It is clear that 3D and HDTV are on the up. Showing the Six Nations Rugby Tournament across the UK in 3D this year was just the latest in a string of announcements that increasingly point to the fact that sport is leading the charge in driving take up of new services such as 3D and HDTV. Another example is ESPN, which is broadcasting the FIFA World Cup matches from South Africa in 3D.
While the pick-up of 3D is good news for the sports fanatic who wants to feel like they are at the game, it is crucial that both service providers as well as the venues hosting these events ensure that they have the necessary network infrastructure and capacity available – otherwise the industry risks disappointment (and ultimately consumer disillusionment) with the services and the potential new revenue they can bring.
Television has developed into a highly emotional and interactive medium, and anticipation can build for days, weeks and even months for some televised events. The FIFA World cup is a perfect example of this: those people watching in 3D will expect the service to perform flawlessly. If the quality of experience is anything but perfect, the industry risks negative backlash and consumer switch off. Just look at the recent example of the backlash which ensued when ITV accidentally showed an advert over the England goal against USA on its HDTV service.
We have seen similar incidents regarding content delivery across already overburdened wireless networks in the U.S. More mobile devices with increasingly data-rich capabilities have resulted in spotty service, slow download speeds and frustrated users. 3D and HDTV risk a similar fate, unless adequate steps are taken to put in place the network to support them.
For these bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive services to be implemented successfully, several key issues will need to be addressed, most notably connectivity and capacity. While a standard SD channel, at typical compression level only requires 2Mb of bandwidth per second, an HD channel consumes 6Mb/s, and a 3D channel broadcast in HD can consume as much as 30Mb/s.
But sheer network capacity isn’t enough. Acknowledging the importance of broadcast quality through strict attention to potential issues such as network latency and resiliency will be another critical step toward successful service rollout and adoption. Indeed, poor viewing experiences don’t bode well for 3D and HDTV if these issues are not addressed.