Comcast pushing back 4K/HDR plans amid new developments

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Comcast wants to deploy set-tops that are not only both 4K- and HDR-capable, it now wants to implement the 10-bit High Efficiency Video Coding standard, which it believes will improve the experience. 

Having teased high-end videophiles for the last few years with the prospect of releasing 4K- and HDR-capable set-tops, Comcast has a new timeline for rolling out these technologies. 

Speaking at Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies, an event produced in Denver and covered by Light Reading, Joshua Seiden, executive director at Comcast Innovation Labs, said the rapid evolution of both 4K/UltraHD and High Dynamic Range has convinced Comcast engineers to slow their roll on deployments. 

For example, after toying with the idea last year of releasing set-tops with the advanced display capabilities in time for the Summer Olympics, Comcast has held off until tech standards, such as 10-bit HEVC, can become more cooked. 

Notable is HDR, which compared to 4K, has quickly emerged as a more provocative proposition for consumers. However, HDR wasn’t a development priority until about 18 months ago. 

“4K for us will always go with HDR,” Seiden said. 

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Comcast wants to deploy set-tops that are not only both 4K- and HDR-capable, it now wants to implement the 10-bit High Efficiency Video Coding standard, which it believes will improve the experience. 

Slowing the process, Seiden said, is the fact that Comcast is having trouble getting the decoders it needs to integrate 10-bit HEVC into set-tops. 

Meanwhile, as OTT companies like Netflix and Amazon have quickly established early beachheads in 4K and HDR programming, cable companies have been stymied, unable to decide on whether to deploy the high-intensity signals over QAM or IP. 

But they might finally have clarity here. 

"4K HEVC almost has to be done over IP," Seiden said, noting that a single 4K stream takes up almost an entire 6 MHz channel in a cable network.