During a recent interview with Ahmed Al Muhaideb, vice president, broadcasting & IPTV services at du, Digital Broadcast Middle East learnt that the UAE telco is planning to begin the rollout of the new HEVC (H.265) compression standard as early as mid-2016.
“We’re currently upgrading many of our systems and they will be replaced with HEVC compatible hardware and software. It’s a natural process as the company grows and renews its infrastructure,” says Al Muhaideb, who added that du does not foresee any required increase in infrastructure investment to adapt its infrastructure to the new compression standard.
“It hasn’t been a major project because we are continually upgrading and re-investing in our infrastructure,” says Al Muhaideb. “In terms of our set top boxes, however, there are no HEVC-compatible chipsets that have been launched as yet, but we’ll begin the process of replacing our IPTV set top boxes in mid-2015 to handle HEVC. It will be a gradual process.”
HEVC is of course a gateway technology for the deployment of 4k broadcast infrastructure, but Al Muhaideb, who has been active in the Middle East broadcast industry since the 1980s, told Digital Broadcast Middle East he is unsure of how widely ultra-HD technology will be embraced and sees it being better suited to live sports event broadcasting rather than home entertainment.
“Content in ultra-HD is very limited and in order to really appreciate 4k technology you need a huge screen of more than 70’’. That limits the market significantly,” said Al Muhaideb. However the head of du’s broadcasting and IPTV services did add that through 4k, HEVC had greatly enhanced the HD capabilities of du’s infrastructure.
“The introduction of 4k has given us access to better encoding technologies so that we can actually almost double the number of HD channels we transmit within the same bandwidth,” said Al Muhaideb. “This means that the network is more efficient, whether over satellite or fibre. This is an indirect benefit of preparing our infrastructure for ultra-HD.”