Advanced Television

Streaming innovation will drive 4K uptake

August 27, 2014

While the larger 4K ecosystem slowly gets its footing, a report from The Diffusion Group (TDG) argues that streaming video will be the spark that lights 4K uptake and use.

“Only a few years ago the idea of streaming 4K video over the Internet seemed impossible,” notes Joel Espelien, TDG Senior Advisor and author of the new report. “Much has changed in a very short period of time.” Espelien points to two specific factors that are coming together to make 4K video streaming both technically feasible and economically attractive.

First, US consumer broadband speeds have improved, with average residential wireline connection speeds now topping 10 Mbps. A majority of US broadband households are now at or above access speeds that would enable a single 4K stream to be enjoyed on a living room TV, especially given new codecs.

Second, video streaming technologies have continued to improve, a critical trend that optimises available bandwidth such that larger files can be transported more quickly and efficiently. Though still in its early phases, the next-generation codec HEVC (otherwise known as H.265) has been demonstrated to improve codec efficiencies (i.e., bandwidth savings) of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent compared to today’s state-of-the-art codec, AVC. This is a significant improvement, says Espelien, as it represents a gain of 50 per cent, which could mean the difference between needing a 15 Mbps and a 10 Mbps stream to deliver 4K content.

As well, MPEG-DASH promises to modify video resolution dynamically, adjusting in real-time to device capabilities and bandwidth conditions. As these capabilities are added to 4K smart TVs and other broadband video devices, 4K streaming will become technically possible on a much wider scale.

“This combination of improved residential broadband throughputs and next-generation codecs will open up a large swath of broadband homes that would otherwise be ‘on the bubble’ with respect to 4K streaming.”

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