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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 18, 2013

H265, UltraHD, WebRTC: Setting the Stage for Video Sea Changes

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC), or H265, UltraHD and WebRTC/HTML5 are the three technologies that will have a profound impact on the development of the video market across all sectors, according to Cisco Systems (News - Alert).

Video, of course, is the fastest-growing type of traffic on service provider networks, be they in-ground or mobile. In the latter’s case, bandwidth (even over LTE (News - Alert)) is a finite resource, forcing carriers to look at various ways to better compress video traffic in order to carry more of it with quality of service (QoS) on the same sized macro cell.

 “2012 was the first year that over half of the bandwidth on the macro radios was video,” Kip Compton, CTO of Cisco's video and collaboration group, told Tech World. “We expect by 2017, 70 percent of the traffic will be video. So you can imagine what doubling the efficiency of that video means – you're going to see a lot more HD video experiences on mobile devices.”

Enter H265, a compression codec which was recently ratified and is in the process of becoming commercialized. H264 is the de facto compression standard today for online and mobile video; it is twice as efficient as TV’s MPEG2 encoding; H265 is twice yet more efficient than H264. That has obvious repercussions for mobile operators looking to support escalating video consumption without degrading the network experience for users.

In its most recent Visual Networking Index, Cisco said that it expects business IP video conferencing to grow by a factor of six by 2016, growing more than two times as fast as overall business IP traffic, at a CAGR of 42 percent. The rise of UltraHD--also known as 4K--will have implications for Cisco's telepresence products, according to Compton.

4K offers a resolution four times as high as the current HDTV format. The first TV models offering that kind of screen resolution are starting to make their way to market. LCD panel suppliers are forecast to ship 2.6 million 4K ultra HD TV panels worldwide in 2013, up more than 40-fold from the 63,000 shipped in 2012, according to NPD DisplaySearch. At this year’s CES (News - Alert), Sony and other manufacturers made a splash with jumbo-sized (over 60-inch) 4K sets with five-digit price tags.

While the lack of availability of entertainment content in that format will continue to hamstring the TV market for a while (it’s expensive to shoot in 4K, and there’s not enough of an install base of compatible screens to justify the investment yet), it is likely that 4K will make its presence, as it were, known in the high-end telepresence market, where immersiveness is the differentiator.

Meanwhile, Compton told Tech World that Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), along with the rise of rich media-friendly HTML5, will revolutionize Web video by offering a standard for serving HD content via a Web portal, regardless of device. Using the two technologies together, operators and applications developers can embed a video conferencing experience into almost anything, throwing open the door for new revenue generating services for consumers and verticals that can be bundled with connectivity, for instance.

“An obvious example would be an online retailer making it very easy for you to video chat with an expert about a product, or video chat with a call rep to complete an order,” said Compton.

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