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UPDATE BT Launch UK 4K Ultra HD Sports TV Channel and Set-Top-Box

Friday, Jul 17th, 2015 (10:55 am) - Score 9,341

As expected BT has today revealed the first solid details and price of their new 4K Ultra HD TV package, which claims to include “Europe’s very first live sports Ultra HD channel” (BTSport Ultra HD) and a new 4K capable 1TB YouView (IPTV) set-top-box. But you’ll need a faster than “superfast” broadband speed.

The plans for a new 4K TV channel have been floating around since earlier this year (here) and were recently confirmed after BT revealed their new BTSport packages for existing broadband and TV subscribers (here).

The new TV service will go live from 2nd August 2015, with the first broadcast being the FA Community Shield match at Wembley (Chelsea v Arsenal) and that will be followed on 8th August by the first game of the new Barclays Premier League season (Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur). Also keep an out for the Silverstone MotoGP in 4K.

All of this will form part of the new £15 a month Entertainment Ultra HD package, which includes the set-top-box (£44 installation charge), 47 premium channels (13 in HD) and the BT Sport Pack (adds EU footy to the existing UK sports line-up). On top of that a voucher for up to £500 off an LG 4K UHD TV is included, although in our opinion Samsung make better sets.

Delia Bushell, MD of BT TV and BTSport, said:

The best way to watch BT Sport is with BT TV. BT Sport Ultra HD is the next step in high definition TV and provides a truly cinematic viewing experience and is available only on BT TV. The BT Sport Ultra HD channel will bring you closer to the action than ever before.

The picture quality is absolutely amazing – it’s four times the detail of today’s high definition TV. We are proud to be innovating and leading the UK TV market with our Entertainment Ultra HD package which offers customers the best in premium TV.”

As usual there’s a catch, which is that in order to view the new channel you’ll need a reasonably fast BTInfinity (FTTC) connection, although annoyingly BT doesn’t make it clear precisely how fast the connection must be.

Thankfully a quick query to BT’s PR team reveals that the service requires an Internet download speed of 44Mbps, which is likely to exclude a lot of BTInfinity FTTC customers (Ofcom’s last report found the average FTTC speed to be 41.6Mbps, although package [40Mb or 80Mb] choice will also play a part here). It’s interesting to note that this is also well above the 20-30Mbps or so that some other 4K streaming services tend to recommend.

A BT spokesperson also noted that Infinity 1 customers will be able to order BT TV Ultra HD if their line is “technically capable” of supporting 44Mbps. The figure is quite a bit above what both the Government defines as “superfast” (24Mbps+) and Ofcom’s similar definition of 30Mbps+.

It should however be noted that video bitrates do vary depending on the content and compression quality, although 44Mbps is still higher than most 4K streams (we suspect this might be to do with a desire for higher frame rates on sports content). At least BT won’t have to worry too much about this yet as 4K TV’s are still in the minority.

UPDATE 12:37pm

BT has kindly furnished us with a few more details on the stream, which they’ve also confirmed as using an HEVC codec (several methods use this, such as the new H265 and VP9).

Apparently the actual stream will run in the 20-30Mbps range like other 4K services, but they opted to set the 44Mbps requirement so as to allow extra headroom (this means the customer can still have a good quality experience while they watch and record other IP channels and also use the internet at the same time).

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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