a satellite link at Turner Broadcasting's facilities in Atlanta.
The companies said this was the first transmission of a UHDTV signal over satellite in North America and the demonstration proves “that the satellite delivery chain can accommodate the next generation signals as soon as broadcasters are ready to offer them. Unfortunately for U.S. broadcasters, that may take some time, as the current ATSC broadcast standard is limited to a 19.39 Mbps total payload--not enough for UHDTV, even with today's HEVC codecs. “Next generation” broadcast technology being evaluated for the ATSC 3.0 standard. This would allow data rates of greater than 30 Mbps, which should be sufficient for the HEVC codecs likely to be available when broadcasters switch.
The press release from Intelsat and Ericsson did not mention the encoding technology used for the demonstration, but it noted that “An earlier test between Newtec and satellite transmission provider PSSI Global Services, which was conducted in preparation for the UHD demonstration, achieved 140 Mbps over a 36 MHz transponder on Galaxy 13 to a 4.6 meter antenna.” The demonstration video sent over Intelsat's Galaxy 13 was a 4:2:2 10-bit, 4K UHD signal at 60 frames per second.
Ericsson provided the AVP-2000 contribution encoders and the RX8200 receivers used in the demonstration. The current AVP-2000 supports MPEG-2, MPEG-4 AVC and JPEG-2000 compression.
“We are tremendously pleased with the outcome of today’s demonstration,” said Giles Wilson, head of TV compression business at Ericsson. “It shows what is feasible in terms of meeting consumer demand for the highest quality possible. Demonstrations such as this show operators that it is possible to start building the necessary ecosystem and a library of UHD TV content now as the industry readies itself for the roll-out of commercial services in the coming years. Ericsson has always been a pioneer of next-generation compression systems, and we are pleased to have worked with Intelsat to lead the way for UHD TV over satellite.”
4K video seems to be getting wider acceptance than 3-D, now that lower-cost 4K television sets are being announced. When these devices make it into consumers’ homes, it’s likely that the viewers won't be satisfied with upconverted HD material. Overcoming the problems with distribution over satellite is only part of solution; getting this material into homes, either over-the-air, via cable, or even over the Internet, won't be easy.
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