US Satellite TV provider DirecTV is upgrading its network and is preparing to deploy Ultra-HDTV services in the future. They are planning to offer both 4K and 8K direct to home streams of TV programming once their users have moved off of Ku band satellites and to Ka band, which the ITU World Radiocommunications Conference in Geneva has named the future carrier of U-HDTV streams.
According to the Advanced Television website, DirecTV is planning for a future transition to Ultra HDTV. Earlier this year, we covered a news article about a Panasonic plasma television that can display 8K images. It was developed in cooperation with Japanese TV broadcaster NHK, and it seems like North American providers are also looking towards these future standards.
DirecTV’s Senior Vice President of R&D and Space and Communications Philip Goswitz has stated that in four to five years, the service provider will likely end it’s Ku-band satellite transmissions as they are currently migrating DirecTV's customers to Ka-band services which has much more bandwidth (currently used for HDTV transmission) than Ku-band. In addition, the company is working on deploying Reverse Band Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) services.
Unfortunately, Goswitz did not state any hard numbers on when DirecTV might make the transition to Ultra-HDTV. The company did state its desire to implement it as soon as possible to keep a competitive edge over cable and IPTV (like AT&T’s Uverse) services. Some numbers being thrown around online indicate that Ultra-HDTV might be available in North America as soon as 2020, though Japan may see UHDTV signals much sooner thanks to Japanese broadcaster NHK heavily developing compression, transmission, and capture devices relating to UHDTV. NHK has managed in the past to compress a UHDTV signal to a 250 Mb/s MPEG2 stream, which is a huge feat considering the uncompressed signal is around 24 Gb/s!
Philip Goswitz was further quoted in stating "4000-line is exciting to us because of its image quality, and the potential for glasses-free 3D."
Compression and bandwidth are going to be the deciding factors in whether DirecTV and other satellite TV providers are able to deliver UHDTV signals to users’ homes. While 8K video sources are scarce themselves, 4K cameras do exist and are being used to film certain movies. 4K adoption is definitely coming–although it is still a few years out at least–and the UHDTV standard is ready to support 4K streams. Over the air and IPTV are the likely candidates for early 4K and 8K transmissions, but DirecTV seems ready dive it as soon as the compression technology, source material, and user adoption is there.
Image courtesy Chris Waits via Flickr Creative Commons