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July 5, 1990

THE BATTLE TO WIN HOPED-FOR MEGABUCKS FROM HIGH DEFINITION TELEVISION

By CBR Staff Writer

Several Japanese, European and American computer companies have been turning their attention to high definition television over the last couple of years, perceiving it to be an area of great potential return. Sony, Philips, Bull, DEC, and IBM are some of the companies involved, and unsurprisingly there is now a battle over the adoption of a universal standard. Those involved in the development of the new television systems hope that unlike the computer industry, a standard can be agreed on before the technology is implemented en masse and marketed for the consumer, and see big spin-offs in the computer industry because much of the reception technology is common to television and video graphics.

Japan closest

At the moment Japan, the closest to getting something to market, Europe, and the US, which lags behind the other two, have all defined different standards. High definition television means increasing the number of lines in a picture to make one that is better defined, producing a sharper picture. The three groups cannot agree on how many lines it should be. For computer and electronic companies investing in the technology there is a lot of money to be made if the public can be persuaded that it wants better picture quality television. An agreed standard would increase probable profit margins for most companies. An example of the commitment to and future of the technology is the $10m to $20m to be spent by Sony Corp of America on research and development in over the next few years. For telecommunications companies there could be money to be made too. NHK, the Japanese broadcasting company, broadcasts HiVision, the Japanese version of the emerging technology over satellite. NHK currently transmitts daily for one hour over the BS2B satellite. Conventional coaxial cables and fibre optic cables have also been used, to transmit the system, although as the Japanese state broadcaster originally developed the system exclusively for satellite transmission, this has been to a lesser extent. Telephone ecompanies such as AT&T, British Telecom, France Telecom and Deutsche Bundespost are interested in the potential of high-definition television for terrestial networks broadband fibre optic networks have the capacity to carry multiple HDTV services. A prerequisite to this is a fibre optic national grid network. But for broadcasters considering this option there are two major drawbacks, the immense capital cost UK estimates are around the UKP20m mark to wire the country with fibre optic cable and a time to completion of at least 10 years. In the meantime mass high-definition television is likely to reach viewers by satellite in around four years’ time – sooner in Japan.

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