The State of 4K/Ultra HD

Dr. Sean McCarthy, Ph.D., Fellow of the Technical Staff, ARRIS

Next week, the industry will discuss the future of content delivery at NAB. I’ll be participating in a seminar examining how new dimensions in video technology will impact the business of video distribution.  It’s hard to discuss this topic without hitting on 4K (also called Ultra HD or UHD) and its ramifications for the industry.

Last year, I wrote this column on what’s next for Ultra HD. My points about the phased approach to implementation still apply, but as this topic continues to heat up, I think it’s a good time for an update on where 4K is today and how it is shaping the roll-out on a global scale…

The 15-year plateau of HDTV is undergoing a dramatic change thanks to HEVC and UHD.

Here is some quick background: Ultra HD represents a truly new era of television beyond HD. It refers to higher 4k resolution (3840×2160), but also involves higher frame rates, higher dynamic range, and better color. And consumers will soon see new programming broadcast in 4K, starting with the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals. Furthermore, the Japanese and Korean governments are driving 4K and 8K video transmission trials for this year as well.

So, Ultra HD is very different from HD, and it’s already here in some respects.

Many of us at ARRIS believe that UHD should be considered a roadmap for improving TV in the years to come. We also believe that the underlying HEVC standard that makes 4K content possible on today’s networks is also what will enable many of these improved TV experiences.

HEVC is two times as effective as the current H.264 standard and has the potential to cut bandwidth costs in half. It will even enable telco providers to extend their reach over current DSL networks.

With that in mind, the phased approach to UHD that I mentioned earlier is likely to follow these four steps:

  1. High-efficiency path using HEVC to improve bandwidth economics for HD services. This will enable ubiquitous OTT services for media gateways, Internet-attached 4K displays and HD and 4K tablets and smartphones.
  2. Cinematic track that would support “optimized-for-4K” HD encoding. In other words, HEVC will provide a pathway to true 4K content at 24 and 30 frames per second. “Optimized for 4K” HD encoding would imply near-pristine HD content that looks great when upsampled on a 4K display. But, it leverages HEVC to fit in the same bandwidth as HD content compressed with today’s MPEG4/H.264.
  3. HEVC becomes more attractive to sports programmers. These programmers will emphasize frame rate over resolution to deliver 1080p HD at 60 frames per second, and later at 120 frames per second. All while providing a pathway to true 4K at 60 frames per second.
  4. HEVC becomes that much more attractive to all service providers. They will use enhanced efficiency of HEVC to deliver traditional HD services while freeing up bandwidth for UHD and data services.
  5. Ultimately, HEVC opens the door for content and service providers to deliver better consumer experiences without breaking the bandwidth bank.

I hope that you can join me, Kevin Wirick, and Hugo Gaggioni, Sony CTO for Broadcast and Production Systems, and others at NAB in exploring this topic as well as the trends and technologies that will determine the future of video delivery networks.

Join my seminar, Wednesday April 9th @ 10am PT in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Room S219 “Creating Value in MultiScreen and Ultra HDTV” to learn more.

ARRIS Takes Home CableFAX Digital & Tech Award

We’re happy to share some exciting news! The ARRIS Media Streamer 4000 was awarded the 2014 CableFAX Digital & Tech Award in the “Connected TV/Smart TV Solution” category. 22494_CableFAX_Tech_Awards_Logo

According to CableFAX the awards recognize products that are “driving the digital media revolution” and “took chances, made incredible strides and understand the power of innovation.”

We have to agree. Our MS4000 Media Streamer is transforming video delivery to match consumer demand for anytime, anywhere, any-device experiences. It’s powered by Sling technology and lets our customers bring place-shifting features to our Whole Home Solution with MOXI entertainment platform.

Award winners were asked two questions about technology:

1.) What is the one question you must ask before making a technology decision?

2.) What is the one technology that will most change the game in the next year?

