NAB Perspectives: SES’s Thomas Wrede Sees 4K Satellite Delivery to the Home as Early as 2015
Although 4K-production technology has (not surprisingly) been the talk of the show this week, the actual of delivery of 4K content to the home is likely still years away. That said, many exhibitors on the distribution side of the 4K equation — such as SES — are already working to make 4K in the home a reality sooner rather than later.
“In terms of the end-to-end delivery chain for Ultra HD, I think 2015 or so is a reasonable [date] for that to happen,” says Thomas Wrede, VP, reception systems, SES. “We need to get to the stage where we can reliably deliver [4K content] over satellite and then be able to demo it live. Over the next few months, I think the big Japanese and Chinese flat-screen manufacturers will begin shipping the Ultra HD sets. At that point of sale, it would be nice to feed these sets with content from our satellites.”
Reaching Out to Content Producers, Technology Manufacturers
This week, SES announced the launch of its “SES Ultra HD Experience” initiative at MIPTV in Cannes, which invites content providers and broadcasters to work with SES to support the development of the Ultra HD value chain. With the “SES Ultra HD Experience” initiative, content producers and broadcasters from all over the world are invited to submit footage shot in Ultra HD via a dedicated SES web page, www.ses.com/ultrahd-experience, and are given the opportunity to broadcast and test their content via an SES satellite.
Wrede says SES that in addition to the efforts to acquire this demo material, SES continues to push the manufacturers within the broadcast industry to develop prototypes for 4K-capable set-top boxes.
“I hope to see [set-top–box] prototypes from the silicon companies in early 2014, and then it usually takes another year until that technology is mature and can be produced in large quantities,” says Wrede. “Then, not only do we have to convince the consumer that Ultra HD makes sense, but we need an agreed interface from the set-top box into the displays. We’ve been trying to push HDMI to come up with a better technology as soon as possible.”
In addition, according to Advanced Television, SES is known to be planning to launch a series of dedicated Ultra-HD demo channel over Europe. In addition, on April 18-19, the company will invite some 200 manufacturers and industry participants to a 4KHD workshop at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce as part of its Industry Day. Attendees will look at how the industry is preparing for 4K and provide forecasts for 4K adoption and future developments.
HEVC Remains Key
HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding), the next-gen video-compression standard that was standardized by MPEG in January, figures to play a major role in the delivery of 4K in coming years. HEVC, also known as H.265, represents the next generation of compression following H.264/MPEG-4 AVC and promises to reduce the bandwidth necessary to deliver video by up to 50%.
“If we can transmit [4K] with HEVC in a more efficient way, then that drives the opportunity here,” says Wrede. “Another driving factor that goes along with HEVC is more-efficient transmission technology. In Europe, DVB is setting the new satellite terrestrial standard that improves the DVB-S2 satellite-transmission technology — loosely called DVB-S2x. With this, we will get an additional 20%-25% increase in efficiency. I want to see HEVC enter and DVB-S2x brought into the products that are coming [for 4K delivery].”
SAT-IP Blurs Line Between Satellite and IP
SES has much more than just 4K on its horizon, however. SES continues to develop SAT-IP, a new standard that allows satellite-delivered programs to be converted into an IP stream at the point of reception in the home. Households can therefore receive, via wired or wireless in-home Internet distribution system, the full satellite lineup not only on the TV screen but also on smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs with different programs on different devices at the same time
“We are in a very different world today with smartphones, tablets, and all these new devices,” says Wrede. “The question for us as a satellite provider was ‘how do we get our signals onto a device that doesn’t have a turner for DVB-S2 for satellite.’ So we created SAT-IP, which basically takes off the satellite transport layer in a little black box and wraps the video and audio data into IP and puts it out on an IP interface. That allows us to transport linear content from satellite to IP.”