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DTG’s hard data approach helps the UK launch real UHD services

Simon Gauntlett, DTG chief technology officer, explains how live testing and retailer advice is helping British TV platforms to lead Europe into the next generation of television services

Ultra HD has already gone from next generation to state of the art in 2015, as the UK became the first European nation to launch commercial services on a traditional pay-TV platform — helped by the DTG’s pioneering UK UHD Forum.

August 2015 saw telco BT launch its 4K Ultra HD sports channel, streamed to fibre broadband customers. More than two years of collaboration in the DTG UK UHD Forum have enabled BT and other members to clarify the understanding of terms like 4K, UHD and HDR, which are used liberally with a wide range of interpretation. The DTG has also been talking to retailers to ensure they understand the potential and the limitations of the products they’re selling.

The DTG UK UHD Forum has been working since 2013 to help platforms and CE manufacturers develop their products, even though the international standards are still being finalised. We have hosted three 4K/UHD plugfests so far, bringing together CE devices, both commercially available and prototypes, pushing different types of content and seeing first-hand what works and what doesn’t, with support from Rohde & Schwarz.

The first 4K UHD plugfest — investigating HDMI support — hosted 4K TVs from many different manufacturers, all available in retail. We also had two set-top boxes, an upscaling Blu-Ray player and an AV Receiver, plus excellent HDMI test tools provided by Rohde & Schwarz and Quantum Data. This set the scene for further plugfests examining performance in different HEVC modes and HDCP interoperability, with further events planned for later this year.

The results of each plugfest are published to all DTG members in an anonymised format to give a general picture of the market, although those who take part on the day gain a much deeper insight.

For instance, in 2014, 60% of display models tested did not support HEVC, but when re-tested in 2015, this had reduced dramatically, and all devices supported 50/60Hz UHD HEVC. Even so, fewer than 10% were able to display all the 4K modes tested via HDMI.

The next step in Ultra HD is High Dynamic Range (HDR), with multiple proposed standards being discussed in the ITU. Equally there are several HDR technology proposals being considered by MHEG. Until those are agreed, it is very difficult to set a consistent standard. However, with consumer electronics being launched that already support some form of HDR and services such as Amazon and Netflix offering the same, there is huge potential for consumer confusion.

The DTG UK UHD forum has been tackling this head-on by running a number of campaigns to improve understanding and ultimately educate retailers and consumers on the new technology. By working directly with retailers to agree some common messaging about 4K/UHD, we can ensure consumers know how to get the best out of the products and services available today without promising to be futureproof.

It’s a rapidly changing industry, and to continue moving this technology forward it is imperative to continue testing new devices, ensure conformance to standards and issue guidance across the board for both manufacturers and retailers. The DTG testing zoo is the only 4K testing facility
in the UK, hosting a growing number of UHD displays which can be hired out for testing as well as assisting the DTG’s ongoing work with the DTG UK UHD Forum and the development of test materials for Ultra HD.

For more information about the findings and the ongoing activity of the DTG UK UHD Forum and how you can get involved, please visit the DTG at stand 5.A17.

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