New MPEG standard purportedly twice as efficient as H.264

Over the past few years, H.264 video compression has permeated just about every corner of the tech world—YouTube, Blu-ray, cable and satellite HDTV, cell phones, tablets, and digital camcorders. Could it be just a year away from obsolescence?

According to a news release by Ericsson, the Moving Picture Experts Group (a.k.a. MPEG) met in Stockholm, Sweden last month to "approve and issue" a draft standard for a next-generation video format. That format, dubbed High Efficiency Video Coding, or HVEC for short, will purportedly enable "compression levels roughly twice as high" as H.264.

Ericsson's Per Fröjd, who chairs the Swedish MPEG delegation, comments, "There's a lot of industry interest in this because it means you can halve the bit rate and still achieve the same visual quality, or double the number of television channels with the same bandwidth, which will have an enormous impact on the industry."

HVEC could make its debut in commercial products "as early as in 2013," claims Fröjdh. He expects mobile devices will be the first ones to make use of the new format, with TV likely to lag behind.

That all sounds rather exciting. Halving bitrates while maintaining image quality would be fantastic for streaming web video. It might be advantageous for devices with high-PPI displays, as well, if they can offer better image quality at today's bit rates. However, hardware support could impede early adoption, since the hardware H.264 video decoders in today's mobile processors might not be compatible with the new standard. (Thanks to TR reader Ryan for the tip.)

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