Trial 3D TV Service to Begin This Year

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the country's converged regulator for broadcasting and telecommunications, is kicking off the three dimensional (3D) television drive, with the goal of having television stations beam terrestrial 3D broadcasts sometime next year. The KCC will issue a license in January to start the trial services for land-based 3D broadcasting, which is to be delivered in full high-definition (HD) quality.

"Japan and Britain were first to test 3D television broadcasting through satellite networks, beaming programs for about an hour per day. However, we want to take it a step further, being the world's first country to provide 3D television with HD picture quality through terrestrial networks," said a KCC official.

"We are expecting interest from television stations, electronics makers and other members of the technology community. After we license a 3D television broadcaster in January, we expect the preparations to start in February, with 3D trial services beginning sometime between then and the second half of next year. The trial services will be vital for testing the picture quality of the 3D broadcasts, and also prepare the foundation for standardizing technologies."

But it looks like pay-television channels will beat the national networks on the 3D timetable. Cable television heavyweight, CJ HelloVision, and mobile television operator, TU Media, are both planning to begin trial 3D television services by the end of the year.

CJ HelloVision said it would be able to introduce 3D content on its video-on-demand (VOD) offerings within a week or two. The 3D broadcasts for real-time, regular programs are planned for next year, company officials said. Viewers will be required to have separate set-top boxes for viewing CJ HellowVision's 3D programs, which will mostly consist of cartoons at first.

"We have yet to decide what would be the right level of consumer prices for 3D television services. Providing VOD titles free at first than charging for them later would be an option for us," said a CJ HelloVision official.

Cable television operators have been working with the state-run Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) and other technology institutes to develop 3D television solutions.

CJ HelloVision is moving to pick 300 households in Seoul and Busan to start testing its 3D video-on-demand (VOD) this year. CJ plans to expand its 3D coverage to 1,000 households by 2012. Should CJ HelloVision successfully debut its 3D television service by the end of the year, this might influence other cable operators and pay-television networks to consider leaping on the bandwagon.

TU Media, the mobile television unit of SK Telecom, the country's biggest mobile telephony operator, is planning to release a handset by the end of the year that supports both its own satellite pay-television services and the free, terrestrial mobile television services. TU Media officials said this handset would also be capable of supporting 3D video, with the company considering establishing a separate channel on its satellite network to test 3D broadcasting services for about an hour per day.

Sky Life, a satellite television operator, said it was also planning to start trial services of 3D broadcasting in January.

"It remains to be seen whether 3D television will become a standard for consumer entertainment, or fizzle out as 3D movies did decades ago. If the industry finds a way to lower the prices for the required devices and also acquire more content, 3D television will have a chance to acquire staying power," said Kim Jin-woong, a researcher from ETRI.

By Kim Tong-hyung, The Korea Times