The Moving Picture Experts Group, which gives its name to the MPEG family of video and audio compression technologies, has announced a draft standard which promises to halve the bandwidth of video without harming the quality.

Dubbed the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard, the technology doubles the compression compared to the current state-of-the-art H.264/AVC standard, but without sacrificing any quality - and with video expected to account for 90 per cent of all network traffic by 2015, that's certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

'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,' claimed Per Fröjdh, the manager for visual technology at Ericsson Research and the chair of the Swedish MPEG delegation.

The standard was hammered out during a meeting called by Fröjdh and encompassing nearly 450 people from 26 different countries, representing companies involved in the telecoms, computer, TV, and consumer electronics industries. With a draft standard for HEVC now complete, it's time for companies to begin development.

That, Fröjdh warns, could take a while for traditional markets. 'It will take time before it's launched for a TV service,' Fröjdh admitted, 'but adoption is much quicker in the mobile area, and we’ll probably see the first services for mobile use cases next year.'

Mobile is an area in which HEVC could truly shine: despite fourth-generation technologies promising impressive peak bandwidth, the actual sustained data throughput available on a typically congested mobile cell is far lower. Technologies such as small-cell - in which long-range mobile base stations are replaced by a far higher quantity of base stations each covering a far smaller area - can help alleviate this, but technologies for making the most out of the existing bandwidth will make an even greater difference.

For PC users, HEVC promises much in the way of improved quality: video streams could operate in high definition on a broadband connection half as fast as was previously required, while those on faster lines could enjoy ultra-definition formats without needing enterprise-grade connectivity.

Ericsson's visual technology team, led by Fröjdh, also claims to be working on developing a new compression format for 3D video in collaboration with MPEG, with a view to completing a standard by 2014. 'Future 3D technology will have more advanced displays, which will enable different views,' Fröjdh explains. '[i]The simpler versions of this technology will still just offer the two views we have today – left and right – without the need for glasses. But in the future, there will be many views next to each other, so you will simply move your head to the left or the right to give you a stereo impression of an object.'

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