Japan to hold 'world's first' 4k streaming trial to set-top box

A large telecom company will stream compressed 4k video over the Internet to a set-top box to test future services

A major Japanese telecommunications provider will stream 4k video over the Internet to set-top boxes this week, in what it is calling the world's first public test of the technology.

NTT West said Tuesday it will conduct a three-day trial in Tokyo during a digital media seminar from Wednesday through Friday. The firm said it will use the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) standard to send video from a cloud server directly to a set top box attached to a standard 4k television. The company did not reveal what it will stream, but said its goal is to launch commercial 4k service.

The test will use H.265/HEVC, the successor to the H.264/MPEG-4 standard in wide use today. HEVC, approved as an international standard in January, was designed to double the compression ratio of existing standards, and covers traditional TV broadcasts as well as Internet streaming. Compression is crucial for 4k, or ultra high definition, which has a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, four times the pixel count of current HD.

While 4k-capable TVs, computer monitors and mobile devices are beginning to come to market, content is still scarce. Most TVs still rely on digital enhancement of HD broadcasts and video to fill out their extra pixels.

Japan is a prime target for Internet broadcasts because of the wide proliferation of fiber-based Internet, prices for which have fallen as multiple providers compete for business. NTT West's standard plan for 1GB service now costs ¥4,000 (US$40) per month.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK, which is leading the development and promotion of next-generation TV, has said it may begin 4k broadcasts next year, with 8k broadcasts to come within three years. Sony is gearing up for a 4k Internet streaming service to launch this year, and Hulu is reportedly preparing for its own launch within the next two years.

NTT West will conduct the test along with NTT SmartConnect, its hosting and streaming subsidiary.

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