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How can SAT>IP make 4K real for consumers?

Jorge Rodriguez López, SAT>IP Alliance VP and head of marketing at HISPASAT, discusses satellite delivering 4K premium content

4K massively improves the TV experience and is a powerful and compelling selling point for TV vendors, content creators and service providers. However, OTT services are often unable to deliver live or high-demand content in true 4K due to a lack of high-speed broadband. An innovative satellite industry protocol called SAT>IP makes it possible to deliver on the promise of 4K on any TV screen, smartphone, game console or tablet in the home.

4K content offers viewers unmatched quality, pristine colour, better image depth and much more detail across live sport, movies, documentaries and TV shows. Yet, despite this exceptional quality, a recent report from Hub, Entertainment in the Connected Home, found that out of the 47 per cent of people in the US who own a 4K-capable TV, just over half (55 per cent) are actually using it to watch 4K content.

They are in effect, using it as a non-4K TV. TV providers need to find reliable methods of delivering content at the quality their audiences are expecting to see.

The demand for premium 4K content across sporting leagues, movies and TV series is creating a huge opportunity for satellite providers to demonstrate a compelling advantage against traditional OTT services. With its reliable downstream bandwidth of up to 500Mbps, satellite is an attractive option for the delivery of 4K premium content to every subscriber, irrespective of local broadband availability. Satellite also avoids the substantial issues of latency, which can make watching sporting events feel like a “not quite live enough” experience.

OTT is unable to guarantee premium linear content at 4K, especially at times of high demand – at the release of a major new series or at the time of the big match, because of the lack of FTTH and other high-speed broadband technologies. Furthermore, OTT can be especially hard to deliver to potential audiences living in remote areas where broadband infrastructures are less advanced. The recommended internet speed for 4K is 25 Mbs, making stable 4K streaming hard to achieve even in places like North America, where the average broadband speed is only 11.6 Mbps according to research from Akamai.

The benefits of satellite for 4K delivery are enhanced by SAT>IP, a royalty-free, widely supported industry protocol that allows operators to market a true multi-room 4K experience. SAT>IP enables satellite providers to guarantee true 4K quality across multiple screens in the home, allowing them to clearly differentiate their 4K offerings, especially when compared to OTT services that cannot guarantee 4K quality over broadband networks. It works by taking a conventional satellite TV signal and converting it into an IP-based data stream, which can be transmitted across a standard wired or wireless IP network and viewed on any multimedia and IP compatible device including smart TVs, PCs, tablets and smartphones. This enables an advanced multi-screen 4K TV experience without the need for a broadband connection.

SAT>IP also allows service providers to deploy multi-screen, multi-device 4K services within the home with relative ease, avoiding the need for customer visits to install more cabling and STBs. Once initial boxes that support SAT>IP are rolled out, there are minimal upgrade costs to unlock additional revenues. If a subscriber wants to watch TV in another room a satellite provider would, previously, need to organise engineer visits and supply additional boxes. SAT>IP future-proofs 4K deployments for rollout of multi-screen, in future with minimal service costs.

The SAT>IP Alliance membership (Arcadyan, Eutelsat, HISPASAT, Irdeto, MaxLinear, NAGRA, Panasonic, SES, Verimatrix and Zinwell) has created a whole ecosystem of easy to deploy, flexible, solutions – currently supported by more than 40 manufacturers and technology companies and satellites covering 95 per cent of the globe and reaching more than a billion potential viewers. The rush to 4K could be a tipping point for satellite providers to find new ways to differentiate their services. The combination of satellite and IP can be the ideal route to showing what a premium 4K experience can be, regardless of broadband network capabilities.

As the streaming wars continue to put pressure on vendors to provide modern TV experiences, pay-TV providers need to diversify their offerings and look beyond the Cloud. The never-ending demand for high-quality video is ultimately killing internet speeds and resulting in poor OTT experiences. Satellite delivery with SAT>IP technology is the best route towards creating a differentiated, multi-screen 4K experience.