HDTV PlansNext generation HDTV, now referred to as UHDTV, or ultra high definition television, is beginning to get more attention. The next generation HD format, also known as 4K (or 8K), displays a picture with 3840×2160 pixels (UHDTV1) and 7680×4320 pixels (UHDTV2). By contrast, today’s HDTV displays 1920×1080 pixels (or 1280×720 for 720p HD).

In effect, UHDTV is about 4x better than today’s HD. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) just announced agreement on recommendations for a UHDTV standard. “ITU-R Study Group 6 has now agreed a draft new Recommendation on the technical details for ‘Ultra High Definition Television’ or UHDTV which is now being submitted to Administrations for approval,” states the ITU in a press release.

HDTVs that offer 4K resolution are available, but impractical for right now, considering there is little to no 4K content available. I got a chance to see a 4K display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, and the word stunning comes to mind. You would think that today’s 1080p HD offers a good enough presentation. Wait until you see 4K. There is a significant improvement.

There’s a long way to go before 4K will become a reality. “Some years will pass before we see these systems in our homes, but come they will.  The die is now cast, thanks to the untiring efforts of the international experts participating in WP6C,” commented David Wood, Chairman of ITU-R Working Party 6C (WP 6C).

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The bandwidth requirements are also stunning. In an uncompressed fashion, a 20-minute 4K broadcast is roughly equivalent to 4 Terabytes (TB), or 4,000 Gigabytes (GB) of data. Try transmitting that over a DSL connection – we’re talking days to complete, not hours.

Obviously, there is work to be done on compression technology for 4K broadcast. As a result the next-generation MPEG standard is also under study. Gary Arlen points this out in a recent post at ecoustics.com.  “HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding) is a proposed video encoding technology being devised by the ITU and the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as the follow-up to H.264/MPEG 4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) codec,” he reports.

Stay tuned.