France will offer an ultra-high-definition digital terrestrial television service, starting in 2023. The public broadcaster France Télévisions has announced plans to provide the France 2 and France 3 channels in 4K UHD, launching in September across the largest cities, reaching over 70% of the population by the end of the year, with the aim of national coverage, including overseas territories, in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Major sporting events like the Olympics often drive deployments in television technology. Spain was the first country in Europe to provide a permanent UHD terrestrial service, launched by TVE for the World Cup.

The French plan is to offer video at a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels at 50 frames per second, using HEVC H.265 compression, with 10-bit colour, and HDR10 high dynamic range. The audio format will be either E-AC3 or AC4. There is also provision for HbbTV interactive services.

France Télévisions is also investigating the cost of adding a further 3 UHD channels within mainland France in the future.

Details of the plans are provided in an invitation to tender published on the France Télévisions web site.

France Télévisions

France Télévisions is the French national public television broadcaster. It is a state-owned company formed from the integration of the public television channels France 2, which was formerly Antenne 2, and France 3, formerly France Régions 3, later joined by the legally independent channels France 4, France 5, and France Info.

While the plan to offer the Olympics in 4K UHD is no real surprise, it is refreshing to see the broadcaster looking to the future with plans for permanent channels in 4K.

The French initiative is in stark contrast to the status of digital terrestrial television in the United Kingdom, which is still used by most homes, with no announced plans to improve the quality of pictures.