There are milestone events in the progress of digital broadcast and one of these moments was the recent publication of a new version of the ETSI TS 101 154 specification by DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting).
This specification will open up a new world of user experience by going beyond the current limitations in frame rates and contrast ratio. The new DVB specification defines how to use the UHD Phase-2 features – high dynamic range (HDR), high frame rates (HFRs), and next-generation audio (NGA) – in a DVB broadcast environment. In combination with the already published UHD Phase-1 features, 4K/Ultra HD, and wider color space, this will result in a quantum leap in video and audio performance.
With the new specification, the TV experience exceeds the capabilities of the human eye. Therefore, as long as we continue to use flat-panel displays, I would not expect to see any further improvements forthcoming. The new TS 101 154 specification allows the industry to offer True UHD, which is more than just an increase in resolution. Some claim that the new features are even more important than 4K/UHD resolution, as the user benefits are not dependent on how far the viewer sits from the screen.
The consumer electronics industry is going full speed ahead by providing a wide range of 4K/UHD HDR TVs. Unfortunately, not all TVs on the market fulfill the promise of True UHD. The user is confronted with a wide range of confusing labels such as HDR-compatible, which means a standard panel without any extra performance.
In addition, we have to wait for True UHD content. The broadcast industry still needs to understand the full potential of the new features. This may take some time, but I am convinced that the consumer electronics industry and content providers will get their acts together. Nevertheless, we should be prepared for a lengthy transition period. DVB provided the standards for HDTV more than 10 years ago, and still the majority of TV channels in the Asian region are SD!
Having reached the milestone of True UHD, does that mean that we are at the end of innovation for broadcast technology? Surely not! All over the world, researchers are investigating the promises and limitations of virtual reality (VR).
DVB is following these new trends with great interest. There are quite a few DVB members who firmly believe that VR can play an important role in broadcast. Consequently, DVB set up a working group to analyze the potential of VR in broadcast.
Taking it a step further, a VR Commercial Module Group has now been formed to identify the commercial requirements for the technology in the broadcast realm. In addition, there are a number of new work items on the agenda, one of which is looking into a new terrestrial broadcast architecture based on the WIB (wide band reuse-i) concept that proposes a frequency reuse factor of one. This could lead to a completely new approach on how to increase the overall spectral efficiency for digital terrestrial television networks.
Another important area for DVB is IP-based delivery of broadcast content. DVB has started the technical work on ABR Multicast, which will bring multicast scalability to over-the-top (OTT) delivery of live content.
So how will broadcast look in next 30 years? I am convinced that we will still sit in front of our nice big TV screen, mesmerized by the quality of True UHD content. We may also enjoy the content on portable devices in the home, where the broadcast content is redistributed inside the home over an in-home network.
However the main delivery mechanisms will still be satellite, cable, and terrestrial. Even with all these marvelous technologies on the horizon, it is obvious that in the end, people just want ease-of-use and good programs. APB