Envivio Exec: 4K to Trail Behind HEVC Acceptance

4K HEVC OTT

A 4K TV at CES. Photo: John.Karakatsanis

[Via Satellite 01-10-2014] Ultra-HD — or 4K — undoubtedly stole the spotlight at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with screen in excess of 85 inches, wowing society’s technological frontrunners. But while the screens themselves may be impressive, large-scale consumer acceptance of the technology is expected to be slow. Enabling the higher quality viewing experience is a faster growing push for High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) — the bandwidth-saving technology that will undergird those crystal-clear big screens.

“It’s a hot topic at the moment, and what we see is early implementation so we can probably offer 30 percent gain compared to H.264,” Julien Signes, CEO and president of Envivio told Via Satellite. “Obviously in the U.S. there is still a lot of MPEG 2, so we think there are significant gains to be had in satellite bandwidth. Over-the-Top (OTT) and satellite are the key applications where bandwidth is the most expensive and therefore there is a keen interest to accelerate HEVC.”

Both satellite operators and service providers find OTT implementation to be a cost effective way to begin transitioning from MPEG 2 in an appealing manner.

“I think that they will push forward on the OTT services first because there is usually a tablet or a PC decoder that they can update first,” said Signes. “I think as they roll out Ultra-HD — and some of them just for bandwidth consideration — they will start to push the Ultra HD with the HEVC codec.”

The more efficient use of bandwidth makes it easier for OTT service providers to offer more without driving up their own costs. Savings from HEVC encoders are expected to lower operational costs for satellite operators and service providers, but Signes doesn’t expect this to translate into lower costs for consumers. The more likely result is the bundling of functionality in order to make new services more appealing.

“We see obviously Netflix kind of leading the pack in terms of pre-announcing 4K, and it’s not yet clear what kind of codec they are going to pick but I would say it is likely that they will eventually move to HEVC,” said Signes. “EchoStar is pushing more DVR type functionalities, etc., so I think they will bundle that more with new functionality to attract the consumer, and just take advantage of the new format to decrease their own operating costs,” said Signes. “I think that is more of the model, rather than having the consumer benefit from a cost point of view of the service because they are consuming less bandwidth. I don’t think that is going to happen.”

All of this does not mean 2014 won’t be an important year for 4K. Envivio has been steadily positioning itself through partnerships to enter markets in the U.S. and West Europe, where 4K adoption is expected first. The company teamed up with Irdeto to deliver live OTT content, and partnered with Broadcom, MStar and STMicroelectronics to showcase its HEVC compression technology at CES.

“I think the transition might not be as fast as we’ve seen in the past, but I do think the combination of OTT and some early Ultra-HD will drive that,” said Signes. “Then once this is in we are going to see a more global transition. I don’t have a crystal ball,” he joked, “there are a lot of factors to take into consideration to have a firm view, but our view in general is that 2014 is going to be an initial deployment/trial year, and 2015 is going to show more volume, so that’s what we’re gearing up for.”

 

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