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September 19, 2022

8K Industry Faces Challenge with New EU Regulatory Ruling

Unless something changes, March 2023 will spell trouble for the emerging 8K industry with the 8K EU Regulatory Ruling. That’s when new EU power consumption regulations are set to go into effect. The power consumption limits on 8K TVs (and microLED-based displays) are set so low that essentially none of these devices will pass. It not only means a failing grade but a requirement that these devices cannot be sold in the EU. That will have a very chilling effect on all players working to develop the 8K ecosystem, including consumers whose access to devices and innovation will now be restricted.

While the 8K Association supports efforts to reduce power consumption for the 8K ecosystem, we also support a commonsense approach to developing power consumption targets based on realistic assessments of technical advancements in this area.

The specific regulation can be downloaded here, but the key power consumption information is contained in the table below.

The energy efficiency index (EEI) is calculated based on the screen area and power consumption. In March 2019, the EEI for 8K (more than UHD) resolution and microLED-based displays was defined, setting a March 1, 2023 date for compliance. These devices will be required to consume the same power as UHD (4K) resolution devices. We have confirmed that no current 8K TVs can meet this level of power efficiency and will therefore be banned from selling into the EU market.

EEImax (resolution of up to 2 138 400 pixels (HD))EEImax (resolution of more than 2 138 400 pixels (HD) and up to 8 294 400 pixels (UHD-4k))EEImax (resolution of more than 8,294,400 pixels (UHD-4k) and for microLED)
March 1, 20210.901.10n / a
March 1, 20230.750.900.90

How was the EEI Determined?

According to our sources, during the development of the methods for determining the EEI of displays, data was evaluated from many displays which had been placed on the market between 2012 and 2017. The limits for displays up to HD and up to UHD were set using verifiable statistics and sound scientific methods. The EEI limits were reasonable and distinguished between the performance of different display families. However, the same approach was not possible for displays above UHD and for microLED displays as they have only appeared in market after the regulation was developed.  As a result, the limit for over UHD (8K) and microLED was seemingly arbitrarily set based on UHD display performance.

The 8K Association finds this lack of proper scientific analysis for these 8K and microLED devices a disturbing oversight – and one that has many unfortunate consequences. But the regulatory committee has a chance to address this issue again before the regulation takes effect next March. According to Article 8 (link) of their own operating guidelines, they are supposed to hold a review meeting before the end of 2022. They appear not to be planning to hold this review at this stage. Why?

We believe this review should be held, allowing for the presentation of data based on actual products in the market along with data to support how technology is likely to address the reduction of power going forward. The outcome of such a review could be a redetermination of the EEI based on actual data, a postponement of the EEI requirement for 8K and microLED displays, or confirmation of the current 0.9 EEI for these devices (with its negative consequences).

Why the 0.9 EEI is Hard to Meet for 8K Displays

8K-UHD displays offer four times as many pixels as 4K-UHD displays (7,680 x 4,320 vs. 3,840 x 2,160). In the case of LCD displays, a pixel consists of red, green and blue sub-pixels surrounded by a black matrix material covering the transistors, capacitors and metal layers (address lines) needed to send signals to each pixel. This black matrix is needed to block light from reaching the transistors (and stop photo-activation) and to increase the display’s contrast by reducing scatter and stray light. Current fabs use design rules that limit how small these transistors, capacitors and address lines can be made. That means this “infrastructure” has a fairly constant size regardless of resolution.

A typical 65” 8K TV will have a higher pixel density than 4K displays – the key reason they offer better image quality. In fact, the pixel density is twice that of the 4K version. With a nearly constant-sized infrastructure component, that means the light-passing part of the pixel (aperture ratio) is much smaller in 8K displays vs. 4K displays. As a result, more backlight power is needed to create the same on-screen luminance as the equivalent-sized 4K TV. A similar problem exists for OLED 8K displays as well.

8K displays also require more sophisticated video processing than comparable 4K displays. That’s because there are four times as many pixels to process with the need to upscale nearly all current video sources today. More video processing means more transistors in the TV’s System n Chip (SoC) IC compared to a 4K version, and so, more power consumption.

There is plenty of work going on to address the higher power consumption of 8K displays, including new liquid crystal materials and modes, improved backplane and driving technologies, and more efficient processors. But these improvements take time to develop and must fit into existing fab capabilities. A path to lower power consumption is reasonable, but this has not been presented to the regulatory commission. Thus, another reason to ask for the review before the end of the year.

Consequences of Inaction

If the 8K industry does not react and the regulatory committee does not respond, the new regulations will have consequences. As already mentioned, no 8K TVs can pass this EEI level and so will be banned for sale in the EU. This will impact TV makers and their supply partners as well as integrators in the EU’s professional and consumer markets.

The inability to sell new technology products in a substantial part of the global market also disrupts the typical development cycle. New technology needs to be introduced at higher prices to recoup the investment to achieve these improved results and continue development (including reducing power consumption) and lower overall costs. This cycle means these improvements eventually spread down the product line and become standard features over time. This regulation is not helpful to this cycle.

Content creators will not have the opportunity to present 8K-resolution content in the EU either – something they will surely be very disappointed about.

Finally, consumers lose as well as they will not have access to the latest technologies and innovations, plus the inability to view the latest 8K content. Do regulators really want to see the EU fall behind other regions in consumer electronics?

But the 8K ecosystem extends well beyond consumer markets. 8K content and 8K displays are appearing in vertical markets such as medical imaging, corporate, digital signage, scientific visualization/simulation (Big Data), rental and staging, museums, planetariums, theme parks, virtual reality and more. Curtailing the 8K TV market has ramifications for these verticals too.

Being More Specific:  EU Impacts

Left as is, the regulation will have a dampening effect globally in the 8K ecosystem, from production, through distribution to consumption, spanning the range from creative to manufacture. It will include the traditional visual ecosystem and the application environments that rely on high-resolution imaging, as identified previously.

Looked at specifically in the European context, the impact will be more severe – the EU community will not have the access to 8K technologies and services that other regions will. EU consumers will not be able to purchase 8K capable displays and so will be denied not only state-of-the-art/future-proofed devices but also full access to 8K content, e.g., via OTT. There will be a dampening effect on EU production and distribution undertakings since there will be no EU consumer access to any 8K content. As a result, creators will not be able to maintain parity with their peers worldwide. The impact on EU consumer electronics is perhaps more obvious – TV makers would be denied a local consumer base and, in consequence, would have a lower potential consumer base overall.

Other strategic EU industry segments will also be affected adversely, i.e., those that rely on high-end imagery, such as scientific and medical visualization.

Call to Action

If you think this regulation will impact your business and/or customer access to your 8K-related products or services, then you should reach out to the EU regulators to express your viewpoint (link). Speak to them about the need to review these current regulations before they create disruption in the market.

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  1. Bob H says:

    The sooner 8K goes the way of 3DTV the better.

    As an industry we need to stop the escalator of ‘more is better’, sometimes it’s just ‘more’. Concentrate on better pixels rather than trying to sell people things they don’t need.