BBC R&D announces Ultra-High Definition trials

The trials will prove hugely valuable in furthering our understanding of UHD technology, and potential distribution models for the future, as well providing real benefits for licence fee payers in the near-term.Matthew Postgate, Controller, BBC R&D
Date: 05.06.2014     Last updated: 05.06.2014 at 09.45
Category: Corporate

BBC Research and Development has today announced that it will trial Ultra-High Definition (UHD) broadcasts this summer.

In a series of closed trials, BBC R&D will work closely with strategic research partner, Arqiva, major consumer electronics vendors and technology providers to explore the delivery of live UHD content over broadcast and broadband networks.

The trials mark the first time live UHD coverage will have been delivered simultaneously over Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and Internet Protocol (IP) technologies ‘to the home’. The live UHD streams will be transported from Brazil by satellite to the UK where they will be decoded and distributed, via existing broadcast and super-fast broadband infrastructure, to a number of compatible consumer UHD TV sets in selected R&D facilities.

The aim is to better understand the latest UHD distribution technologies and standards in a live outside broadcast, helping to inform future development, best practices and, ultimately, to ensure any future UHD TV services can make a real impact when they launch. This can be broken down into three key areas of research:

1. A future hybrid broadcasting model

Benefits of traditional broadcasting include its universality and efficiency, distributing an event or programme once, to a large number of people across wide areas. Broadband delivers content to individual people or devices, offering greater flexibility and individuality. BBC R&D wants to explore a world where traditional means of distribution and IP technologies complement each other, taking advantage of their respective strengths to bring audiences the content of the future.

2. Delivering UHD TV efficiently

The challenge of distributing UHD TV to the home is compatibility with existing broadcast and broadband distribution capacities. This trial will examine the use of High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) for distribution over both DTT and over the top IP networks.

3. Delivering high quality UHD TV

Adaptive bitrate technology is an important tool for providing a consistent quality of service over IP networks. It allows an individual’s device to automatically select the best available picture quality according to the network bandwidth available at any given time. These trials will test the use of MPEG-DASH adaptive bitrate for high quality video delivery over IP networks.

Much of the research can also be applied to existing services and technology to provide near-term benefits to the BBC and the wider industry. It will also help to inform BBC R&D’s contributions to the international standardisation of UHD TV, and its ongoing work exploring video and audio technologies that may be relevant to future UHD enhancements.

Matthew Postgate, Controller, BBC R&D, said: “BBC R&D has an outstanding track record as a catalyst for bringing the industry together and delivering the future of television to audiences. These trials are an excellent example of that tradition as a major technical achievement, such as distributing UHD TV over DTT and IP simultaneously from Rio, can only be made possible by close collaboration with a range of organisations. The trials will prove hugely valuable in furthering our understanding of UHD technology, and potential distribution models for the future, as well providing real benefits for licence fee payers in the near-term.”

Steve Holebrook, Managing Director of Terrestrial Broadcast for Arqiva, said: “By trialling Ultra High Definition with the BBC, Arqiva can demonstrate how future UHD live events could be delivered to millions of UK homes via the leading television platform – DTT. This is the first over-air demonstration of live UHD in the UK and uses new High Efficiency Transmitters and HEVC coding technology. We are delighted to demonstrate the future potential of the DTT platform using the benefits of the DVB-T2 standard which we first deployed in 2009 as a world first."