The Shift to UHD Will Be Gradual, Says ARRIS

UHD seems poised to become the dominant video technology, as HD has become. That means every home will need, in addition to UHD TVs, one or more new STBs for pay TV. That is indeed a very, very big market even if it takes a decade. Those STBs will have other new technologies such as HEVC, HDMI 2.0 and new version of Wi-Fi.

ARRIS is very optimistic about the UHD market, according to Engineering Fellow Sean McCarthy and VP of product management Kevin Wirick, speaking to The Online Reporter in a telephone interview this week, but ARRIS doesn’t think the UHD era will arrive as quickly as some think. It will be a more gradual shift than HD.

“UHD is going to be a big deal, but it’s different from the big deal HD was,” McCarthy said. “It’s not all going to happen next year. I think UHD will happen gradually over many, many years, in different phases.”

McCarthy said the same is true for switching over to the new codec H.265, also known as HEVC, which is imperative for UHD content. “We’re still in the process of changing to HEVC,” he said. “We’re just now at the point where the connectivity in the home and the displays are capable of trying out UHD TV.”

ARRIS would not provide specific information but the two made clear that ARRIS is going at full speed developing technologies and products for UHD. ARRIS previewed a UHD-capable STB at this year’s The Cable Show and we expect it’ll soon start announcing more.

Typically, pay TV companies, wanting to be very careful before making a footprint-wide product deployment, take six to 18 months to test and select a new STB. If that holds true for UHD STBs, that would put deployment by pay TV companies to late 2015 or even 2016.

They said there are multiple “flavors” of UHD, unlike HD which was a fixed standard. “UHD is a toolkit, where HD is a specification,” McCarthy said. “It’s increased resolution, which everyone has been focusing on, but it also includes higher frame rates, wider color gamuts, wider contrast range and higher bit-precision. I think each one of those is going to be a tool, rather than a necessity, in television.”

For example, makers of dramas may want to use UHD’s wider color range for a specific series or movie. Broadcasters of sporting events will want to use the higher frames per second that UHD allows. That explains why the BBC, and no doubt others, found that UHD sporting events take up more bandwidth.

Current UHD TV sets that are available to consumers offer higher resolution 4K displays that support faster frame rates, but don’t yet support any of the other aspects of UHD, such as that wider color gamut. There are technologies in development to enhance the UHD displays, but they’re not yet commercially available at a price point that makes sense for most consumers.

“The only thing that’s in question is how quickly can the display physics [ie TV sets] morph to support that wide color range, and the high color and high connectivity,” McCarthy said.

Even without the enhanced color and contrast, there is still an incentive for consumers to purchase a UHD 4K TV set today (or during this holiday season) and see benefits in doing so: the picture quality of HD content on a UHD set is remarkably better than it is on HD TV sets.

“I would describe a 4K TV as a better HD TV; it does a great job of displaying HD content,” McCarthy said. Of course, it can also display the limited UHD content currently available and make it look really good.

McCarthy and Wirick said …

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The Online Reporter is the weekly subscription-based strategy bulletin about the enabling technologies of broadband, Wi-Fi, HDR, home networks, UHD 4K TV & OTT services; identifying trends in the Digital Media space. Only a fraction of our material here is published here. To see 4 free copies, follow the links above or go to

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