UltraHD ready within next 5 years

LG ultra HD 4KThe ecosystem for Ultra High Definition (4K) will be technically ready by 2017, equivalent to 2002 for HD TV, according to IHS Electronics & Media’s Tom Morrod.

By 2020 there will be over 200 UHD channels worldwide, rising to over 1,000 by 2025. The availability of UHD TVs in the home and UHD services by pay-TV operators with advanced set-top boxes will drive the commercial opportunity for channel launches and content production.

Up to 2025 UHD TV will go from technical standards to technology ecosystem to commercial mass market. This will broadly align with the launch of HD TV, which was confirmed as a technology standard in 1990, reached technology ecosystem availability in 2002 and commercial mass market in 2006. UHD will happen much faster, equivalently having the technology ready and available before 2017 and commercial opportunities for pay TV operators and content makers by 2023.

In the coming five years, pay-TV operators will start to switch off their MPEG-2 transmissions to accommodate more HD and UHD channels. Homes in advanced markets will also start to reach the threshold of mass market technology, when around 3 per cent of households have a UHD TV set.

Overall, the UHD market will become mature and ready for technical launches by 2017, when commercial channels and pay TV operator packages will be launched with deployments of UHD-capable TV sets and set-top boxes in the home. Driven by major events like the World Cup and the Olympics UHD will start being trialled in 2016 and transmitted in 2018. By 2023 the market will be mature enough to reach commercial mass market, offering the opportunity for all parts of the supply chain to gain significantly from UHD.

The opportunity is underlined by the supply of UHD TV sets by major brands putting screen sizes of 70” and above at attractive prices to encourage UHD into the home. As with HD, providing content to these screens is likely to be commercially viable when more than 3% of homes have a UHD TV, which will happen in around 2017 in the US and between 2018 and 2021 in most other regions. By 2025 almost half of the TVs shipped globally will be UHD TVs.

However, UHD has a major advantage over HD during launch. This is due to some of the technologies needed to make UHD cost effective, and in particular the next generation compression codec HEVC (also known as h.265 and the successor to MPEG-4/AVC/h.264 compression).

Pay-TV operators will be shipping next-generation HEVC set-top boxes that will be needed for UHD reception, but are also a crucial part of multiscreen and online video strategies as well. This ‘Trojan Horse’ effect will mean that UHD set-top boxes actually go into the market faster than their HD predecessors. This will allow many operators the chance to actively switch off their older MPEG-2 set-top boxes and free up transmission space for more HD and UHD channels.

By 2018 many of the largest operators in the world will find it cost effective to make this kind of switch, catalysing the UHD market further and providing the opportunity for operators to use HD TV as a basic content package and UHD as the premium technology tier.