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Freeview 4K Ultra HD and streaming trial be run by BBC during 2014 World Cup Final

The BBC will broadcast and stream live 4K Ultra HD coverage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil over Freeview signals and superfast broadband. 

The matches the BBC will be streaming will be three games from the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro  – a last 16 match, a quarter final match and the final. 

This is part of an ongoing series of tests to determine what the broadcast standards of 4K should be. If you’ve shelled out for a 4K TV with Freeview tuners in, or you’re lucky enough to get fast broadband from BT, Virgin Media or a gigabit fibre ISP, don’t expect to be able to tune in or stream on BBC iPlayer

Freeview 4K Ultra HD and streaming trial be run by BBC during 2014 World Cup Final
A shot from last year's Brazil vs England friendly at the Maracanã, where the Beeb's 4K kit will be installed

The BBC will transmit live footage from Brazil via satellite to the UK, where the signals will be decoded and distributed over DTT (digital terrestrial TV) signals and streamed over superfast broadband connections. 

4K Ultra HD footage will be delivered to a number of compatible consumer 4K TVs at BBC research and development centres, allowing the BBC to better understand how Ultra HD TV can be delivered to the home. 

Controller for BBC R&D Matthew Postgate 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.”

The trial will use HEVC (H.265) compression technology over both networks, giving the BBC a better idea of how 4K signals could be delivered over Freeview and YouView and online to services including BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport. 

This will be the first time live 4K TV will be simultaneously broadcast over digital terrestrial TV and over IP simultaneously. MPEG-DASH adaptive bitrate technology will also be employed to see how 4K streams change when bandwidth fluctuates. 

The trial is being run in conjunction with Arqiva, the company which maintains Freeview infrastructure. Managing Director of Terrestrial Broadcast for Arqiva Steve Holebrook added: “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.”

The DVB-T2 standard was invented to make Freeview capable of of handling multiple HD channels. 

Recently Recombu was able to witness the fruits of an earlier 4K football test undertaken by Sky. Last season, Sky recorded a West Ham vs Stoke City game in 4K Ultra HD and we got to see looped clips from that game at the 2014 DTG Summit. The results were a mixed bag - we were impressed, but it's clear that there's still work to be done. 

Image: Mark Hillary/Flickr

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