The number of 4K TVs sold around the world will reach 22m units in four years time, according to Futuresource Consulting.

The research predicts that 780,000 of the super high definition TVs will ship by the end of the year.

Futuresource Consulting head of consumer electronics Simon Bryant said the format was set to grow rapidly.

“4K still has a two to three year incubation period ahead but it is making its presence known and is on track to become a significant technology segment,” said Bryant. “The arrival of native 4K content and increased consumer awareness will help boost sales from 2015 onwards.”

China is currently at the forefront of 4K rollout, driven by relatively low-priced sets from its major domestic brands, according to Futuresource, but the consultancy expects most global TV brands to launch a range of 4K TVs by the end of this year.

North America is also tipped to be a key market due to strong consumer appetite for large screens.

“LCD TV panel manufacturers and premium TV brands have been looking for the next hot trigger to accelerate flat panel replacement. 3D in the home was an attempt to achieve this and it has yet to become the solid success that many had hoped for,” Bryant added.

“4K represents a more natural progression for the industry, but one that brings its own challenges, not least the intricacies of producing 4K panels at high yield rates and the complexities of delivering the bandwidth-hungry content.”

Bryant said that delivering 4K content would be made easier following compression improvements provided by the HEVC codec, with trials underway to move towards enabling real-time encoding for live transmissions.