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Ultrafast copper broadband holds the key to 4K TV

Tuesday, January 13th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The widespread use of 4K TV will rely on BT's G.fast technology, according to a company involved in developing the system, which uses existing copper networks to deliver broadband speeds up to 1Gbps.

Michael Weissman, vice president for marketing at Sckipio Technologies, said the main things holding back 4K, or ultra high definition (UHD), are download and upload speeds.

And as 4K becomes more popular, the only way to deliver the faster speeds necessary for the data-heavy UHD streams within a reasonable time is to turn to G.fast, he said.

The technology, which has also been trialled by BT in the UK, uses a combination of fibre and conventional copper wires to deliver gigabit speeds

Sckipio, which makes G.fast chipsets and software, used last week's International CES to conduct what it described as the world’s first public demo of ultra high definition television over a G.fast ultra broadband network.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk at the conference, Mr Weissman said the mass deployment of 4K TV is limited by the availability of high-bandwidth broadband access.

He said: “You say, ‘what is holding 4K back?’ Two things: download speed but also upload speed.

“If you have a 4K camera and you want to post something on YouTube and you want to have a 2Gb file or a 5Gb file or something like that and you’ve got 1.5Mbps going up, it’s a very painful experience.”

Supporting four separate streams of 4K broadcasts would need up to 200Mbps of broadband speeds, with over-the-top services like Netflix or YouTube in 4K resolutions needing even more, he said.

'Guaranteed service'

“If you’re charging someone for a guaranteed service, ie paid television, you want to guarantee a certain service level.

“You have to give some buffer between a minimum and your average, so even if you have an impairment, the impairment is above your minimum requirement.

“So if your minimum requirement is 25Mbps you might want 50Mbps to be safe.

“Let’s take AT&T for example. In the US they have four streams. Maybe you want to record two programmes, watch another.

“If you want to do that in Ultra HD you need 200Mbps – 50 times four.

“You can’t do that except in fibre today. You can’t do that on VDSL, it doesn’t work.

“It (4K) is going to be a big trend this year and this technology is going to make that feasible.”

Mr Weissman said G.fast technology would be the best way to provide the speeds needed for 4K within a reasonable period of time, compared to the length of time Fibre to the Home (FTTH) rollouts can take.

“Look at Google Fiber. Google Fiber has slowed down, they have unlimited money and they’ve slowed down. Why? 'Because it’s not a technical problem, it’s a labour problem, it’s a logistics problem, it’s a regulatory problem, I don’t have the rights to dig there, I don’t have the ability to go in that apartment building because the apartment owner is not the residence owner and the apartment owner won’t let me in the building’.

“And all those things are invisible to the average consumer.

“It’s not an issue of will and it’s not an issue of commitment. They can’t get it there, that’s the problem.

“So this is the way.”

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