Jeanne CableFAX Tech AwardsThe answer to the first embodies ARRIS’s core values. We ask: “How will this technology benefit consumers and advance our industry?” Last year, we invested more than $500M in R&D creating the technology to transform tomorrow’s entertainment experiences—but when we make decisions to implement that technology, we always ask how it will serve consumers and our industry.

This plays into the second question about technology game changers. We’re betting on HEVC, a powerful new compression technology that improves mobile and HD video, enables UltraHD, and facilitates its delivery over Wi-Fi—improving the overall consumer viewing experience.

It’s our commitment to investing in new technology and implementing it in ways that progress the entertainment experience that earned our MS4000 Media Streamer an award and made ARRIS a finalist in four other categories: “Cloud Solution,” “Green Technology,” “New Product Award” and “Residential Equipment.”

Awards were announced in a ceremony held earlier this week at the Yale Club in New York City.

Congratulations, team! Read more about the CableFAX Digital & Tech Awards here.

ARRIS Experts Accept Technology & Engineering Emmy® for MPEG-2 Transport Stream

Our tradition of award wins got off to an early start this year with an Emmy® at CES. Our own Paul Moroney, SVP of Advanced Research and Development, and Sam Narasimhan, distinguished member of the technical staff, along with four other members of the original standards team, accepted a Technology & Engineering Emmy® Award on behalf of the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) for the MPEG-2 Transport Stream.

Paul and Sam were part of the team that created the Transport Stream, which has been instrumental in shaping today’s systems for the transmission, storage, and retrieval of audio, video, and metadata. In fact, all digital TV signals and equipment use this standard for compression. iSuppli estimates that nearly 630 million related devices are shipped each year.

The Technology & Engineering Emmys® are one of the highest honors that can be conferred for innovation in broadcast technology, and this marks the 15th award for ARRIS. Accolades like these are a glowing endorsement of our people’s contributions to the future of our industry. Congratulations to the entire MPEG team on this outstanding achievement!

Five Questions with…Steve McCaffery

Senior Vice President, Sales, EMEA & Asia Pacific

Steve McCaffery, Senior Vice President, Sales, EMEA & Asia Pacific

This week, we sat down with our own Steve McCaffery, Senior Vice President, Sales, EMEA & Asia Pacific and asked him a few questions…from the biggest trends in the region to his advice for individuals seeking a career in the video and broadband industry. Here is what he shared with us.

In your mind, what are three of the biggest trends facing service providers?

We’re seeing a number of key trends impacting decisions by our service provider customers over the coming year.  Firstly, with the onset of 4K, we’re seeing a change in requirements for new compression techniques like HEVC, stimulating a refresh in the headend for HEVC encoders and also in the CPE space for HEVC set-tops.  Secondly, the growing trend for wireless video delivery around the home is driving the demand for the highest standards in Wi-Fi such as 802.11ac.  And finally, service providers are looking at how they can move content to the cloud for access from multiple screens – discussions around nDVR will continue throughout 2014.

Innovation is a word used fairly often in our industry. How would you define it? Better yet, what’s one of your favorite moments that could be defined by this word?

Innovation is something that creates an industry or defines a marketplace by being disruptive to the norm.  For example, innovation in compression and encoding has disrupted how we consume media, making it possible to view HD video on a tablet screen.

What should the industry do to hire and inspire more people to drive the future of content and communications experiences?

Our industry is heavily engineering-focused, but to make the services that we enable more intuitive, we should encourage more marketing-led skills to balance the engineers.  The technology is there, but it’s now about adoption, and that will come when we can make these experiences more intuitive – we need a shift in our industry to inspire and develop these skills.

What excites you the most about the next 3-5 years for ARRIS?

This industry really excites me! Last year, we brought together two great companies in this space and are on the threshold of some new developments.  Also, vendors like ARRIS continue to move up the value chain, and I’d expect over the next 3-5 years to see video service providers engage with us more to take advantage of our operational experience to help design and manage their video systems, allowing them to focus on their customers and the service they deliver.

What was one of the best pieces of career advice given to you?

