By Mike Tsinberg - 10.3.2014
Recently, upon the demand of content creators, HDCP
instituted a new copy protection format. This new
format, HDCP 2.2, is designed to protect 4K UHD
baseband signals from copyright infringements.
Similar to previous HDCP versions, this new standard
increases barriers for pirates to break 4K UHD copy
protection and create illegal copies of the content
for distribution. However, unlike previous
versions, HDCP 2.2 has a very significant
difference; it is not backward compatible with any
previous HDCP versions. This fact by itself creates
unique dynamics in the introduction of the new
Backward incompatibility means that 4K UHD TVs and
sources that are equipped with HDCP 1.X cannot play
HDCP 2.2 content. It’s also means TV equipped with
HDCP 1.X cannot accept HDCP 2.2 sources.
Facts, as known:
Content: HDCP 2.2 is only to be used with 4K
UHD native content. The term native has not yet
been clearly defined. Native may apply to 4K
content that has never been processed through up or
down scaling. For example, 1080p content that has
been up converted to 4K UHD is certainly falling
into this category. Current signal extension
methods as well as bandwidth availability may play a
role in the need to scale the content. More on
A large question remains if 4:2:0/8 bit
broadcasting, streaming or recording will be
considered native. Many 4K UHD cameras, broadcast
encoders, and media storage devices may compress and
de-compress content to and from 4:2:0/8 to 4:2:2/12
without changing picture resolution. This will
inevitably create one of the largest obstacles in
the native question, as ALL broadcast or streaming
encoding is always done in 4:2:0/8.
Bandwidth: 4K UHD (3840x2160) is a very
bandwidth-intensive format in baseband as well as
compressed domains. In baseband, it requires 6Gb/s
data rate for a 60 FPS, 4:2:0/8-bit format, which is
the most common format before encoding. Storing two
hours of content would require 21Tb of storage.
This number increases to 12Gb/s or 42 Tb of storage
for 60 FPS, 4:2:2/12-bit format.
Bandwidth: Some experiments show that state of
the art broadcast encoders can compress 4K UHD
content to 15 Mb/s. In that case, storing two hours
of content would require 54Gb.
Internet Bandwidth in the US: The internet
speed for most of the US population is below 9
Mb/s. Only two states (Virginia and Washington) can
claim averaging around 13Mb/s. Source:
and Satellite Set Top Box Devices: There are
approximately 160 million cable and satellite STBs
deployed in the US. None of them are able to
generate signals with resolutions greater than
Media Players: Current Apple TV and Roku
players do not yet support 4K.
- Blu-ray Standards: Manufacturers are still
negotiating the next Blu-ray disc and player
standards to include 4K UHD and HDCP 2.2. At the
current rate, it is unclear if Blu-ray players with
4K UHD and HDCP 2.2 support will be available before
TVs: The Latest 4K UHD Smart TVs featuring
streaming service apps such as Netflix and Hulu
would not require HDMI input with HDCP 2.2 support
because the TV set itself is the source for the
content. All content delivered via streaming will
still be 4:2:0/8-bit, which leads us back to our
need for clarification of what is and is not native.
- A/V Receivers: A key
device in home theater systems is the A/V receiver.
Only one brand today (2014) provides HDCP 2.2
compatibility. AV receivers typically have a longer
life than TV sets in residential installations.
Therefore, most A/V receivers installed in and
before 2014 will need to be replaced in the future.
Pirating 4K UHD content encrypted by HDCP 2.2 seems
to be a daunting task in itself. Jail-breaking
baseband signals of 6Gb/s (or more) would require
extremely expensive high quality UHD encoders for
distribution or storage. Sheer volume of the
uncompressed 4K UHD bit rate will be a formidable
barrier for copy protection infringement.
Preserving native content through backward
incompatibility is an interesting and unique stance
for HDCP. The result essentially demands complete
replacement of all available infrastructures and
therefore considerably delays deployment of this
In order for providers to be profitable and
sustainably generate native 4K UHD content, the
marketplace requires sufficient amount of playback
and display devices conforming to HDCP 2.2
specifications. Looking at the current deployment
of cable, satellite and streaming players, it can
reasonably be concluded that the mass market
acceptance of HDCP 2.2 is a long ways away. Of
course, this situation will have a considerable
impact on content providers’ business decisions to
create 4K UHD native content for many years to come.
We have recently witnessed how un-availability of
infrastructure and consumer un-friendly features
impacted the deployment of new video services. The
war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray quickly shifted
consumers to internet streaming instead of buying
disc media. Reluctance of consumers to wear 3D
glasses accompanied by complaints of discomfort and
a lack of 3D content practically removed 3D from the
list of useful or desired features.
I think the barriers for implementation plus the
backward incompatibility imposed by HDCP 2.2 make 4K
UHD with HDCP 2.2 adoption an even more difficult
proposition for many years to come.