While the initial iterations of the recently adopted High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) compression standard will affect the mobile video space first, IPTV, in the long run, will be the real winner.
For its opening act, HEVC is expected to help mobile providers efficiently deliver 720p and even 1080p video across 3G and 4G networks. For its main act, HEVC will be the foundation of 4K or Ultra High Definition TV (UHDTV) that will forever alter the way people watch television by essentially quadrupling today's picture quality.
And, since it is all IP-driven, "there definitely could be an advantage to having an IPTV system with that kind of technology," Eric Grab, vice president of technology at Rovi Corp. (Nasdaq: ROVI), said during a conversation with FierceIPTV.
Providing that kind of picture quality will, of course, drive demand for bigger TV sets on which to view it. That's already driving intense interest from the consumer electronics industry and, in turn, the Japanese government, which is pushing for the first 4K networks by 2014. When it comes to video entertainment, 4K will arrive in steps, starting with satellite and followed by IPTV and then finally by more conventional RF/QAM delivery.
Every spot along the development trail will require new or upgraded technology.
"It seems to make sense to put certain HEVC decoders in certain set-top boxes that are getting signals over-the-top, not over-the-top, closed network, open network. To some degree it depends on the market," Grab said.
That network will need to be able to handle 8 to 10 Mbps of download speeds, "an achievable bit rate for many different geographies and areas because it's not that much different than what is moving through today," Grab said.
The big difference: "all of a sudden you can do 4K resolution."
The fact that television has already moved completely from analog to digital makes the transition to 4K easier, Grab said.
"The hardware is more mature and the technology is just moving faster," he said. "The pressures that are getting people to work on HEVC chips are stronger."
There's even talk about raising the stakes on frame rates.
Rovi is using this week's Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona to introduce and hype its Rovi Insights Series' look at HEVC, outlining the approach to product design in mobile devices and looking at the evolution to TV Everywhere.
Beyond HEVC, though, comes 4K.
"We certainly have a 4K profile and we're going to be pushing 4K as part of our offering," Grab said. "I think it's going to happen relatively soon and there are some key drivers there. I think it's going to be a little bit different than the last time there were jumps in compression technology because the technology is different. We're much more digital; that's all there is now."
And, while a better picture on a little screen--smartphone or tablet--at a more reasonable compression rate is a good start, an improved picture on an even bigger TV screen will, in the end, fuel the revolution.
"It is stunning," Grab said. "When you get real 4K working it is a great experience."
Despite all that, it's not going to happen overnight, which is why consumers probably have to content themselves--for now--with better resolution on their mobile devices.
"If you're talking about a full infrastructure with set-top boxes and broadcast, that's going to take a while. But eventually it will be there because everyone wants to save costs on the pipes and be able to offer more video and higher quality for the same bit rates," Grab concluded.
- Rovi issued this press release
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