BT has joined Sky TV in the race to become the first British broadcaster capable of delivering 4K content into our homes, announcing plans to take advantage of its super-fast broadband network and growing roster of sports.
Sky TV has already carried out 4K trials of FA Premier League matches using satellite broadcasts, but BT thinks it could have an advantage thanks to its extensive fibre optic network. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph this morning, Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT, gave the biggest hint yet that the company is planning to roll out 4K TV.
He said that the company is planning to take advantage of new technologies, and would be “trialling 4K resolution technology, which promises a new era”.
BT still has some work to do, because broadband speeds within its network vary quite widely. Presently, most connections within its network use “fibre-to-the-cabinet” technology, and speeds vary from an agonizingly slow 2Mbps to as fast as 80Mbps. This means that not everyone would be guaranteed an optimal 4K experience, hence Patterson refused to indicate when BT might make 4K available.
This is a similar story to Sky, which tested its own 4K technology during last August’s Premier League clash between West Ham United and Stoke City. Back then, the satellite broadcaster said the demo had gone without a hitch, but warned that there were numerous technical hurdles to overcome before it could roll out 4K broadcasts to everyone.
Even if BT and Sky do overcome these technical problems, there are further obstacles in the way. For one, they would need to distribute new set-top box hardware to their customers that’s capable of dealing with 4K signals, and these boxes would also need a much larger storage capacity to cope with recordings. This is easier said than done, as so far no hardware manufacturer has actually built a 4K set-top box, and it’s not clear if the new HDMI 2.0 standard would support the high refresh rates that 4K sports demand.
It’s safe to say that live 4K sports are still a couple of years off, but Patterson told the Telegraph that it would definitely be worth waiting for. With the increasing speeds of broadband connections, BT would be able to introduce various personalisation features such as the ability to view different camera angles. He added that advertisers would also benefit from the technology.
“Direct through fibre, instead of traditional aerial and satellite, you can personalise the service in ways that haven’t been possible so far,” said Patterson. “You’ll also be able to make advertising more targeted and more interactive.”
Source: Daily Telegraph