Ministry eying world's first broadcasting of next-generation TV technology

January 28, 2013


Japan will begin broadcasting with next-generation 4K television technology from July 2014, a move that will put it at the forefront of this highly competitive sector.

As the first country in the world to offer 4K broadcasting, communications ministry officials hope to revive the flagging domestic electronics appliance industry.

4K offers four times the resolution of high-definition TV broadcasting that is now in place.

Consumer demand for TV sets has stagnated following the conversion from analog to terrestrial digital broadcasting completed in March 2012.

However, it remains to be seen if consumers would be willing to splurge on the amounts that will likely be needed for the first TV sets capable of receiving the 4K broadcasts.

High-definition TV broadcasting currently uses a resolution of roughly 2 million pixels. 4K broadcasting would take that to about 8 million pixels.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications had initially set 2016 as the year to begin full 4K broadcasting. However, under the new plan, satellite broadcasting using communications satellites would begin in July 2014 to coincide with the knockout rounds of the soccer World Cup to be held in Brazil, knocking South Korea off the perch in setting the earliest broadcasting date.

Because a massive volume of data is transmitted through 4K broadcasting, the current wavelength band zone set aside for digital terrestrial broadcasting would be incapable of handling the load.

Unused capacity through communications satellites would be used instead.

Ministry officials said plans call for expanding 4K broadcasting by using broadcasting satellites and eventually terrestrial channels.

While new TV sets capable of receiving the 4K broadcasting would have to be purchased to view programs using the new technology, consumers would be able to continue using their current sets to view terrestrial digital broadcasting, which would continue even after the start of the new technology.

The central government has included funds in the supplementary budget for fiscal 2012 to cover the costs of experimental 4K broadcasting.

A new organization, including representatives from TV networks and manufacturers, will be established in March to promote technology development.

That organization will likely be in charge of the 4K broadcasting when it starts up in 2014.

Work is also in progress on 8K technology, which would have 16 times the resolution of the current high-definition TV broadcasting. Ministry officials are also considering pushing up the start of experimental 8K broadcasting by two years to 2016 when the Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro.

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Toshiba Corp. displays a 4K TV set at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Junichiro Nagasaki)

Toshiba Corp. displays a 4K TV set at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Junichiro Nagasaki)

  • Toshiba Corp. displays a 4K TV set at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Junichiro Nagasaki)

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