Japan's public broadcaster says it could begin transmissions in a format with 16 times the resolution of today's high-definition television in 2016.
The format, called Super Hi-Vision, has been under development by Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) for the last few years. Super Hi-Vision images have a resolution of 7,680 pixels by 4,320 pixels. That's four times the resolution of "4K" television that's currently being touted by TV set makers as the next big thing.
The first major test of the format came at last summer's Olympic Games in London, where NHK produced 6 channels of live Super Hi-Vision coverage for distribution at public viewing sites around the U.K. and back in Japan.
The test was a "great success," said Yoshiaki Shishikui, head of the advanced television systems research division at NHK's science and technology research laboratory.
The response from viewers, who said the broadcasts gave the impression of being there in person, helped confirm to NHK that its bet on Super Hi-Vision would pay off, he sai,d speaking at the Storage Visions conference on Sunday morning. The event is taking place alongside CES in Las Vegas.
The technical hurdles NHK has to overcome in its development are many. An uncompressed Super Hi-Vision signal runs at around 24 gigabits per second, making routing and editing of the signal inside a TV station a challenge. Getting the signal compressed and transmitted to viewers in realtime is a further challenge, but one that NHK is working on.
NHK's original schedule called for Super Hi-Vision broadcasts to begin around 2020 via satellite. Terrestrial broadcasts would come some time after. NHK chose satellite because it's easier to transmit the high bandwidth Super Hi-Vision signal over a satellite channel than through a ground-based network of transmitters.
But now that schedule has been moved up.
While NHK still plans on satellite broadcasts from 2020 in the 21GHz frequency band, initial broadcasts could begin in 2016 in the 12GHz frequency band for viewers in Japan, said Shishikui.
While not a household name to many in the west, NHK has a long history of innovation in broadcasting research and development.
The broadcaster, which is funded by the Japanese government and a TV license fee, began research into high-definition TV in 1964 and became the first broadcaster in the world to begin regular high-definition programming in 1991 when it launched an analog high-def format. Most of the early high-definition footage of the Olympics and World Cup were shot using NHK cameras as other broadcasters didn't have the capability at the time.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is [email protected]