Significantly more native 4K Ultra HDTV content may be coming soon through a cable or telco TV operator in your area, thanks to a series of technology trials under way by more than 30 U.S. pay TV providers.

Commercial satellite TV distribution service SES, which offers backbone technologies and services of satellite-delivered video programming to pay-TV companies, said Monday it had signed on an additional 9 cable and telco companies to begin testing its 4K content delivery platform. The additional operators helped SES tally more than 30 companies now in trials with its 4K content distribution technology.

SES’s all-in-one Ultra HD platform combines satellite distribution services, reception gear, and one of the largest 4K Ultra HD channel line-ups available in the world. Channels offered through the system include: Fashion One 4K, Travelxp 4K, 4KUNIVERSE, NASA TV UHD, INSIGHT TV, UHD1, C4K360, Funbox UHD, Nature Relaxation 4K and SES’s UHD demonstration channel.

The rollout of specialized programming lineups parallels the launch of native HD and Full HD content in the early phases of those video transitions, but the availability of over-the-air broadcasts in 4K will likely take a bit longer to arrive around the country than it did for the first high-definition TV broadcasts.

This makes the availability of content via pay-TV services all the more important.

Read more about the SES 4K Ultra HD pay TV trials after the jump:

SES said the pay-TV operators now engaged in testing its 4K platform account for “more than 10 million subscribers,” and of the 9 latest operators to sign on for trials, Hotwire “is well positioned to be the first to market with exciting new Ultra HD services later this year,” according to a statement Monday.

Jonathan Bullock, Hotwire Communications corporate development and government VP, said “the SES Ultra HD platform is easy and fast to deploy on our all-fiber network, allowing us to provide the best 4K channel line-up virtually overnight.”

Of the more than 30 total operators on SES’s 4K platform, three have initiated commercial linear Ultra HD services in subscriber homes to date using SES’s end-to-end solution. These include: Marquette-Adams Communications in Wisc., Highlands Cable Group in North Carolina, and, most recently, EPB Fiber Optics in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Cable and telco operators who were already testing the SES 4K system include: Aureon; Buckeye Broadband; Cable America, enTouch Systems; EPB Fiber Optics; Frontier Communications; Golden West Telecommunications; GVTC Communications; Highlands Cable Group; KPU Telecommunications; Marquette-Adams Communications; MTC Cable; Service Electric Cable TV; Shrewsbury Community Cable; Sjoberg’s Cable TV and Verizon Communications.

Among the 9 newly added providers that have signed on for the SES 4K platform trials are the following:

Alliance Communications, an Internet, phone and cable TV operator serving subscribers in South Dakota and Minnesota;

Cincinnati Bell, a leading telco in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky;

Douglas County Community Network, an ultra-high-speed broadband and IPTV provider in the state of Washington;

Hotwire, a national telecom provider;

Midco, a regional provider of triple play services in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Kansas;

Midwest Video Solutions (MVS), a multi-service provider in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois;

Oneida Telephone Exchange, a triple play service provider operating in Oneida, Illinois and Rio, Illinois;

Skitter TV, a national IPTV systems innovator; and

South Dakota Networks (SDN), an enabler of IPTV for 19 telcos in South Dakota.

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“The turnkey SES Ultra HD platform is home to some of the largest and smallest cable and IPTV providers in the region, who are leveraging the scalability and reliability of satellite to differentiate themselves in a competitive market with the ultimate television experience,” stated Steve Corda, SES global business unit, business development VP. “Momentum continues to build as SES accelerates the delivery and commercial availability of Ultra HD services throughout North America, and we expect more cable and IPTV providers to join the trio of operators who have already launched their commercial Ultra HD services using our platform.”

The SES trails are delivering 4K UHDTV using HEVC compression technology at a rate of 18 Mbps. The coding and bit rate are said to allow transmitting two 4K UHD channels in a single 6 MHz channel space.

A majority of the operators running the SES 4K trials are delivering signals over quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) to compatible decoder boxes, which has been the method commonly used by system operators for cable-delivered digital TV transmission for years. But some cable operators are also considering the use of DOCSIS networks for IP multicast delivery of their 4K content to the home.

Pay TV services already offering or testing 4K Ultra HD content using other systems and channel offerings include: DirecTV, Layer3 TV, Dish Network, and Comcast.

In related news, satellite TV service DirecTV announced its upcoming lineup of 4K Ultra HD content. The satellite TV service currently offers three 4K Ultra HD channels, one of which carries specialized programming in 4K at no additional cost to 4K subscribers, a channel of 4K pay-per-view movies and a special events channel carrying most sports and concert programing in 4K Ultra HD.

So far, DirecTV has not offered any high dynamic range (HDR) elements with its 4K offerings.

Coming up on DirecTV’s special events channel 106 as a 4K pay per view telecast will be the Daniel Comier-Jon Jones UFC light heavyweight championship. The event will take place starting at 10 p.m. ET and will charge $69.99 for 3840×2160 pixel 4K resolution. An HD version will also be available for $59.99.

DirecTV’s channel 104 has been airing repeat 4K telecasts of the Taylor Swift Super Saturday Night Concert. The concert is being replayed at various times throughout July and August.

The satellite TV service will also present 9 additional Major League Baseball games in 4K UHD, beginning Tuesday with the Colorado Rockies at the St. Louis Cardinals, starting at 8pm ET.

Other upcoming 4K MLB games on DirecTV include the following:

7/29 – Giants at Dodgers, 4pm ET

8/1 – Indians at Red Sox, 7pm ET

8/4 – Yankees at Indians, 7pm ET

8/11 – Red Sox at Yankees, 7pm ET

8/18 – Yankees at Red Sox, 7pm ET

8/24 – Nationals at Astros, 8pm ET

8/31 – Red Sox at Yankees, 7pm ET

9/1 – Red Sox at Yankees, 7pm ET

To receive 4K Ultra HD channels on DirecTV subscribers need to have a 4K Ultra HD TV, a 4K-compatible DirecTV DVR54 Genie network digital video recorder or better, and installation by an authorized DirecTV service technician.


By Greg Tarr


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