We've been told again and again that 3D is the future of TV, but unfortunately it isn't quite as clear cut as that. Even as ‘3D-capable' TVs flood the market, there's still no single, universal standard for transmitting - or even displaying - 3D broadcasts.
Rather than pick a side in the format-war, the BBC's head of distribution technology, Graham Plumb, has told the New Television Insider that the BBC will not commit to 3D programming until a dominant format has been declared.
It's not what you show, it's how you show it
The few 3D broadcasts made so far in the UK - mostly of sporting events like the World Cup - have been transmitted by subscription-based services using a side-by-side method. This places the frames for the left and right eyes next to each other to make a single large image. This is then interpreted by the set-top box and sent on to a 3D-capable TV. The advantage is that broadcasters have been able to transmit the images to existing set-top boxes with only a firmware update.
However, there are several other, competing formats that are gaining some traction. Among the options is one announced by the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) Project which maintains the DVB-T, DVB-T2 and DVB-S standards currently used for digital TV broadcasts.
The wait-and-see approach
What the BBC wants to avoid is terrestrial broadcasters using a different format from their satellite counterparts, including Freesat. Having two competing standards may cause compatibility issues which could cause problems for the TV-viewing public.
So for now, the Beeb is hedging its bets and waiting until the dialogue on 3D broadcasting has progressed a little. In many ways, this is a shame, since the Corporation probably has the clout to pick a format and unilaterally decide which one should be used. This could be a major step forward and would most likely accelerate the deployment of 3D TV in the UK. In the long run, though, the wait-and-see attitude is probably the best option for consumers.