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BT Looking Towards Trials of 4K Ultra HD TV Broadband Video Streams

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 (10:34 am) - Score 2,398

The CEO of BT Group, Gavin Patterson, has confirmed that the operator is already conducting trials of 4K video streaming (Ultra HDTV – 3840 x 2160 pixels) technology for its BT TV and sport content. But you’ll need a good broadband connection to benefit.

At present nearly everybody seems to be preparing some form of 4K content, with Netflix (here) and YouTube (here) being two of the better known examples. Recent improvements to video streaming technology (e.g. the VP9 and H.265 codecs) have also made it possible to deliver smooth 4K content with a minimum speed of 15Mbps (though you’ll probably need 30-50Mbps for good quality live streaming).

Gavin Patterson said (The Telegraph):

We’ll be honing new technologies to build on that position. This year our Media and Broadcast business unit is trialling 4K resolution technology, which promises a new era. Direct through fibre, instead of traditional aerial and satellite, you can personalise the service in ways that haven’t been possible so far. You’ll also be able to make advertising more targeted and more interactive.”

At this point it’s worth remembering that BT’s dominant Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service tends to deliver Internet download speeds of between 2Mbps and up to a maximum of 80Mbps, which means that merely having FTTC doesn’t guarantee a good 4K experience (i.e. those with sub-15Mbps performance). Future Vectoring technology and other enhancements (G.fast) will improve this but there could still be those left to suffer from slower speeds.

So when can we actually expect BT’s 4K streaming to materialise? Well right now there wouldn’t be much point because most of the early 4K TV’s are absurdly expensive, which means that the market is extremely small, but this should improve just as HD did before. Speaking of HD though, many TV channels still aren’t even being broadcast in HD as standard so 4K is likely to be an even tougher sell. Give it a year or two.

In related news BT claims to have become the first UK Pay TV operator to offer buy-to-keep movies (as opposed to merely renting them or streaming via a monthly sub). This is assuming you can forget about Google Play and all those other commercial video streaming services that offer buy-to-keep services, not to mention the Ultraviolet system for online movie distribution.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar bob

    “Speaking of HD though, many TV channels still aren’t even being broadcast in HD as standard”

    This ^

    I would much rather see an expansion of 1080i channels if possible. It’s probably at the point now, or at least fast approaching it, where 1080p TV sets are commonplace enough in the home for it to be worthwhile. SD channels truly look terrible.

  2. Avatar Matthew Williams

    Problem with 1080p on standard tv is the bandwidth issue I can’t see it happening honestly more channels in 720p/1080i yes but not 1080p.

    • Avatar No clue

      Bandwidth has nothing to do with resolution, bandwidth consumption will be down to the bitrate and codec any stream is transmitted at.

      You could transmit an SD 480p stream in an MPEG-2 format and at a bitrate that would equate to a stream larger than a 720P stream using MPEG-4. Ironically it would look worse but be larger.

    • Avatar Matthew Williams

      If you want a good solid sharp picture in 1080p resolution it is going use more bandwidth than the equivalent in 720p the bit rate would be higher so it would use more bandwidth. When you film in 1080p you use more bit rate than you do in 720p well unless you have a crap camera.

    • Avatar No clue

      Bandwidth has nothing to do with resolution. 720P, 1080P is irrelevant to what bandwidth is consumed. So is the camera material is filmed on considering streaming material is re-compressed before you view anything your end.

  3. Avatar Gerarda

    Just a minor correction “At this point it’s worth remembering that BT’s dominant Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service tends to deliver Internet download speeds of between 0Mbps and up to a maximum of 80Mbps”

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