DTT in Spain is a whole world. What was supposed to be the future of television has fallen by the wayside, especially anchored in the past by specifications that are not in keeping with the times. We are not going to assess the quality of the content it offers, because that is something more subjective, but we are going to see what is the future that can stop Digital Terrestrial Television or DTT in Spain.
Until now, DTT has broadcast its content on channels with resolutions of 1080i or even 720p. And the last straw is that there are still many DTT channels in SD. With these resolutions and a 4K television, the image quality is noticeably impaired, so the logical leap was to go to 4K, a common resolution on almost all types of streaming platforms but that in DTT is a rare bird. The good news is that there is already some broadcasting in 4K… but the rest of the way will not be so easy.
SCREEN RESOLUTIONS: Types and differences: 4K, FHD, QHD, UHD and more
What is DTT in 4K
DTT in 4K is the future of television, at least in SpainSince in other countries they are already playing with 8K resolutions and there is Japan to make us envious. Technological evolution does not seem to have affected DTT, which is still anchored in the past and where right now 4K resolution is no more than a simple test.
If right now you put almost any channel on DTT, you will see how these they usually work in resolutions that oscillate between 1080i and SD resolution. The only information that you will find to differentiate one from the other is the fly with the HD letters that appears in the broadcasts, but little else. The truth is that the channels do not provide much more information and with that resolution and modern televisions, the image quality leaves much to be desired. The 4K in the solution to improve the final result but for now its presence is more than anecdotal.
Keep in mind that there is a brutal difference between DTT in 4K, which saves the distance, and here there is much to say, It would be similar to what platforms like Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+ offer… to what we have on DTT with HD or SD channels. We are talking about going from 1,280 x 720 pixels (720p) or 1,920 x 1,080 that we will see in 1080i. The a “i” stands for ‘interlaced’ and is one step below 1080p. Compared to these, with 4K resolution we talk about having access to 4,096 x 2,160 pixels
Options to watch DTT in 4K right now
The first platform to play with this with 4K broadcasts in Spain was UHD Spain, almost a year ago. A non-profit association that has 30 partners, including the Atresmedia group, RTVE, MediaPro, Dolby and Fraunhofer. and although broadcast content arrives with HDR and Dolby Atmosit is no more than a test channel.
The second option with which we find ourselves in Spain comes from the hands of the Valencian Community, which will have a road in DTT with the capacity to issue 4K resolutions. However, it is pilot tests to offer programming in 4K through DTT. And they are also limited to the metropolitan area of the city of Valencia, where you can enjoy this resolution on dial 41.
Along with these options, the operators put their grain of sand to try to fill the void. This is the case of Orange, Vodafone and Movistar and their respective platforms. Orange TV offers eight channels in 4K, while Vodafone TV has four channels and Movistar Plus+ three channels in UHD.
as we see the panorama of DTT in 4K in Spain is bleak for now. Only two options and as tests waiting for the rest of the channels to dare to take the leap. But in between there are different obstacles to overcome.
What do you need to watch DTT in 4K
Let’s say that 4K is already a reality or that we even want to take advantage of the test broadcasts that are being offered in some areas of the territory right now. And the first thing we must keep in mind is that **our television must be capable of displaying a 4K resolution on the screen, otherwise nothing that we will explain below makes sense.
With this requirement on the table already covered, DTT broadcasts have two possible routes. Use the DVB-T2 standard, an evolution of the current DVB-T, or make the leap to the DVB-I standard, a hybrid DTT-IPTV model, a mix of current DTT with Internet television.
Right now DTT uses the DVB-T standard and this can broadcast in 4K but at the cost of reducing the number of channels to free up bandwidth. This is due to the fact that the bandwidth that a DTT channel would occupy in 4K is what four HD channels currently occupy.
Here comes the DVB-T2 standard, the natural evolution of the predecessor. This makes use of the HEVC H.265 codec instead of H.264, which means bandwidth savings. An optimization of network consumption that makes the same broadcast occupy half the space and therefore leaves the way open for possible broadcasts in UHD via DTT. Thanks to this system, it can be broadcast in 4K, with HDR Hybrid Log Gamma, high frame rates per second (60 or more fps) and multi-channel sound.
To play broadcasts through the DVB-T2 standard, we need a decoder compatible with this standard, something that is included in all 4K televisions since 2016
And with that said, here comes a problem. Although the most current TVs do have this support, not all homes have compatible models and in this case would have to switch to using a separate decodersomething that we have already seen in the past with the jump to HD.
A good idea when buying a television with a view to the future is to check among the specifications that it is compatible with DTT2 or DVB-T2
The other option is to adopt the DVB-I standard, a hybrid DTT-IPTV model. This is a mix of current DTT with television over the Internet. With the premise that it will be necessary to have a connection to the network, the content can arrive via a “normal” antenna or via the Internet and it is the receiver that takes care of everything. HD channels would come through normal DTT, and 4K broadcasts would be accessed over the Internet.
A world of options to define
All this said, DTT in 4K still has many edges and open paths. We have already talked about the VVC/H.266 codec, the one destined to replace H.265. A new compression method, more efficient and with more wiggle room to deliver content at higher resolutions. A new codec that has already been recognized and approved by DVB, being one more step to have these high resolutions on DTT channels. The problem is that today, no television or set-top box offers compatibility with said codec, so they must integrate this format if the use of this codec is to be standardized.
Furthermore it seems that DTT can have its future on the Internet thanks to another standard, in this case the DVB-NIP. An IP-based protocol designed to facilitate IP-based satellite and terrestrial broadcasting on any device. This protocol stops depending on the MPEG-2 transport stream to replace them with DVB-S2X or DVB-T2 broadcast. This system improves thanks to the efficiency offered by broadband transmission networks to distribute content between IP devices.
However, having said all this, we will have to wait until 2023. As of that year, all networks must broadcast in HD. We are talking about the fact that the SD resolution will be left aside, but there will still be a world until we can have 4K DTT at home.