Will Ultra-HD be the next standard-def?

Written by Chris Forrester

On June 12 the USA – at long last – switches off its network analogue signals. The switch-off will end a long process that started 22 years ago in 1987 when the USA created its Advisory Committee to examine and recommend its next Advanced Television Service. But if it took 20-odd years to get the USA to convert from analogue to digital, shouldn’t someone already be starting the process if the 4K or 8K ultra-HD is to be adopted by the US?

The Advisory Committee’s chairman, from 1987 to 1995, was Richard E Wiley, cited as the ‘father of high-definition TV’, and already influential as chairman of the FCC (1974-1977).

A distinguished panel at Satellite 2009, chaired by the illustrious Dick Wiley, (“just don’t ask me to chair the next investigation”), didn’t hold out much hope for ‘super’ or ‘ultra’ HDTV. Tandberg’s Matt Goldman (VP/Compression Services) was pragmatic if nothing else, saying “never say never” but also recognising that the huge legacy of existing receiver-boxes, plasma and LCD screens and other paraphernalia meant adoption of a ‘new’ HDTV technology was a very long way off.

Don Gabriel (GM/Sales at Echostar Satellite Services) favoured 3D as the ‘next big thing’ and revealed that both of Charlie Ergen’s Echostar businesses were actively experimenting with 3D.

Tim Jackson, VP/Media Product Services at Intelsat, said his business would simply love to supply the extra bandwidth that ultra HD would need, but that audiences shouldn’t hold their breath. A similar comment came from CBS’ VP/broadcast distribution, Brent Stranathan, who implied that today’s HD deployment, still not complete, was quite sufficient, thank you!