Standardized Approach Called for 3D TV

It remains to be seen when Korean viewers will be able to enjoy the three-dimensional (3D) TV experience, but government officials are promising the wait won't be too long. The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the regulator for broadcasting and telecommunications, announced the launching of a joint government-industry steering committee to manage trial services for 3D television planned for next year.

The committee will be joined by national television networks and cable television operators, technology giants Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, and state-run research institutions led by the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).

Terrestrial and pay-television networks, such as cable and satellite, are scheduled to begin trial 3D television services in October next year. The KCC plans to have broadcasters and electronics companies collaborate for the building and testing of broadcasting systems and equipment from next month. The KCC will issue a license in January for the trial services for land-based 3D television broadcasting, which is to be delivered in full high-definition (HD) quality.

If the broadcasters can get things right in a punctual manner, Korea could be the world's first country to provide 3D television in HD through terrestrial networks, government officials said. The steering committee will have a leading role in promoting 3D television and will also manage efforts to develop and standardize core technologies.

"Korea's role in the future HD television market will lie in the success of the HD 3D trial services that began this year, so there is a serious interest among companies in broadcasting and technology," said Park Yun-hyun, director of the KCC's radio policy division.

Pay-television channels may beat the national networks to the punch. Cable television heavyweight CJ HelloVision is planning to provide 3D versions for some of its regular programming during the early part of next year. 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.

TU Media, a SK Telecom unit that provides satellite television services on mobile phones, is planning to release a handset capable of supporting 3D video. The company is also 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, is also planning to start trial services of 3D broadcasting in as early as January.

Despite concerns over technology, prices and content, 3D television has become the latest buzzword of the tech industry, with electronics makers competing to bring full 3D effects to the living room. Samsung and LG, now the world's top two flat-screen television makers, are expected to join their global competitors like Sony and Panasonic in introducing a wide range of 3D television products and demos at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next month.

Samsung, which vows to cement its lead in the global television market, unveiled a 22-inch 3D monitor with a 120 hertz (Hz) refresh rate earlier this year, and recently unveiled a 52-inch 3D television set and a 55-inch high-definition 3D television panel with a 240 Hz refresh rate.

Cable operators and content developers, desperate to keep growth alive in the saturated pay-television market, hope 3D television provides them with a needed injection of energy.

By Kim Tong-hyung, The Korea Times