Communicate, communicate and communicate… Don’t assume people know and understand what you are doing or thinking.  To bring along an organization with you, especially on a global level, it’s important to communicate across all levels in the organization, up, down, sideways.  For our team, it’s about communicating across regions, business units and with the corporate functions that support us.


Top 5 Tech Articles You Might’ve Missed – Week of February 3, 2014

Last weekend’s “Big Game” was an even bigger hit with viewers. In fact, according to Variety, it averaged an audience of 528,000 online viewers per minute — a 4% increase over last year’s event and 52% increase over 2012’s. Mashable reported it also set social records, generating nearly 25 million tweets during the live telecast, up from 24.1 million last year.

The game demonstrated how consumers’ preferences for receiving and interacting with content are changing. Furthermore TWICE referenced research from CEA revealing that 73% of consumers who see Ultra HD products in a retail store are interested in owning the technology. Additionally, according to a study shared by Advanced Television, millennials no longer perceive television viewing as an independent activity, and are increasingly multitasking online to obtain information.

Separately, Broadband Technology Report detailed our latest news that Brazilian operator Globosat has selected the ARRIS CAP-1000 to deliver and monetize new entertainment services.

In what new ways are you receiving and interacting with content? Let us know in the comments below.

  1. Super Bowl: Fox’s Streaming Internet Audience Up 4% from CBS’s Last Year (Feb. 3) By Todd Spangler, Variety: The game for many may have been a snoozer, but Fox Sports claims it set a new Internet streaming record for a sporting event with Super Bowl XLVIII — even though it amounted to just a fraction of the U.S. TV audience.
  2. More People Tweeted During This Super Bowl Than Last Year, Probably Out of Boredom (Feb. 3) By Stan Schroeder, Mashable: Super Bowl XLVIII generated 24.9 million tweets during the live telecast, narrowly edging last year’s record of 24.1 million tweets. The biggest Super Bowl-related peak on Twitter, measured in tweets per minute (TPM), was Percy Harvin’s 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter, with 381,605 TPM.
  3. Millennials favour digital formats (Feb. 5) By Editor, Advanced Television: The 2013 Most Memorable New Product Launch survey reveals significant findings when it comes to the Millennial generation’s media consumption, according to Sentient Decision Science and Schneider Associates. Evidence of the “M” factor in the US can be seen in specific media consumption patterns.
  4. CEA: 73% Of Those Who See An Ultra HD TV Want One (Feb. 5) By Greg Tarr, TWICE: Three-fourths (73 percent) of online U.S. adults who see Ultra HD TV technology in a retail store are interested in owning the technology at some point in the future, according to new research from the Consumer Electronics Association, while only 34 percent of people who did not see the technology are interested in ownership.
  5. ARRIS to Deploy in Brazil (Feb. 4) By BTR Staff, Broadband Technology Report: Brazilian cable and satellite operator Globosat has selected ARRIS‘ CherryPicker Application Platform CAP-1000 to deliver and monetize new entertainment services. Globosat plans to use the IP-centric CAP-1000 for new video and targeted advertising services. Globosat serves 15 million households in Brazil.


Five Questions with…Bob Swanson

Arris, Orlando, Florida 2014

Bob Swanson, Regional Vice President of Sales

To continue our “Five Questions” series, we spoke with Regional Vice President of Sales, Bob Swanson, about the evolution of the retail industry, expectations for the retail sector in the coming year, and some of the industry’s biggest trends.

How has the retail industry evolved since you started, and what changes do you expect to see over the next three to five years?
As a 25-year veteran of the retail industry, I have seen it change quite a bit.

Shopping is no longer limited to brick-and-mortar retail stores, and consumers now crave an omni-channel experience. Years ago, a customer might research a product using catalogs or mailers, but there’s been a shift in power to the everyday consumer. Today’s consumers now rely on the Internet to find information and already know what they want before stepping foot into the store.

