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Over-the-air-4K-TV going through successful test runs

by on July 13, 2015

Stephan Jukic – July 13, 2015

The future of 4K TV might indeed include over-the-air broadcasting, despite some very well-reasoned predictions for the dominance of OTT and IP transmission of 4K programming to TVs and eventually, PCs.

In other words, you might not have to fork over money for one of the currently or soon to be available 4K streaming services to get 4K content on your TV in the near future. Why? Because experimental tests done by a partnership between GatesAir, LG and Zenith  have involved the field testing of a service called Futurecast, which promises to offer 4K TV to airwave broadcasting and bring the old technology into the truly modern era.

The Futurecast platform is possible thanks to a combination of HEVC compression of 4K video and other technologies, which increase boosts to overall throughput of 4K ultra HD signals.

Thus, the technology is able to pack not only 4K signals but also two mobile broadcasts into a relatively small 6MHz frequency range that can be beamed to ordinary TVs without the need for web-based streaming, satellite broadcasting or internet-connected set-top boxes. With this technology, you’d almost only need a basic metal cable to get your hands on at least some UHD content, just as if it were regular SD and HD programming.

Of course, we’re talking about what is still a very experimental thing here and Futurecast so far exists as mostly a mix of loosely connected technologies which will only eventually condensed into a single next generation ATSC 3.0 standard. But this will take time and even after that standard is ready to go, you’ll have to wait yet a little longer to actually before 4K TVs come out with support for the over-the-air 4K technology. Presumably, the first models will come from LG and Zenith.

Futurecast ATSC 3.0 4K bUHD broadcasting technology

Futurecast ATSC 3.0 4K bUHD broadcasting technology

The biggest upside to this kind of broadcasting technology being used for the still rarified range of 4K content on the market is that it will make these broadcasts as cheap and easy as conventional air-based broadcasts to older TVs are today. Thus, the potential user base for 4K video will expand dramatically.

Testing is currently being done by the LG-led partnership in Cleveland, Ohio under an experimental license from the FCC with a local TV transmitter that belongs to Tribune Broadcasting WJW TV being used to test the ATSC 3.0 standard.

Results so far are very encouraging and clearly indicate that ATSC 3.0 will indeed be able to deliver 4K ultra HD content along with the two “robust” mobile TV streams over a single 6MHz channel.

The overwhelming majority of 4K content for the consumer market today gets delivered to viewers via streaming internet connections with bandwidth of at least 15Mbps or more. This is widely expected to be the vehicle by which the future of 4K broadcasting will move forward. However, limited experiments by classic broadcasters have been done to deliver live and canned 4K videos to test audiences. Furthermore, some companies are even investing heavily in delivering satellite broadcasts of 4K programming to subscribers within the next year or two.

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  • LuAnn Gleeson
    January 5, 2016 at 2:04 am

    Broadcast television has yet to broadcast its content in full 1080p. Its encouraging to know that they are conducting experiments in 4K,however,most consumers for the time being would be thrilled to have all broadcast content measure up to 1080p first. Those of us with our newly purchased 4k TV’s would be equally delighted as that content will be up-scaled anyway. Broadcasters,Get a clue! Most households have HDTV sets still waiting for a great picture. Maybe you would have a better chance of competing in the new 4k wave when you get your ducks all in a row, going the same direction.


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