Satellite company SES is reported to be planning to launch ultra-high-definition channels. Romain Bausch, the president and chief executive of the Luxembourg-based company told analysts that SES is ready to help launch 4K resolution channels within “two to three years from now”. He suggested that BSkyB could be preparing to pioneer the introduction of the next generation in high-definition television.

The proposed specifications for UHDTV are for 8K or 4K resolution. NHK has been developing and demonstrating the extraordinary possibilities of 8K resolution, which at 7680×4320 pixels is sixteen times that of high-definition television. It may be some years before we see that in the home. Meanwhile 4K UHDTV, which at 3840×2160 pixels is four times the resolution of HDTV, may be a more immediate commercial reality.

“We are very confident that UHDTV will happen,” said the chief executive of SES, which operates the satellite fleet used to deliver Sky channels in the United Kingdom, among many others. “BSkyB led the introduction of HDTV in Europe so do not be surprised if you see us partnering with BSkyB in order to pioneer the introduction of Ultra-HDTV in the next two to three years”.

He pointed out that there is currently satellite capacity available for such services across Europe.

Other satellite broadcasters, such as DIRECTV in the United States are also understood to be interested in the possibility of UHDTV services.

Digital cinema already uses 4K images in various formats and cameras are already available. Display manufacturers are starting to ship 4K resolution flat panel screens, although they will initially command a considerable price premium.

In many ways 4K is simply the next logical step in the quest for ever-higher fidelity television reproduction.

Conventional wisdom suggests that consumers will not need such high resolution in the home. However, 4K resolution represents less than nine megapixels per frame. Many consumer still cameras already exceed that resolution, so it does not seem far fetched that people will want better than high-definition displays in the near future.