Over the next three to five years, I believe mobile will continue to expand as a channel consumers leverage to research and purchase products. For retailers, it’s important that all those channels (online, mobile, and physical stores) work together to present a seamless experience for consumers.

What did ARRIS show from the retail sector at CES?

Multiscreen was a popular topic at this year’s CES (Jan 7-10). For us, it’s about bringing the home networking experience to the next level to enable those experiences—making it easier to connect to the home network and ensuring that the network can support all the new connected devices…smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles and more. At the show, we had several connectivity solutions—such as modems and gateways—that are the focal point of this new connected home ecosystem.

In your opinion, what are two to three of the biggest trends in the retail industry?
The largest trend centers around reinventing the customer experience by delivering a seamless retail experience.

There are three driving forces behind that: mobility, customer-centric support, and the online experience. In addition to the use of mobile apps and online resources, customers also expect personalization when they shop. They don’t want to just be a number. Therefore, retailers are looking at more service-oriented products. All of these channels come together to create an overall customer impression.

Another key trend is customer data and analytics to personalize marketing. Retailers today have a better understanding of their consumers’ needs and shopping behaviors, which enables companies to adapt sales approaches and preference to provide a personalized retail experience for individual consumers.

What should the industry do to hire and inspire more people to drive the future of home networking and enhance the overall user experience?
There is pressure from Over-the-Top (OTT) video content providers that should be embraced. The whole ecosystem is evolving to a “TV anywhere” concept. Consumers want any video, anytime, anywhere, and on any device. But these multiscreen experiences rely on the network to deliver a smooth, fast, and easy-to-use experience.

The more we showcase how these innovations drive tomorrow’s problem solvers—whether that’s creating and operating a new business, researching insights for new technologies, or enabling people to see things from across the world online that they might normally not be able to see without a reliable connection—the easier it’ll be to find savvy people to work in this particular industry.

So, what’s next in retail for ARRIS?
In the near-term, we continue to invest in our retail business, with a focus on expanding our home networking presence—through new products like cable modems, gateways, and MoCA adapters.

Further out, we have an opportunity to build on that investment by bringing other product categories to retail with guidance from our Service Provider customers. This addresses the growing CE trend of home networking devices being sold at retail and becoming self-install (vs. sold and installed via service providers). We can see this trend possibly evolving into a hybrid retail model, which gives consumers greater flexibility to choose their home networking equipment and have the option for either self install or operator install with device management still supported through the operator network.

Our unmatched retail presence in the retail modem/gateway market, along with our outstanding relationships with global service providers, uniquely positions ARRIS to deliver this next stage for the industry.

Top 5 Tech Articles You Might’ve Missed – Week of January 27, 2014

On Sunday, millions of people will get together, order food and cheer on their favorite team in the “big game.” According to Forbes, more than half of those viewers will use a smartphone or tablet to watch, giving advertisers more opportunities to reach consumers — during and after the game.

Along the same lines, Rapid TV News shared a survey from the NATPE and CEA, which found that the second screen has become a permanent part of the viewing experience, providing a more meaningful connection between viewers, content and increasing viewer loyalty.

Similarly, Variety detailed an agreement between CBS and Nielsen which will allow for the measurement of viewing activity across TV and mobile devices. Advanced Television also discussed research from Futuresource Consulting projecting that the global number of TV-centric connected devices will exceed 2 billion by 2017.

In other tech news, Broadband Technology Report shared that Shaw Communications will deploy our APEX3000 Universal Edge QAM to enhance consumers’ viewing experiences and support its growing Video-on-Demand VOD libraries.

What are you most excited about: the commercials, the game or your TV? Let us know in the comments below.

1.       Super Bowl Ads For Multitaskers (Jan. 29) By Michael Blanding, Forbes: When most people sit down to watch the “big game” this Sunday, the television won’t be the only screen they’ll be looking at. Increasingly, viewers are doubling up on entertainment with a second media device in their hand or on their lap to complement—and compete—with the television.

