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Is Asia ready for 4K?

Zafirah Salim | July 11, 2014
In this interview, Akamai’s Chief Strategist for Media, APJ, David Habben, discusses findings of the company’s recent State of the Internet report, and shares his insights on Asia’s readiness for 4K technology.

In addition, Habben emphasised that Asia should not be collectively identified with a single viewpoint. Each country within the region is diverse, and they need to be addressed individually. For example, one element that separates these Asian countries is the huge disparity in connection speeds, he pointed out.

"Countries that experience low connection speeds serve as a barrier for Asian content providers. In contrast, markets like South Korea and Japan are enormous by themselves, with high mobile adoption rates and technology literacy," he said. "Asian content providers may see more value in providing 4K content to these markets first who are more capable in sustaining a 4K stream before expanding their reach across other parts of Asia."

Lastly, "device" refers to its increased attainability due to price cuts. According to market research company, NPD Group, prices for 4K devices declined by more than 85 percent worldwide in the span of just two years - falling from US$7,851 in 2012, to US$1,120 in 2014.

Such drastic decline in pricing helps to boost the adoption of 4K devices, and the rise of cheaper alternatives from brands such as Xiaomi, TCL and Seiki, further encourages its adoption, Habben added.

Future landscape of 4K in Asia

The recent Broadcast Asia 2014 in Singapore showcased an array of demonstrations of 4K technology, which Habben claimed drew overwhelming response - largely at the new details and image quality it delivers.

"While 4K content is available in the market, it is not widely and easily accessible to all consumers for now," Habben said. "However, this year's International Consumer Electronics Show saw a host of companies from Netflix to Paramount Pictures announcing plans to start streaming 4K content. The industry is moving in an ideal and progressive direction as we see 4K content creation picking up. This will lead to more 4K content made available at a faster rate."

Nonetheless, cost of delivery remains to be a huge challenge for content providers, which are apparently higher than standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) resolutions. "With four times the quality, come increased bandwidth and other costs. It is yet to be determined if consumers will pay four times as much for content. In addition, the availability of bandwidth limits the number of consumers who can watch 4K," Habben said, adding that Akamai is progressively working with companies to overcome the technology limitations.

At the same time, Japanese broadcaster NHK has announced plans to push for 8K broadcasting by 2020 for Tokyo Olympics, and that it will begin testing a service by 2016. Habben is confident that its emergence will not pose a threat to 4K broadcasting.

"While 4K TVs are best viewed on panels with the dimensions of about 50 to 80 inches, 8K is more about public broadcasting on outdoor large screens. Similar to viewing 4K content on a mobile device, viewing 8K content on a normal TV screen will not showcase the content to its best definition and quality," he explained.


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