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Cable Technology Feature Article

February 21, 2014

What Does 4K TV Mean for Cable?

By TMCnet Special Guest
Stephane Bourque, President & CEO, Incognito Software

Will 4K TV be a boon or bust for cable? It’s true that interest in this new technology is growing and most of the over-the-top (OTT) service providers plan on delivering content in 2014. In short, this is a wake-up call for service providers to start planning for the future.

In very simple terms, 4K TV, also known as Ultra HD, delivers the resolution of 4 HD (1080p) TVs on a single screen. All content will be delivered over IP.

The main concern is that a shift to all-IP television will put even more strain on the network. Already, OTT video services are putting pressure on available bandwidth and it’s important to start thinking about how you will handle the heavier requirements needed by 4K content in the future. Will you need infrastructure upgrades or changes to routing? Are there better ways to manage your network traffic? The bandwidth demands of today should be a red flag that further analysis and planning are required.

It will still be a few years before Ultra HD 4K TV is mainstream. Although Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube (News - Alert) have announced plans to stream Ultra HD 4K content, so far, 4K TV is off to a slow start. To view 4K content, you need an Ultra HD television that can support the technology. Although early adopters could embrace the technology as early as this year, the price point prohibits its availability to the general public. Current Ultra HD 4K content is also limited. However, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Ultra HD 4K content will continue to gain ground, just as HD content built slowly from documentaries to mainstream television.

DOCSIS 3.1 will make it easier for cable providers to deliver faster speeds and increase capacity, but this isn’t a magic bullet. You need to seriously consider how you will efficiently deliver service quality amid the increased bandwidth demands of Ultra HD 4K and other IP-only services in the future.

I don’t believe that 4K TV spells the end for cable, just as the popularity of OTT services hasn’t had the dire effect on cable that many predicted — as seen by recent reports that more than 80 percent of households in the United States subscribe to traditional pay TV, even amongst the younger demographic. However, I do believe that you need to start preparing for the future now. Use whatever tools you have available to analyze your current network traffic, predict future patterns, and decide how you will cope with increased bandwidth demands in the future. Otherwise, you risk reducing the subscriber experience and could pay the price once the technology is mainstream.

Stephane Bourque, is the president & CEO of Incognito Software.  

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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