ITU Approves Next-Generation Video Format That Could Enable High-Quality Mobile Video

By Alexandra Burlacu email: | Jan 27, 2013 10:29 AM EST

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The International Telecommunications Unit (ITU) has approved a new video format that could be game-changing: the H.265 standard, i.e. the next-generation video format.

The new format could not only enrich broadband networks with 4K video, but it would also make HD video streaming available even on mobile networks, which are typically have limited bandwidth.

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The new H.265 standard, informally dubbed the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), aims to provide high-quality video streaming even on networks with low bandwidth.

"The new codec will considerably ease the burden on global networks where, by some estimates, video accounts for more than half of bandwidth use," reads the press release. The new standard, known informally as 'High Efficiency Video Coding' (HEVC) will need only half the bit rate of its predecessor, ITU-T H.264 / MPEG-4 Part 10 'Advanced Video Coding' (AVC), which currently accounts for over 80 per cent of all web video. HEVC will unleash a new phase of innovation in video production spanning the whole ICT spectrum, from mobile devices through to Ultra-High Definition TV."

After Apple released its iPad and several other connected devices hit the market, nearly every video publisher has standardized the H.264 codec. When Apple adopted H.264 and pushed for HTML5-based video players it sparked quite some controversy, especially as most pre-iPad video used VP6 encoding to play via Adobe's proprietary Flash player.

Thanks to its improved compression techniques, the new H.265 standard could allow publishers to stream 1080p video with roughly half as many bits as currently required. In turn, that should allow for true HD video streaming on mobile devices and tablets running on bandwidth-constrained networks. This means that online video could become more widely available in markets with poor connectivity or connections that are mostly mobile.

Meanwhile, H.265 could also allow for even higher-quality video in locations with decent broadband connectivity. Moreover, 4K TVs have finally become available, which means even greater video resolution is possible.

On the other hand, networks are not designed to support the load video streaming would require. H.265 could enable 4K streaming with just 20-30 Mbps of bandwidth.

Meanwhile, the fact that the ITU has approved the new format does not mean that lower bit-rate streams or smaller video files will be available anytime soon. Various software-based encoders will likely be available by the end of the year, but until the codec is actually embedded into chips and hardware it will not see mass adoption.

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