Could lack of bandwidth from the existing digital service infrastructure cause the burgeoning 4K/Ultra-HD technology to fizzle out before it even gets a foothold in the marketplace? Technology analysts and video engineers seem to think so, pointing out that within the current bandwidth limitations uncompressed 1080p video is not reaching its full potential in most homes. Variety details what this means for the future of the new HD-tech, but at it’s most basic, the reality of bandwidth issues will have to be resolved before 4K/Ultra-HDTVs are introduced into your local Best Buy.
Every source from streaming services to OTA-HD broadcasts by the networks and other forms of delivery via satellite, cable, and HD antennas is limited by the ability of the various digital infrastructures to handle the full 1080p signal. Digital broadcasters such as ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS (among others, and including cable re-broadcasters) can only output digital video within certain parameters (up to 19 mbps in most cases) and that is further limited by affiliates and re-broadcasters that may output at significantly lower HD bit rates (most HD video is shot in the range of 1.5 gbps… Yes– that’s gigabits!). So, as video engineers will tell you, though HDTV manufacturers and resellers never will, is that you’re never, ever getting the full HD image on your newly purchased HDTV, even though every HDTV is equipped with a decompression chip that allows it to upscale video to 1080p in almost every instance. Upscaling, it should be noted is how DVD players once bridged the gap to higher resolution for HDTVs, and it’s what 4K/Ultra-HD/OLED manufacturers would be forced to confront as they gear up for the next step in digital home theater displays.
With 3D-HDTV a complete fail in industry, if not consumer, eyes, it’s become vitally important for LCD and Plasma designers and manufacturers to take that next step. HDTV’s have saturated most markets and are in the third or fourth part of the technology life-cycle. Home theater technology has reached a point where innovation isn’t likely to have that same impact that HDTV originally did when replacing analog televisions… that, in itself, was a huge disruptive event in technologically terms, but also had an incredible impact on the consumer as governments paved the way for closure and reselling of the old analog bandwidths, and the development, sale and (for lack of a better term) imposition of digital technology (recall, if you will, the DTV transition issues that people initially faced before HDTVs came down in price and became practical for everyday consumer purchase and use). It remains to be seen if 4K/Ultra-HD will be a boon to the marketplace, or another tech albatross similar to 3D-HDTV, but the bandwidth battles soon to be fought don’t bode well for the newest home technology.