2.       CBS, Nielsen In Pact To Measure Video-Watching Across Different Media (Jan. 29) By Brian Steinberg, Variety: The nation’s most-watched broadcast TV network wants to figure out how people watch its programs when they aren’t using TV to do so. CBS, home to such big-audience programs as “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS,” has expanded its relationship with Nielsen to devise measurement of audience behavior across multiple methods of video distribution.

3.       Second screen recognised as permanent part of viewing experience (Jan. 28) By Editor, Rapid TV News: The second part of the NATPE/ CEA survey into second-screen usage has revealed ‘tremendous potential’ in content designed for synchronous viewing and the simultaneous usage of both a primary screen and second device.

4.       2bn TV-centric connected devices by 2017 (Jan. 28) By Editor, Advanced Television: The global installed base of TV-centric connected devices surpassed one billion units in 2013 and will exceed two billion by 2017, driven by smart TV, IP-enabled STBs, game consoles, Blu-ray players and low cost digital media adapters, according to the latest research from Futuresource Consulting.

5.       Shaw Deploys ARRIS for VOD, TVE (Jan. 29) By Staff, Broadband Technology Report: Canadian cable operator Shaw Communications has deployed ARRIS‘ APEX3000 CCAP gear to support its growing VOD libraries and as part of its TV Everywhere strategy. The CCAP-compliant APEX3000 is a redundant edge QAM solution that combines video and DOCSIS high-speed data services to a single RF port.

Top 5 Tech Articles You Might’ve Missed – Week of January 13, 2014

The evolution of TV and the content that’s driving it made this week’s headlines.

UltraHD is front and center, with new research from Strategy Analytics (published in RapidTVNews) showing that 56% of consumers are likely to purchase an UltraHD TV within the next two years. A story in Digital Trends echoed that consumer demand for UltraHD, noting that its primary method delivery will be streaming.

Getting any content, anytime and anywhere is also high on consumers’ lists. A recent Parks Associates study found 31% of subscribers want access to place-shifting devices, according to FierceCable. And Digital TV Europe noted that by the end of 2014, up to 50 million homes worldwide will have two or more pay TV subscriptions.

Finally, our newly-launched International Channel Program, featured in Multichannel News, is broadening our portfolio’s reach—enabling partners to promote, support, and sell products from our portfolio that address the above trends and more.

What trends in content consumption are you most excited for in 2014? Let us know in the comments!

  1. More than half of US consumers would buy an UltraHD TV in next two years (Jan. 15) By Staff, RapidTVNews: UltraHD/4K technology, undoubtedly one of the star attractions of CES 2014, now has to start selling in order to live up to its hype, but this may not be a huge challenge, a research brief from Strategy Analytics notes.
  2. Mommy, Where Does 4K Content Come From? Ultra HD Streaming Explained (Jan. 15) By Caleb Denison, Digital Trends: Ultra HD, which offers four times the resolution of 1080p HD, is the future of television, and manufacturers of everything from televisions to Wi-Fi routers wanted to show off support for the new standard. But for consumers, many questions remain.
  3. Parks: 31% of pay TV subs want place-shifting DVRs (Jan. 10) By Steve Donohue, FierceCable: More pay TV subscribers want to be able to access to programs stored on their DVRs similar to the way Dish Network customers can use its Sling product to watch video from set-tops in their homes on any Internet-connected device, Parks Associates said Friday.
  4. SVOD to deliver multi-billion dollar pay TV boost (Jan. 14) By Staff, Digital TV Europe: Up to 50 million homes globally by the end of 2014 will have two or more separate pay TV subscriptions, generating extra revenues for the industry, according to new research by Deloitte.
  5. Arris Sparks Global Expansion Plan (Jan. 7) By Jeff Baumgartner, Multichannel News: Looking to boost sales and market share outside the U.S., Arris on Tuesday launched an International Channel Program that will enable partners to promote, support and sell products from the vendor’s portfolio of set-tops, modems, gateways, user interface software, network access gear, video processing equipment and security software.
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