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SES, Harmonic Deliver First Live Linear 4K UHD Broadcast Over Cable

April 14th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Jason Dachman

While the 2015 NAB Show has no shortage of 4K Ultra HD demos this week, one of the most intriguing is an effort by SES, Harmonic, Sony, and others to deliver the first-ever live linear UHD broadcast over a cable system during the first three days of the show. No U.S. cable operator has offered live 4K UHD broadcasts (Comcast offers VOD content and DirecTV offers a ), so the demo marks a major step forward in bringing live 4K UHD content to American homes.

photo 1“We are demonstrating both live and linear content here and we believe it is a model that can be commercialized in the very near-term – all we need is the content,” Steve Corda said Tuesday at SES’s NAB booth. “The difference here is there is no traditional set-top box – it is IP all the way from the encoder to the TV. We took advantage of all the innovations by the CE industry and the high-performance of satellite to create the multicast. There is really nothing new here in terms of technology, but it’s how we put the pieces together.”

SES is producing a variety of live content (a hula-hoop performer was on hand Tuesday morning, for example) from its “SES Ultra HD studio” outside the LVCC South Hall utilizing a Blackmagic 4K camera. Other pre-produced content is being created throughout Las Vegas (including some drag-racing footage) and Sinclair Broadcast Group provided a KSNV News TV 3 reporter to conduct a series of live celebrity interviews on Monday in Las Vegas.

photo 2The 12GBps camera output is split into quad 3GBps streams encoded via HEVC and sent out as a 25MBps feed to the SES 1 satellite via a PACSAT SNG truck on hand at NAB. Harmonic’s Electra X3 advanced media processor is providing live, full-frame, full-GOP UHD HEVC (Main 10 profile) encoding.

This live feed is then taken down at SES’s teleport in Woodbine, Maryland, where it is combined with a linear stream or pre-produced playing out of a TelVue server. It is then sent up to SES’s AMC1 satellite and downlinked to a 4.5-meter antenna on-site provided by Superior Satellite Systems. A Harmonic ProView integrated receiver-decoders is used for satellite reception and Harmonic NSG Exo distributed CCAP system for DOCSIS transmission. The 25Mbps stream is then fed into an off-the-shelf DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem and into one Samsung and one Sony 4K UHD display (taking advantage of the internal HEVC decoders in both). The live or linear feed can then be selected to appear on the display via a standard OTT app environment custom developed by SES.

“You don’t have to upgrade the cable system in this scenario, which is really the biggest hurdle for 4K adoption,” says Corda. “It takes advantage of all the stuff the OTT industry has done, but we are doing it as managed [platform] rather than unmanaged. So we don’t have to deal with the network congestion that comes with [OTT streaming].

Although SES has launched several 4K UHD demo channels throughout Europe already, Corda says this model may be the key to cracking the 4K-to-the-home nut in the U.S. He says SES plans to conduct pilot programs with a handful of cable operators in the U.S. later this year to gain real-world experience and then hopes to launch a commercial service soon after.

“There are billions of dollars in investment in MPEG-2 set-top boxes and for this really to work you need HEVC, so that’s two generations behind,” he said. But we are showing you can do 4K today with DOCSIS 3.0 and taking advantage of the technology already in the 4K television sets. Instead of waiting four years for this to happen the way we had to with HD, it’s here today. I don’t see why this wouldn’t be operational this time next year.”

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