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Cable Technology Feature Article

April 03, 2014

Level 3, Elemental Team on Bandwidth-friendly 4K Streaming

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Level 3 Communications (News - Alert) has teamed up with Elemental Technologies to demo a real-time 4K UltraHD video stream using MPEG-DASH and high-efficiency video coding (HEVC) at the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) event next week.

With four times the resolution of 1080p HD, 4K video content presents a challenge to traditional compression approaches such as MPEG-2 and advanced video coding (AVC / H.264) in terms of the bandwidth required to deliver a smooth and immersive viewing experience. The HEVC implementation allows for delivery of 4K content at bitrates equivalent to HD content, and pairing it with MPEG-DASH, enables a universal adaptive bitrate streaming solution that works on any platform.

Level 3's content delivery network (CDN) will handle the delivery of the 4K video, which will be encoded and packaged by Elemental.

4KTVs will follow a similar, but faster, growth pattern as HDTVs, which have reached 82 percent of US broadband households after 15 years on the market, according to Parks Associates (News - Alert).

The firm predicts that 4KTVs will reach mass-market pricing in the next two to three years, leading to an on-going adoption curve that will result in a penetration of 4K in 80 percent of households in approximately ten to 12 years.

"4KTV adoption is following the same pattern as HDTV, but prices are dropping more quickly," said Stuart Sikes, president at Parks Associates. "With the increasing convergence in the connected home, innovations such as 4K have implications for a variety of players throughout the home entertainment ecosystem."

Parks Associates analysts noted 4K will initially be delivered over-the-top (OTT), with companies like Netflix, Comcast (News - Alert) and Amazon already working on 4K-based offerings. However, 4K traffic is expected to grow over the next two years, traffic demands on broadband networks will grow dramatically. As a result, operators are aggressively looking into bandwidth-saving technologies, including next-generation video compression technologies.

"Level 3 is proud to play an integral role in the first demonstration of these exciting video broadcast technologies used together," said Mark Taylor, vice president of Media and IP Services at Level 3. "What's more, this is a live stream over our global CDN, which shows our ability to deliver this type of Ultra HD to millions of viewers across the world."

"The combined Level 3 and Elemental workflow demonstrates the viability of real-time 4K streaming services for content programmers and distributors," said Keith Wymbs, CMO at Elemental. "We are pleased to collaborate with Level 3 with our MPEG-DASH and award-winning HEVC implementation to create immersive video experiences."

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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