SES has a long-standing reputation for being an innovator, with Ultra HD one of several areas in which it is currently taking a lead.
The new technology, Ultra HD, or 4K as it is otherwise known, has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few months.
Although there are still gaps in the ecosystem that limit Ultra HD from being fully implemented in the broadcast chain, impressive efforts are being made by equipment makers, network operators and broadcasters, working together, to roll out the technology as soon as possible.
What is more, the market believes in the future of Ultra HD. Industry research (IHS) forecasts that there will be one and a half million Ultra HD sets sold this year, with the figure of Ultra HD TV screens shipment rising to nearly 174 million worldwide by 2025 and accounting for almost third of all TV shipments in the global world. The total number of Ultra HD channels carried via satellite will surpass 1000 by 2025.
HD services first appeared in Europe in 2004 and are now commonplace throughout the continent, being included in the offers of leading pay-TV operators. SES plays a key role in the process, serving 80% of the 35 million satellite homes in Europe that currently receive HD channels. Earlier this year, SES partnered up with Orange to launch a new DTH platform in Romania. One of the standout features of the platform is that just under half (42) of the 100 TV channels are in HD, with 27 being exclusive to the service.
The figures for SES’s HD-related activities are just as impressive globally, with the company now reaching 276 million homes worldwide and transmitting over 1, 700 HD channels. The latter figure translates into 27% of HD channels broadcast via satellite worldwide.
In the case of Ultra HD, SES pioneered the first satellite transmission in the new HEVC standard live from 19.2 degrees East in April. More recently, it broadcast two live Ultra HD channels at IBC with industry partners.
The prospects for Ultra HD are certainly promising and sport will probably be the main driver for its take-up in the next few years. Among the events most likely to give it impetus are the World Cup and Olympic Games in Brazil in 2014 and 2016 respectively, as well as UEFA Euro tournament in 2016.
By the time the 2020 Tokyo Olympics come round, Ultra HD will be well on its way to becoming an established technology. Europe will very much at the forefront of its adoption, with one forecast even predicting 111 million Ultra HD households by 2015.
Yet its deployment will not be without challenges, many of which will have to be addressed before the end of next year. They include the availability of live encoders; consumer set-top boxes; European Ultra HD broadcast profiles; and HDMI v2.0 display interface.
There is also a need to develop the Ultra HD content. Although availability is still low, with 150 to 200 films available in the format, it is increasing rapidly.
Once all these are overcome, the way will become clear for Ultra HD take-up to grow rapidly and satellite with its geographically perfect coverage and nearly unlimited capacity seems to be an ideal distribution mean for Ultra HD.