NTT West is partnering with NTT SmartConnect to carry out a 3 day trial of pushing a 4K video stream to a TV set-top box in Japan. In itself this is not that exciting, but they are using a H.265 HEVC codec which is the more effecient successor to the common H.264 codec.
4K TVs display a picture with a vertical resolution of 2160 pixels, double the current 1080p standard and so far it has been assumed that 100 Mbps would be needed to stream a good 4K picture. The H.265 codec is said to halve the amount of data to transmit a video stream without noticeable loss of quality, and potentially could also be used on existing HD streams to allow more channels into the same radio spectrum or simply use less bandwidth to get HD content over a broadband connection.
The other option is for broadcasters to actually increase the quality of their HD feeds by upgrading the codec, as current HD streams do show some compression artifacts. The level of compression achieved on current HD streams is apparent when you consider the raw data stream is 1.6 Gbps and most satellite HD transmissions are broadband in the 9 Mbps to 13 Mbps range.
4K televisions are still very expensive, but the price is dropping rapidly and we suspect demand for 4K will surpass 3D once the price drops to under £1000.