Video services

South Korea Tops 4K TV List

As 4K TV starts streaming into the video market, three Asia-Pacific broadband stars have jumped off to an early start in getting ready to deploy the next-generation video standard.

In the latest edition of its "State of the Internet" report, Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM) found that the three countries -- South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong -- are far more prepared for the rollout of Ultra HD, or 4K, video than most of the rest of the world. Based on the speed of broadband connections, South Korea led the way with 60% of its households considered 4K-ready, followed by Japan with 32% and Hong Kong with 26%.

In contrast, the US trailed well behind the three leaders, ranking just 13th on the list with 17% of its homes considered 4K-ready. Canada fared a bit worse than its big southern neighbor, ranking 17th on the list with 13% of its connections judged to be 4k-worthy.

A few European nations, such as Switzerland and the Netherlands, ranked higher than their North American counterparts. But generally Asia-Pacific entries dominated the top 10 line-up. Overall, Akamai found that 11% of broadband homes around the world are ready for 4K video.

Akamai calculated 4K readiness by taking into account sustained broadband speeds in each nation or region. Given that Ultra HD adaptive bit rate (ABR) video streams generally require sustained speeds of 10 Mbit/s to 20 Mbit/s, under today's encoding technology, Akamai set 15 Mbit/s as the minimum speed needed to deliver 4K images crisply. The company noted, though, that the 15Mbit/s bar could well change as more efficient, next-gen video encoding standards, such as High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC), are adopted and implemented.

The survey findings are timely because major content and service providers around the world are now scrambling to stream 4K video to TV viewers. In the US, for instance, Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), Amazon, DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) have all made noises about this in recent months. Also, major consumer electronics equipment manufacturers including Samsung Corp. and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) are pushing the 4K cause with new Ultra HD TV sets and media players.

Unlike 3D TV, which has failed miserably at exciting consumers so far, industry prognosticators generally believe that Ultra HD, like standard HD before it, will gain broad adoption over the rest of the decade and beyond. In its latest Visual Networking Index (VNI) study, for instance, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) predicted that 4K, video will make up 11% of all IP video traffic by 2018, up from a mere 0.1% last year, as broadcasters, online video providers, and pay-TV providers all embrace the new H.265 standard for Ultra HD. (See Cisco VNI: Make Way for HD & 4K Video.)

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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