Video’s main squeeze: An up-close assessment of HEVC

High Efficiency Video Coding reduces bandwidth requirements for video collaboration by up to 50 per cent, but some market watchers say the technology needs time to mature

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A new video compression technology is being hyped as the spark that could ignite a big boom in ultra high-definition video communications. But some industry observers say the dream scenario surrounding HEVC outpaces reality.

Short for High Efficiency Video Coding, HEVC (a.k.a. H.265) compresses video communications more than the current standard Advanced Video Coding (AVC or H.264) by as much as 50 per cent. (Although that may be an overstatement: investigator Jan Ozer in a February article said the compression level may be closer to 30 per cent.)

Meanwhile, communications-equipment provider Cisco reportedly predicts HEVC will pave the way for more video usage, especially in the consumer realm. Communications service providers worried about consumers’ massive appetite for mobile-video bandwidth will have a remedy that allows for even more video usage and even higher image quality, all while reducing the burden on networks. It isn’t hard to imagine businesses using HEVC to support high-quality videoconferencing for B2B collaboration, too.

According to The Register, standards bodies including the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) have largely approved the new technology, and Samsung uses HEVC in its new Galaxy S4 smartphone.

These developments have led some market observers, including Ryan Lawler at TechCrunch, to suggest that more devices capable of decoding HEVC video could be on the market in just 12 to 18 months.

But Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan and VP at, believes HEVC won’t come to fruition for another five to eight years. In a phone interview, he reiterates some of the points he made in a recent post questioning the HEVC hype. Referencing Frost colleague Avni Rambhia’s webinar on the new compression technology, he questions the idea that HEVC enables ultra high-definition video—what’s often called 4K resolution (4,000 pixels). Rayburn says 4K content and devices are rare at this point. He also says HEVC designed to support ultra HD video is still under development.

“It’s way too early” for HEVC to make its mark, Rayburn says, adding that it took 10 years for AVC technology to reach critical mass after it was ratified by the standards bodies.

Rayburn also wonders whether HEVC truly portends greater B2B video collaboration in the short term. Yes, the technology supports extremely high-quality videoconferencing—but, for the most part, only large enterprises use telepresence systems today, and those types of organizations represent a mere one per cent of the videoconferencing market.

Rayburn says that, as AVC’s successor, HEVC is a promising technology. In fact, communications equipment providers will be among the first to use it for HD videoconferencing, but not until next year at the earliest.

He recommends that network gear makers get ready to incorporate the technology into their own wares. The rest of the communications technology industry—including decision makers at service providers and IT managers at businesses—should pay more attention to developing strong video business cases than figuring out how to incorporate HEVC into their systems in the short term.

While you’re waiting for HEVC, get your network ready for all kinds of next-generation unified communications by downloading The Enterprise Collaboration eBook, the latest in-depth resource from Allstream.

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