4K/Ultra HD to drive satellite demand

4KThe CEOs of the world’s largest satellite operators agree that the rollout of Ultra HD will be a major driver of demand for satellite services.

The only area of discord is not if, but rather when this revolution to the TV viewing experience will take place.

Speaking at the Satellite 2013 “Big Four” panel, Eutelsat’s CEO Michel de Rosen kicked off by saying that he predicted that the launch of Ultra HD will come with the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

But he added “for the market to be meaningful we will have to wait until the last years of this decade.”

SES CEO Romain Bausch was more bullish, predicting that 2015 will see the debut of Ultra HD services. Further he added that the development of Ultra HD will be rather different and altogether better than the often painful development of the high definition we know today.

“I am more optimistic. I would say 2015. But it will be really different from the launch of HD years ago. This is because of the processing capabilities of the reception equipment. There will be much more content available than when HD launched. At that time, scaling up standard digital into an HD picture was looking relatively ugly. With today’s processing capabilities, when you watch the scaling up of native HD content into Ultra HD it is already a very good experience. So I believe with this greater content availability, it will happen, first, earlier and, second, faster than with HD.”

Intelsat CEO Dave McGlade predicted a market for Ultra HD in 2016, but pointed out: “we certainly need to see the development of HEVC, the follow-on from MPEG-4 encoding, and to have enough scale to bring the pricing down. It’s much too expensive. We have to have the programming to go along with it. But we are talking from going from 4k, which is four times the throughput of standard HD to 8k, which is 16 times. So the question really is: do we really have big adoption at the 4k level or do we jump right to 8k and how long does that take? Plus, people have bought a lot of HD sets and they want to use them. So I think it’s going to take a while. “

Dan Goldberg, CEO of Telesat, characterising the Canadian company elsewhere in the discussion as typically “cautious (and) prudent” and less involved in the more “speculative” types of high throughput satellite ventures undertaken by his colleagues on the panel, was the most conservative in his predictions, saying that he expected that it would take “five-plus years” for Ultra HD to take off.