Intelsat and Ericsson have successfully demonstrated the first end-to-end 4K Ultra High Definition television transmission over satellite in North America. They claim it shows that satellite systems can accommodate such signals as soon as broadcasters are ready to offer them. The pieces are rapidly coming into place to make Ultra High Definition TV in the home a reality.

The demonstration at the Turner Broadcasting facilities in Atlanta used the Intelsat Galaxy 13 satellite. It delivered a 100 megabit-per-second video feed of a 10-bit 4K UHD signal at 60 frames per second.

The video was compressed and decoded in real time using Ericsson encoders and receivers and Newtec modulation and demodulation hardware.

A 4K Ultra HD picture is 3840×2160 pixels, which is four times the resolution of high definition, while 10 bits per pixel offers greater colour depth and 60 full frames per second avoids problems associated with interlaced pictures.

“4K UHD is the next evolutionary step for television broadcasting, and just as Intelsat supported the smooth transition from SD to HD, so too will we be ready to support the transition to full-time distribution in this new format,” said Peter Ostapiuk, who is vice president of media product management at Intelsat.

“It shows what is feasible in terms of meeting consumer demand for the highest quality possible,” said Giles Wilson, the head of the TV compression business at Ericsson. “Demonstrations such as this show operators that it is possible to start building the necessary ecosystem and a library of UHD TV content now as the industry readies itself for the roll-out of commercial services in the coming years.”

Meanwhile, there are reports that Tricolor TV in Russia has demonstrated UHD TV, in conjunction with Eutelsat, Ericsson, Rohde & Schwarz and LG Electronics.

Tricolor says that while receivers remain relatively expensive it does not yet make sense to begin broadcasting in the format.

The latest and greatest Samsung 85-inch UHD TV has a list price of just under $40,000.

However, most of the major manufacturers are now launching more affordable screens with a diagonal measurement of 55 inches or 65 inches.

Seiki, which recently released a 4K screen in the United States for well under $1,500, has unveiled a new 39-inch version, priced at just $699.

Given the scarcity of 4K material, all these screens will upscale existing high-definition video, while providing increased resolution for graphics and other digital images.

DisplaySearch forecasts that there will be only half a million 4K displays shipped in 2013, rising to over 7 million in 2016, with over a third of them sold in China.

While the numbers remain small compared to more than 200 million screens sold worldwide each year, all this suggests that 4K resolution displays could be a mass-market proposition sooner than some might think.