A leading telco expert has warned consumers not to be fooled by the “4K marketing hype”, saying Australia’s broadband network isn’t up to scratch to cope with streaming speeds that are meant to deliver razor sharp images for viewers.
Pay-TV provider Foxtel revealed plans on Wednesday to launch the country’s first 4K channel, heralding the move as the next wave of change in Australian television, with sport and entertainment viewing promised to be delivered like never before.
But Dr Mark Gregory, electronic and telecommunications associate professor at RMIT University, told The New Daily 4K providers were over-promising to consumers.
“What people with the highest internet speeds have found, particularly those with Netflix 4K streaming, are on average streaming at 15 megabits per second (Mbps), which is far below the promised 25 Mbps,” Dr Gregory said.
“The ideal speed to fully experience 4K should be 50 Mbps.”
He said there was clear marketing strategy which was promising the ultimate high-definition experience, but falling well short.
“My concern is that people are spending a lot of money on 4K televisions, but the quality of the picture that’s being sent to them is poor.”
Dr Gregory said some NBN users were still unable to achieve speeds of 25 Mbps due to peak bandwidth usage.
“It’s important to think about retail service providers and how much Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) capacity they’re purchasing because that capacity has to be shared among a certain amount of customers in an area on the NBN.
“So when people are trying to watch streaming services during peak times, there’s a buffering problem occurring.”
Dr Gregory said he predicted other service providers would follow in Foxtel’s footsteps to offer 4K.
“You can expect everyone to follow but consumers shouldn’t give into the hype just yet.”
Dr Belinda Barnet, media and communications senior lecturer at Swinburne University, said Foxtel’s move was a possible survival tactic.
“Foxtel’s going to have to be incredibly competitive to have to survive things like Netflix which has already killed off a number of its competitors,” Dr Barnet said.
“The market is crowded and this is clearly their tactic to try and catch the market share, just as movie theatres went into the 3D experience to draw people back into cinemas.”
4K, also known as Ultra-High Definition, refers to one of two high definition resolutions: 3840 x 2160 pixels or 4096 x 2160 pixels, twice the resolution of 1080 pixels.
The technology delivers incredibly detailed images with eye-popping colour, which dramatically enhances the contrast of images frame-by-frame to deliver a cinematic viewing experience.
Compatible TVs cost as little as $900 for a 55-inch, to $12,000 for a 82-inch.
But 4K will be old news by the time 8K streaming comes online for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
An 8K video is almost three times bigger in file size than current 4K videos, which themselves clock in at 6000 gigabytes for 100 minutes.
Depending on the levels of compression the 130 hours of 8K footage planned for the Tokyo Olympics could come in at 225 GB per 100 minutes, or 25,600 gigabytes for the total 8K experience.
Foxtel’s 4K move
Foxtel in 4K on channel 444 will come as part of a Foxtel Platinum HD or Foxtel Sports HD subscription for customers with an iQ4.
At launch, the channel will start previewing 4K content – including live sport, documentaries, concerts and more, and over the next 12 months, Foxtel will continue to expand the selection of unique 4K content to its subscribers.
But, in order to experience Foxtel’s latest innovation, subscribers require: a compatible 4K TV, Foxtel satellite services, iQ4 set-top box, HDMI 2.0 cable, and its Sports and HD pack.