The Ultra HD Rush

Deep Dive

The Ultra HD Rush

By Ken Osowski, Director of Solutions Marketing  |  December 26, 2013

Ultra-high definition TV is the next generation of high definition TVs. Just like the industry push for commercializing the current HDTV standard that began 15 years ago, consumer expectations are high. The one primary difference between then and now is that streaming video services are available and mainstreamed so to speak. Back in 2000, there were no OTT video services. Consumers bought expensive and often large, 16:9 format widescreen TV sets that were more for bragging rights than they were usable to display native HDTV content.

These TV sets often included the ability to receive over-the-air broadcast HD content, so TV antennas became fashionable again. In many cases, consumers waited years for their local cable companies to offer HDTV channel content on their set-top boxes while they watched standard definition 4:3 video content. Satellite-based video service providers saw this as an opportunity to deliver HDTV content while the Cable MSOs lagged, but that competitive advantage was short lived.

This time, all players in the Ultra HD ecosystem are highly motivated to accelerate UHD adoption. Widespread adoption of current HDTV TV sets has significantly reduced pricing to the point where 60-inch HDTVs cost less than $1,000. TV manufacturers are bringing to market comparably sized LCD UHD sets that are selling for around $5,000 at this point, with much more expensive OLED display UHDs waiting in the wings. 

Streaming video services like Netflix are ready and waiting to offer UHD, since they are looking to attract early adopters at the expense of the fixed broadband service providers. This is the market dynamic that is different than in 2000. Streaming video content service providers can now bypass broadband service providers and reach video subscribers directly, relegating broadband access networks to be the conduit for delivering UHD content. Consumers do not have to wait for cable MSOs and others to upgrade their subscribers’ set-top boxes.

So where do fixed broadband service providers fit into the landscape of this new market dynamic? They are all eager to upgrade their network bandwidth for starters. Most of them are implementing new set-top box technology that is IP-based and will be UHD capable. Others have announced, and are just now rolling out, video streaming services based on partnerships with OTT video companies. Both Com Hem (News - Alert), a countrywide cable MSO in Sweden, and Virgin Media in the U.K. have already struck deals to offer the Netflix video streaming service integrated in their consumer set-top boxes. It has been reported that Comcast (News - Alert) and Suddenlink in the U.S. are also in talks with Netflix.

The challenge for all service providers is that UHD at 2160p resolution has four times as many pixels as the highest HDTV resolution available today at 1080p. This means that 6 to 8mbps of data bandwidth required for current 1080p viewing jumps to as much as 30mbps for a decent UHD 2160p resolution viewing experience. This level of Internet access speed is commercially available today, but it will put a resource strain on service provider networks as UHD services roll out.

So, how does DPI technology fit into the UHD ecosystem? Service providers are currently leveraging DPI already to gain insights into how much their subscribers are streaming video content in order to profile their usage patterns. The valuable video analytics derived from inserting DPI into the data traffic flow can help MSOs to first understand and then provide the best quality of experience for their customers who also subscribe to third-party video streaming services. DPI also enables service providers to introduce network elements that monitor or optimize video QoE, as well as transparently cache video content. These other video-specific solutions can be cost effectively integrated with DPI by using the technology to accurately identify and then divert video traffic flows to these platforms. DPI can enhance the efficiency and therefore the ROI of these video solutions by only sending them the video traffic that needs processing.

So, all of you videophiles need to save up some money for the next generation of HDTV, but you should know that you will have less time to do this than when first-generation HDTVs were introduced. While you’re at it, save up a little extra in case you need to upgrade your multi-channel, surround sound amplifier if the hardware doesn’t switch 4K UHD video/audio or support 1080p to 2160p video upscaling. Can you feel the rush?

Ken Osowski (News - Alert) is director of solutions marketing at Procera Networks (

Ken Osowski is director of solutions marketing at Procera Networks (News - Alert) (

Edited by Ryan Sartor