The French Open tennis tournament has seen the first 4K television transmissions over a digital terrestrial television network using H.265 compression. Channel 4K in Japan has begun the first regular broadcasts of 4K Ultra HD programming. The football World Cup in Brazil will be a major test bed for Ultra High Definition television coverage, but only a few people will be able to see it in their homes.

The French have achieved a notable first at the tennis tournament in Paris, running from 25 May to 8 June.

The 4K Ultra HD video coverage, four times the resolution of high-definition television, was compressed at 50 frames per second in H.265 High Efficiency Video Coding, which is said to reduce the transmission capacity requirement by 30-50% compared to AVC H.264.

Coverage of various matches from the Center Court has been broadcast by TDF and TNT in DVB-T2 format, viewable on compatible 4K televisions. These included models from Panasonic at the Roland Garros stadium and at the facilities of the French Tennis Federation.

From the quarter finals, Ultra HD coverage will be available through terrestrial, satellite and online services, for those with a compatible television.

“Envivio has provided an outstanding contribution for the debut of live 4K HEVC video transmissions over a DTT network at the French Open tournament,” said Alain Komly, deputy director at TDF. “The sharpness and rich quality of the video is absolutely stunning, and we are excited to present this emerging technology for the first time in France.”

Japan has meanwhile begun the first regular 4K television service. Channel 4K, operated by the Next Generation Television and Broadcasting Promotion Forum, or NexTV-F, began the pilot service on 2 June. It will broadcast for around six hours a day through SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation. It is also intended to be available through cable and IP services.

The World Cup football in Brazil will provide a major test for Ultra HD coverage. Three matches will be covered, including the final on 13 July in Rio de Janeiro. Sony has also partnered with FIFA to produce the official World Cup film in 4K Ultra HD.

FIFA Director of TV Niclas Ericson has described it as “the dawning of a new era in the broadcasting of sport.”

The Brazilian Globo network will be among broadcasters showing technical demonstrations of the Ultra HD coverage.

Very few viewers will be able to watch the Ultra HD pictures in their own homes, but the event will be used to test end-to-end delivery systems and promote the benefits of ultra high definition.

4K or Ultra HD is seen as the next revolution in television resolution, as high-definition increasingly becomes standard. Display manufacturers are hoping that it will revive revenues from televisions.

According to IDC, over a million 4K capable televisions are now shipping a month, despite very limited availability of programming. However, there are forecasts suggesting that 4K screens will be in 10% of North American homes by the end of 2018, reaching 50% by 2024.