Rogers announces new gigabit internet network, 4K set top box and commitment to UHD content

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It looks like the 4K content revolution is coming a little sooner in Canada than some might have expected.

Rogers today announced that it plans to offer new gigabit internet speeds and a 4K set top box, as well as a commitment to live broadcast a variety of 4K video content, both in the form of live sports and television/movies. According to Rogers, this new internet tier is called “Rogers Ignite Gigabit internet” and is set to roll out across downtown Toronto this year, and to the company’s entire cable audience by the end of 2016.

The technology is based on the new DOCSIS 3.1 standard, allowing Rogers to send gigabit speeds over existing cable lines using a more efficient transport system and better content encoding.

“4K TV sets have been in the market for some time and 40 per cent of all TV sales are likely to be 4K this holiday season,” said Guy Laurence, president and CEO of Rogers Communications. “However, until now live TV broadcasts in 4K have been few and far between and customers have not been able to get 4K set top boxes.

“We are solving both problems in one go with the world’s largest commitment to 4K broadcasting and a new 4K set top box for customers that will allow customers to see sports and entertainment in the highest resolution and with the fastest internet speeds. 4K gets you closer to the action than the linesman and first base coach, and HDR brings those images to life with intense colour and contrast,” said Laurence.

Along with Rogers’ announcement regarding faster internet speeds, the company also revealed it plans to give subscribers access to over 500 hours of live sports in 2016. 4K live events include every Toronto Blue Jays 2016 season home game and 20 marquee NHL games, as well as support for 4K content from Netflix and Shomi.

Rogers’ press release also mentions that Netflix’s original content is also currently available to stream in 4K, and that Rogers’ new gigabit Internet will allow for more reliable Netflix streams because of a new connection directly to Netflix servers. “[We] will connect the Rogers network to Netflix servers, enabling a better Netflix experience with faster start-up times and superior image quality. Netflix will also be available on select cable set top boxes and Android devices from Rogers,” said Netflix in a statement.

While Rogers’ announcement regarding  the company’s new gigabit internet is not particularly mobile-relevant yet, the move towards offering a faster internet connection will enable more consistent in-home streaming when it comes to set top boxes playing 4K content. To put Rogers’ new internet connection speed in perspective, one gigabit is 1000 megabits. This means that Rogers’ new connection works out to approximately 125 megabytes per second, a number that’s more than fast enough to handle 4K content streaming.

The service will reportedly cost $150 per month for 1000 megabits download speeds and 50 megabits upload.

While 4K is the future of video, the amount of content available in Ultra HD continues to be sparse. Rogers is the second Canadian telecom to announce plans to support 4K content, after Videotron owner Quebecor, marking a shift in the industry. Bell and Telus independently announced plans to install gigabit fiber networks in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, respectively.

However, it’s important to point out that widespread adoption of 4K isn’t expected for a few years and that an ultra high-definition television is required to take full advantage of 4K resolutions.