When I worried about 4K antennas

It was all the way back in 2015 when I asked, Can an antenna be “4K Ultra HD Ready?” Back then people hadn’t really heard of 4K over-the-air broadcasting. That makes sense, since there wasn’t any. I’m thinking that post was a little premature. It would probably be premature today, and it might even still be premature in a few years.

Just another case where I didn’t quite get it right, and for your amusement, I’ll break down the whole story.

4K over-the-air… possibly coming to a city near you eventually

The road to 4K broadcast television has not been an easy one. The first hurdle was technical: just trying to figure out how to fit a 4K picture in the broadcast space designed for standard-definition black-and-white. It’s taken a lot of work toward advanced compression technologies but today it can be done. There’s still work to be done to make sure the quality is what you expect, but at least it’s a 4K picture.

One of the things holding up 4K OTA today is the cost of the equipment. Decoding 4K at such high compression ratios, 60 frames per second, takes advanced hardware that doesn’t exist yet. It’s coming, but it’s still not really cheap enough for consumers.

Despite changes to the way the FCC allows these sorts of tests in 2017, there still hasn’t been any large-scale testing.

In the meantime, yes, every antenna is 4K-compliant.

As I described in the article, an antenna doesn’t need anything special to make it 4K compliant. As far as over-the-air TV goes, the only thing that matters is the frequency. The same frequencies used in the future for 4K have been used for nearly 80 years for TV broadcasts. In fact back in the past they used to use more frequencies than they do now.

So when will 4K broadcasting happen?

Your guess is as good as mine. The FCC’s last target for a full switchover was 2025, but that may have to get pushed back. I don’t think we’re as far ahead in testing as we expected to be, and the hardware still isn’t readily available. It’s going to take some more time, and I think the real question is whether or not people will actually care by that point.

Is 4K broadcasting interesting to you?

You, my Solid Signal Blog faithful, are some of the most advanced and hardcore home theatre fans there are. Sound off at the bottom of this article– are you interested in getting 4K content over the air? Personally I would have to see what it looks like first. It could be like Netflix’s early attempts at 4K which looked worse than HD. Keep in mind that broadcasters have only about half the bandwidth to work with that Netflix uses, and Netflix’s signals are already highly, highly compressed. So, I guess I’ll believe it when I see it.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.