Comcast demo lights path to 4K Ultra HD

WASHINGTON, D.C. – While many industry observers have expected that it would be several years before pay TV providers could deliver programming in the new 4K Ultra HD format, Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is running a demonstration here at The Cable Show this week that shows how it could stream Ultra HD programming to subscribers by installing PCs at cable headend facilities.

Comcast 4K booth Cable Show

The 4K demo at Comcast's show booth.

Comcast is teaming up with technology vendors Arris (Nasdaq: ARRS), Elemental Technologies, Broadcom and Intel on the 4K demo, which is displaying Ultra HD programming supplied by Sify, the cable network owned by its NBCUniversal subsidiary. The demo relies upon a PC containing an Intel i5-4670 3.4 Ghz processor and the Broadcom BCM97445 video media server. It also uses Elemental's HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) solution to compress the Ultra HD programming for delivery to new 4K HD TVs, which offer four times the resolution of most of the TVs that are in U.S. homes today.

Comcast Fellow Mark Francisco told FierceCable Monday that Comcast would be able to squeeze four Ultra HD channels into a single 6 MHz channel, thanks to HEVC compression. Today, Comcast and other cable operators are able to deliver two HDTV networks in a 6 MHz channel by using the MPEG-2 compression standard.

Francisco said the Ultra HD distribution approach was developed by Comcast Labs. While the MSO hasn't announced a timeline for rolling out Ultra HD programming, the technology could help Comcast compete with satellite TV rivals. Earlier this year, DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) filed trademark applications for the brands 4KN, 4KNET, 4KNetwork and 4K, indicating that it is developing a network dedicated to Ultra HD programming.

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