Bring it On: Bandwidth Buster 4K Television No Match for Broadcom at CES 2014

There’s always a bit of anticipation about the next big thing to make its debut at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But, year after year, one of the oldest “gadgets” on the show floor – television – continues to generate headlines.

In previous years, the buzz around TV has been tied to breakthroughs such as DVR, Blu-Ray, networked set-top boxes and, most recently, 3-D TV. This year, all eyes are on Ultra HD TV, a successor to the high-definition resolution screens that have gone mainstream in recent years.

Ultra HD – also known as 4K TV because of the roughly 4,000-pixel resolution it offers – actually made its debut at CES 2013 as a luxury technology with only prerecorded content to play on the screens. But just 12 months later, things have changed radically. Ultra HD at CES 2014

Prices of Ultra HD sets have dropped by more than half and, as a result, sales are on the uptick and are expected to grow even more as prices continue to erode in 2014. Meanwhile, true Ultra HD content is now in sight, with Amazon and Netflix planning rollouts in the near future. The Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts the annual trade show, forecasts Ultra HD unit shipments to reach 450,000 in 2014, an eight-fold increase. By 2015, sales charts could show “hockey stick” growth.

But there’s one more piece to the puzzle that cannot be ignored – and that’s where Broadcom enters the equation.

Delivery of Ultra HD content requires bandwidth – and a lot of it. And while there’s expectations that the infrastructure that powers and delivers Internet connectivity will eventually expand to meet the new demands, Broadcom is offering the low-power, lower-cost compression technology to meet those needs today.

Broadcom taps the high-efficiency video codec (HEVC) technology on the H.265 standard, which improves the coding efficiency. Ultimately, it can deliver roughly double the data rate to get an Ultra HD signal to a set-top box and, subsequently, to the TV screen.

In a recent Q&A interview, Broadcom Co-Founder, Chairman and Chief Technical Officer Henry Samueli said that the chip technology that Broadcom introduced at CES 2013 will be deployed in volume in 2014, moving into the cable and satellite TV set-top boxes that are commonly found in living rooms. From there, the growth trajectory only gets better.

From the Q&A:

Then, of course, the IPTV folks will follow, which means you’ll have Ultra HD decoders built into these lower-end boxes, as well, for Internet TV. Once there’s a distribution platform, content providers will start creating content in Ultra HD format and, over time, you’ll start seeing content from YouTube and everybody else going Ultra HD. By then, consumers will be compelled to buy Ultra HD TVs. The market will just take off.

The thing about CES, though, is that somewhere in the halls of the convention center, something even bigger and better is being showcased.  While the 105-inch curved Ultra HD TVs that LG and Samsung are set to showcase at CES will likely dominate headlines, Samueli said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a new, more vibrant crop of 4K resolution displays, made up of a mind-blowing 20 million pixels, in the 55 inch-range.

That presents greater bandwidth challenges – but that’s OK with Samueli.

“We like more bandwidth,” he said. “That’s more opportunity for Broadcom.”

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About the Author

Sarah Murry is a Web editor at Broadcom. She crosses the “t’s” and dots the “i’s” for and Broadcom’s corporate blogs. She earned her reporter chops covering technology, business and trade… More