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BBC UHD service next year?

The BBC is reportedly planning to launch a new Ultra High Definition (UHD) service next year, and is already stockpiling content for the new service.

According to Advanced Television, the service will start with 4K transmissions of the 2017 Wimbledon Tennis Championships. By next year, it's estimated 5 million households will have UHD compatible TVs.

Two years ago, the BBC tested UHD broadcasts on the digital terrestrial TV platform via a three transmitter network, carrying coverage from the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Commonwealth Games. It has a growing library of UHD content, including natural history documentaries.

The BBC has neither confirmed nor denied reports, but any new service might have to wait until the new BBC Charter and associated funding arrangements have been finalised, something that is likely to be delayed by the current political situation in the UK. Such a channel would mimic the original BBC HD channel, with a small selection of suitable content from the BBC programme library.

From next year, BT will be taking over the contract to provide a new technical backbone to the BBC's broadcast operations. As part of the new contract, it will be possible for the corporation to better utilise the possibilities of UHD.

Current situation
There are currently very few linear UHD services available in the UK: notably BT Sport UHD on BT TV and services such as Insight UHD and Fashion 4K on multi-satellite systems. Online services such as Netflix offer viewers UHD / 4K content for on-demand films and programmes.

BBC R&D is currently operating a transponder on the Astra 1 (19.2 East) satellite cluster, carrying a "Hybrid Log-Gamma" (HLG) test service, broadcast using the HEVC standard preferred for UHD transmissions. HLG is a high dynamic range (HDR) standard that was jointly developed by the BBC and Japan's NHK that is backwards compatible with standard dynamic range displays. This test transmission isn't available via UK Sky and Freesat systems and requires equipment that can handle HEVC.