HD lessons learned from the Digital TV transition

Are there lessons to be learned for the HD communications community in the recent conversion from analog to digital TV? Robert Graves, Chairman of the ATSC Forum and a 22 year veteran of the journey from SDTV to HDTV.  had a front row seat on the journey from”standard” definition TV to HD and will share his experiences at HD Comm ’09 in New York City on September 15.

(Sign up for the conference online and get a 20% discount by using the code “HDConnectNow””

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From Jeff Pulver’s blog last week…

HD Communications Summit: Lessons learned from the example of HDTV

There exist important lessons for HD communications in the example of HDTV even if the transformation of television does not map precisely. Robert Graves, the person in the best position to explore these lessons, recently joined the speaker roster for the HD Communications Summit. Robert Graves is Chairman of the ATSC Forum and a 22 year veteran of the journey from SDTV to HDTV. Robert Graves enjoyed a front row seat to the emergence of HDTV first as the person responsible for representing AT&T on the Grand Alliance, and, later, as the chairman of Advanced Television Systems Committee.

HDTV overcame all the obstacles presently facing HD Communications in terms of establishing a technology roadmap, triggering end user demand, fostering a HD ecosystem, and pushing for mass market adoption. As in the case of HD Communications, the manufacturer community first recognized the potential of HDTV. Competition between companies in the US and Japan sparked the initial progress. The Japanese won first mover status with an analog implementation of high definition TV. Companies in the US joined together in a forum hosted by the FCC in pursuit of fully digital solution. The US effort to converge on a common standard produced the Grand Alliance in 1996 as the means to integrate the best of the competing proposals.

The firstHD Communication Summit in May 2009 led to the founding of HDConnect as the grand alliance equivalent for HD communications. The success of the emerging high definition communications sector hinges on achieving the same device interoperability as HDTV. HDConnect consists of a steering committee, technical working groups, and separately funded co-marketing activities. The steering committee establishes policy for use of the HDConnect trademark, provides oversight for technical working groups, and sponsors co-marketing activities. Companies interested in participating should contact Daniel Berninger at dan@danielberninger.com .

The high definition televisions that appeared in retail channels in 2005 where expensive and there existed very little HD content the few people that could afford them. However, this starting point kicked of a cycle of improvement that cut the price of HDTV’s nearly in half each of the next several years. The decline in price expanded the addressable market which in turn attracted new HD content in a virtuous cycle. The marketing campaigns of consumer electronics channels, entertainment networks, and cable companies turned HDTV into a mass market phenomena by 2009.

HD Communication is relatively far along with mature and inexpensive HD devices from companies like AudioCodes, snom, and Polycom. HDConnect seeks to help make sure the technology roadmap allows all of these HD devices and supporting service providers can interconnect. The heaviest lifting involves building end user demand for HD communication products and services, but the reward for the companies willing to make the investment will prove even larger than the windfalls enjoyed by companies involved in HDTV. High definition television enhances the entertainment experience, but communication represents a key input for the entire global economy. HD promises new applications and productivity improvements that will transform the multi-trillion dollar communication industry.

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