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    OTA/ATT Hybrid Model for UHD

    June 7, 2021

    Is an Over-the-Air / Over-the-Top Hybrid the Answer for UHD Broadcasting?

    With 4K televisions quickly becoming more affordable and 8K on the horizon, consumer demand for pristine Ultrahigh-Definition (UHD) content, especially for live sporting events, can only increase. Yet, as VP of video strategy at Harmonic Thierry Fautier points out, if 2160p UHD needs to be delivered along with existing standard definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) content, only a limited number of channels can be broadcast without a dedicated spectrum allocated just for UHD. And he considers that an unlikely scenario worldwide.

     

    Fautier’s paper in this month’s SMPTE Imaging Journal, “Can UHD OTT Be Complementary to Terrestrial UHD Broadcast?” examines various delivery scenarios allowing broadcasters to offer a UHD experience 24/7 using other delivery channels for UHD, while SD and HD are transmitted over terrestrial (Over-the-Air, or OTA), and assesses which solution is best from a technical and financial point of view.

     

    He notes that free-to-air satellite, similar to what is currently used in Europe, is one potential answer for UHD broadcast content. But this solution cannot deliver the increasingly popular non-linear content, like video-on-demand and catch-up. Turning to IP delivery methods, he shows how it is now possible to mix and match OTA and OTT without a noticeable difference in delay between the two delivery mechanisms. Fautier deals mainly with OTT delivery over non-managed networks (used by Netflix, Hulu and Amazon) but also examines how managed networks (used by Internet Protocol television operators) can be used to improve the OTT delivery of live UHD. He explores architectures of these solutions for delivering UHD content over IP, and provides a financial analysis for deploying OTT UHD at scale by 2024.

     

    In the architecture of an OTA/OTT Hybrid System, the ingested content (in either HD or UHD) is sent to a playout system that composes the live program. This uncompressed UHD signal is then sent to a compression system that provides two different outputs: one for OTA and one for OTT. The UHD hybrid receiver presents both OTA and OTT signals in a unified interface to the user, aligning them so the user may switch, for instance, from an OTA HD or UHD view, to an OTT UHD view. The difference in delays between the two outputs depends on parameters such as type of infrastructure, network and client used on the OTT side, but in the best case with low-latency OTT, the OTT content is likely only a couple of seconds behind the OTA, similar to the range of delays for pay TV.

     

    Fautier’s message is clear that broadcasters today have the ability to deliver UHD content in an economical way using a hybrid of Over-the-Air and Over-the-Top technologies. Learn more about his feasibility studies of centralized and decentralized architectures, unicast and multi-cast delivery streams, and ATSC 3.0 or DVB-I standards, as well as his financial analysis of the various scenarios. Read the complete article in the June issue of the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal.https://www.smpte.org/motion-imaging-journal 

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