Video over IP

When will H.265 (HEVC) Video Conferencing Systems be released?

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What is H.265/HEVC?

H.265 or High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) is the successor to the MOST POPULAR and the MOST WIDELY used H.264 (AVC) video compression protocol. The H.264 codec is currently being used by most video conferencing/video surveillance systems. HEVC/H.265 can provide the SAME video quality at HALF bit-rate (bandwidth) when compared to H.264, and it can enable ADVANCED display technologies/resolutions like 4K/8K/3D, etc. It is NOT a free protocol, but it is a standards-based open protocol and can be licensed by ANY vendor.

Has the CODEC been released?

Through the first version of H.265/HEVC was completed and released in EARLY 2013  (source: wiki) and on June 10 ’13, ITU-T announced that the new protocol is AVAILABLE to download, Video Conferencing/Video Surveillance vendors are YET to release products that can UTILIZE this protocol.

So, when will H.265 (HEVC)-based Video Conferencing systems be released by vendors?

Both Cisco (Tandberg) and Vidyo (Video Conferencing system manufacturers) have DEMONSTRATED H.265/HEVC protocol in their systems. For Cisco’s demonstration, look at the below video and for details on Vidyo’s demo, look here.

Ok, SOME action is happening. MY guess is, we MAY get to see the implementation of this protocol either by the end of this year, or by early 2014. Who knows, if some NEW vendor wants to create news and differentiate their products, they might surprise everyone by bringing products with H.265/HEVC SOONER to the market.

Will existing video conferencing units be able to support H.265/HEVC?

Most probably NOT. The hardware/processing requirements for the new protocol is much HIGHER and hence it may require new hardware. But of course, new units will most probably have backward compatibility with H.264 and hence customers should be able to retain their current VC systems, as long as they want to. Personally, I PREFER standards-based systems to proprietary systems (that are fast catching up in the VC space, though not without merit).

That makes me think if the more recent software-based video systems or cloud-based video systems are better than hardware-based VC systems? These might just require a software upgrade to support new protocols. Even though these systems may use general-purpose hardware, the minimum hardware specifications required to run this new protocol will be higher and hence customers may still need to upgrade to newer hardware.

End-Thoughts

H.265/HEVC might see QUICKER adaptation with telepresence, multi-conference and high-resolution video applications. But slowly, MOST VC implementations will be with this upgraded newer technology, as was the case with H.264. It is also prudent to mention that many EXTENSIONS to H.265 (Like H.265 SVC – Scalable Video Coding) are under development and these might make this protocol EVEN BETTER.

Further Exploration

If you want to explore further on the topic of which video codecs are available TODAY and what are the relative merits and demerits of each, I suggest that you read this good white paper from Cisco *pdf*. It talks about H.264 AVC, H.264 High Profile, H.264 SVC, Real-Time Video, VP8 and H.265/HEVC.

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