Broadband must reach beyond today's TV technology

14 May 2013

Television technology is developing at a fast pace and 4K looks set to be common for mainstream TV watching in countries like the US and Japan soon. Unless Australia has a broadband infrastructure plan that can accommodate such technology, we could be left behind.

Last week we saw the stratospheric rise of the broadband comparison site,, but two days later we were reminded on Reddit that it was arguably already out of date.

Netflix, the video on demand service, which can account for one-third of all US download traffic and represents a mainstream form of US television consumption, will start using "4K" Ultra High Definition quality video in 2014. It's not beyond the realms of reason that 4K TV will be mainstream in the US by just 2016.

Displaying such content right now is something of a challenge. Just three weeks ago, Samsung launched its first 4K TV - an 85-inch behemoth that costs $40,000. This sits alongside Sony and LG's 84-inch equivalents which cost $25,000 and $16,000 respectively. Last week LG announced a new 55-inch version for $7,000. Overseas, however, Chinese company Seiki priced its 50-inch 4K TV at just $1,500. You can buy it now, in the US, for under $1,200.

In a 4K world some thought needs to be given to Upload Speeds. It's all very well consuming content but it needs to be created too. Currently YouTube sees three days of video uploaded to it every minute and that figure is climbing quickly. The rise in Ultra High Definition is boosting the traffic size too. But the problem with copper networks is that upload speeds are dramatically slower than download speeds. The prime reasons for this are noise on the line and the traditional web practice of consuming content over creating it. However, if you're like me and you recently had to upload a two-minute child's homework video to YouTube over Telstra's fastest cable connection, it can take around five hours to complete. Alex Kidman recently lamented that his Ewan McGregor interview took 22 minutes to film and over eight hours to upload using his office connection. While YouTube is a pioneer distributor of 4K video, one wonders how Australians will be able to contribute to content.

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