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HDTV research: Infrastructure needs upgrade

Posted: 13 Jan 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:network infrastructure  high-definition 

According to Peter Bocko, chief technology officer for East Asia at Corning Research, the rapid adoption of high-definition (HD) and improvements in TV technology are outpacing the capabilities of the current network infrastructure.

Bocko explained that consumers' HD viewing experience does not match the high expectations associated with HDTV. "The problem is not necessarily the set itself, but the limitations of the delivery pipeline that brings the signal to the set," he said.

The challenge for the HDTV industry is to sync up the fast-improving TV capability with the content delivery infrastructure, which is developing at a slower pace.

Bocko detailed Corning's research to quantify these issues during a panel session on Jan. 9 at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

While consumers are adopting HDTV in greater numbers, anecdotal evidence indicates that product return rates to retailers remain high. Bocko sees an opportunity to apply Corning's research in glass substrates and fibre optics to pinpoint possible solutions.

Corning's targeted research into display network requirements could help benchmark the requirements needed for optimal HDTV performance. "By sharing our proprietary research findings, we hope to benefit the entire HDTV market," said Bocko.

He added in an interview that the disconnect between HDTV receiver capability and network delivery performance is partially due to the speed at which HDTV technology has arrived. By 2012, two-thirds of North American households will own an HDTV, according to market researcher DisplaySearch. What's more, sets that formerly broadcast only TV programming and movies are now sophisticated multimedia portals.

Thus, content providers are increasingly churning out higher-quality digital offerings, further increasing the need for a robust content delivery pipeline.

Even high-end HDTVs may come up short due to network quality issues, including content delivery bandwidth, bit rate and video compression constraints. Bocko added that 3D and Quad HD technologies will demand up to eight times more bandwidth to support performance; lacking that, consumers may conclude that HDTV technology doesn't measure up.

Corning researchers are developing the infrastructure needed to support future display technologies. For instance, using an optical testbed to emulate fibre-to-the-home, cable TV and digital subscriber loop networks combined with new display technologies, Corning engineers have been able to analyse how content delivery and network capabilities affect HDTV viewing. Among the metrics are variations in bit and compression rates, display size and type and network characteristics.

"Our initial research indicates that for each display type viewing quality improves with bit rate. And the rate of improvement grows for more advanced displays and larger screens," Bocko said. In repeated testing, a "just-noticeable difference" in viewing quality, measured in "luma" (a representation of a video image signal brightness) increases as the data transmission rate increases, he added.

Corning will release its HDTV research results later this year. "We believe the data will lead to technical modifications of displays and networks which ultimately will lead to improved image quality for consumers," Bocko said. While acknowledging that viewing quality is very subjective, Bocko added that "we can make a good effort to raise consumers' expectations by providing clean, uncompressed signals to the televison set with clever circuitry and using fibre as the medium."

- Nicolas Mokhoff
EE Times

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