Qualcomm leading push for 4K

NEW YORK--Qualcomm  (NASDAQ:QCOM) is touting the advantages of 4K streaming video over wireless and asserting that mobile devices will lead the way in making 4K video more widely available.

4K video, which is also referred to as Ultra HD, promises a resolution that is about four times HD video.  4K TVs do exist today and the price tag is dropping, with some 4K TVs available in the $1,000 range.

But 4K content is another matter. Most 4K programming has so far been limited to some high-profile sporting events and content from over-the-top players like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX).

Nevertheless, Qualcomm is bullish on the future of 4K.  At a panel event held here, Raj Talluri, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, predicted that 4K will happen faster than HDTV and said that much of the demand for 4K will come from user-generated content that is currently being shot by people using 4K-enabled smartphones, such as Samsung's Galaxy S5 or Sony's Xperia Z2.

Although there are several high-end smartphones that are 4K-enabled today, that number is expected to grow dramatically over the next few years. Qualcomm's Tim McDonough, vice president of marketing, said that Qualcomm anticipates that by 2018 the mobile industry will have shipped more than 500 million 4K-enabled smartphones.

But sending 4K video over wireless requires huge amounts of bandwidth and very efficient compression technology. That's why Qualcomm is also advocating for the move to next-generation Wi-Fi technology, or Wi-Gig, which can transmit 3 Gbps to 4 Gbps of data a short distance.  Using Wi-Gig consumers could theoretically shoot their 4K video on their smartphones and then send the video via Wi-Gig in their home to their 4K-enabled TVs to view it.

Of course, one glitch to 4K video shot by smartphones is that users can't actually view the video in 4K on the device because of limitations to existing smartphone displays. Instead, users currently have to use a cable to connect their smartphone to a 4K-enabled TV in order to view the 4K content.

Shooting 4K video does significantly enhance the quality of the content, particularly sports content, said Joe Inzerillo, EVP and CTO of MLB's Advanced Media, noting that when a baseball game is shot in 4K the viewer becomes much more immersed in the content.  However, he also said that the MLB will not likely move to 4K until it is can financially justify the move. "We can't push it out until it's economically viable," he said. "But it's coming."

James Gunn, director of the film Guardians of the Galaxy, also noted that 4K dramatically improves the quality of films and said that he expects Hollywood to respond to consumer demand for 4K. "People will demand it once they see it," he said.

On the Hot Seat: FoxSports' Davies talks 4K impact and the future of sports broadcasting

Related articles:
Qualcomm to buy Bluetooth chip specialist CSR for $2.5B in IoT, connected car move
Netflix bumps up price for 4K programming
Japan aims for ubiquitous 8K in time for 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
Broadcast TV, OTT, 4K to take center stage at IBC 2014
Samsung announces 4K content deal with Amazon
Shipments of 4K TV sets top 2.1M in Q2, setting record