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Ultra HD Astra satellite test squeezes 4K video into 20Mbps

Satellite operator SES is planning a 24/7 Ultra HD test channel after successfully squeezing a 4K video stream into 20Mbps using HEVC compression.

The test proves that Ultra HD can fit into the same kind of capacity as HD broadcasts in 2006 – a crucial step towards affordable broadcasting.

High Efficiency Video Coding is a new compression system designed to be up to 50 per cent more efficient than the MPEG-4 H.264 format used for HD TV and Blu-ray.

Ultra HD Astra satellite test squeezes 4K video into 20Mbps
Satellite suits Ultra HD nicely at 20Mbps

Read more about Ultra HD, 4K and 8K TVThomas Wrede, VP of reception systems at SES, said: “We are very proud to present the first Ultra HD demo in the HEVC standard on satellite. 

“SES has once again taken a leadership role in the industry by broadcasting the first real Ultra HD picture in a commercially realistic bandwidth. 

We are convinced that the HEVC standard will become the option of choice for TV operators broadcasting Ultra HD content and expect the industry to develop prototype Ultra HD receivers in the coming months. 

“With this initiative SES will be significantly driving the Ultra HD ecosystem forward and provide a 24/7 test channel to its industry partners.”

SES combined HEVC with the standard DSB-S2 modulation system used for high definition TV to fit an Ultra HD video stream at 3,840×2,160 pixels into 20Mbps.

The demonstration used Harmonic ProMedia Xpress encoder, and a prototype receiver based on a Broadcaom BCM7445 chipset, with signals sent via the Astra satellites used for everyday TV broadcasts across Europe.

Previous Ultra HD broadcasts have combined four standard HD images encoded in H.264, and stitched them together using in a PC-based receiver.

SES has predicted that satellite TV services such as Sky could launch as early as 2014, if receiver hardware is available.

Other commentators have suggested that satellite cannot cope with Ultra HD signals because they’re too large to be transmitted affordably for broadcasters, compared to internet distribution.

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