Will you be able to watch the World Cup in 4K, or even 8K?

Giant, slim TV sets with OLED screens like this one from LG will become commonplace
Giant, slim TV sets with OLED screens like this one from LG will become commonplace

The year is barely three weeks old but it’s not too early to predict that the technology trends of 2018 will be driven by the month-long event that will take place in Russia come the summer.

Ever since the Mexico fiesta in 1970, the World Cup has been a goldmine for the manufacturers and retailers of TV sets. Back then, colour was the big novelty - it had been launched on the two main channels only six months earlier - and last time around, in Brazil, 3D and high definition were all the rage.

3D died a quick death, just as it did in the cinema in the 1950s and 1980s, but the development this summer is that your four year-old HD set has also been consigned to the bargain basement.

Even ultra-HD, also known as 4K, is no longer at the cutting edge of technology. Those sets have been in mass production for a couple of years now and will be the big sellers among those looking for a better seat than the ones inside the Luzhniki Stadium. But the new money will go on the next generation of screens.

The latest 8K sets, with twice the resolution of ultra-HD and, at 7ft 4in, bigger than your box room, went on display this month. At this stage, they are little more than prototypes, but it’s safe to say that you will be hearing a lot more between now and June 14 about the technology that made them possible.

OLED, standing for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, has been the standard-issue screen for some years on high-end phones, by virtue of its vibrant colour range and low power consumption, but it’s now breaking through from the smallest displays to the biggest. OLED doesn’t need to be backlit, so television sets built around it can be lighter and thinner than ever before.

Manufacturing costs are high, for the moment, and there has been disagreement on a common standard, but history tells us that teething troubles like those will soon be swallowed whole by the need to sell more sets and move the market along.

It will make no sense to look for them in Currys this summer because prices will plummet in the years to come and in any case, there is no 8K content to watch yet - but their appearance on the gadget horizon does mean that previous generations of TV will become at a stroke more affordable. Bear in mind that a generation in the tech world can amount to as little as 36 months.

In practice, it means that you might now be able to afford one of those 50-inch, 4K televisions you gawped at inside John Lewis before England stepped out against Italy in June 2014. It may now have an OLED screen, too.

Coverage of the World Cup itself is being supplied by FIFA in 4K this year but to what extent we in Britain will benefit depends on the companies who hold the licence rights. Neither the BBC nor ITV, the traditional World Cup broadcasters, offers a 4K channel, and it is not yet clear whether a streaming service will stump up the cash. For that reason, it’s too early in the year to take the plunge on a 4K model, just to watch the football.

But if you do upgrade between now and the summer, pay close attention to the screen; the difference between OLED and just plain Old comes down to a single letter.