How to watch the World Cup in 4K UHD for free on the BBC

Watch live Russia 2018 World Cup matches in 4K UHD and VR

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The BBC trialled 4K streaming with an obscure game of rugby league two months back, without telling anyone. Now it's going to show live Russia 2018 World Cup matches in 4K UHD , and it's telling everyone in advance.

Here's what you need to know about how to stream 4K World Cup for free.

First up you'll need a compatible 4K TV with the iPlayer app, and an internet connection. Obviously. Some set-top boxes and 4K streamers should also be compatible although there's no official list of these. 

However, 4K streaming will only be available to "tens of thousands" of viewers, and that's because access will be on a first come, first served basis.

The BBC recommends a broadband connection of "at least 40Mbit/s" for 3840-pixel Ultra HD or 20Mbit per second for 2560 pixel Ultra HD.  In both cases, video will be streamed at 50 frames per second.

The BBC also recommends a wired connection to the TV via ethernet rather than relying on Wi-Fi. We'd recommend, in this order of practicality, Powerline AV, a Mesh Wi-Fi router, or a very long ethernet cable.

All of BBC One’s World Cup matches will be available in Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) on BBC iPlayer, but only the first 10-20,000 or so to log on will get a 4K stream. After that, you'll get sent to iPlayer's standard HD stream. You can of course also watch via your usual satellite or aerial connection. Old skool style.

The 4K UHD stream will be available from the BBC iPlayer home screen – note that you don't need the Beta version, despite this being described as a trial – from kick-off, until the maximum number of viewers is reached.

The streams will also use HDR (high dynamic range). To get the benefit of this, your TV will need to support the this Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) version of HDR. The Beeb invented this in collaboration with Japanese broadcaster, NHK, don'cha know? 

The BBC is at pains to make clear that this is a trial, done with a view to "optimise UHD delivery in the future." In other words, if it doesn't work very smoothly, well, that's tough luck.

Oh, and did we mention the World Cup is in VR on the BBC too?

World Cup TV

(Image: © Samsung)

You  may very well be wondering, "What the hell does that mean, the World Cup in virtual reality form?" So let us explain. 

All 33 BBC matches from Russia 2018 will be viewable in VR with a compatible headset or via an iOS or Android mobile and app. The VR view will be from a "luxury private box" in each Russian stadium. You'll be able to watch from "the best seat in the ground" through a giant window in the box, whilst sat on a BBC Sport virtual sofa. Live match stats can be viewed as they "pop-up from the virtual coffee table."

Uh-huh. We're not sure anyone will be able to stomach this for long, but the BBC VR World Cup experience will also let you switch view to one immediately behind either of the goals, which could be interesting. 

When there’s no game taking place, you can view highlights from the day's action and "other on-demand content" on "virtual big screen TVs available in other areas of the private box."

For VR, the BBC recommends a connection of at least a 10Mbit/s. 

You'll need the BBC Sport VR - FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 app and an Apple device with iOS 10 and above, an Android one with Android 5.0 and above. There's also support for Gear VR, Oculus Go and PlayStation VR.