Broadband needs to be faster, because 4K isn't getting slower

12 January 2017 by Steve Blum
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But the test pattern is marvelous.

The speed required to deliver 4K video via the Internet is still 15 Mbps. That was the consensus at CES two years ago, and it is still the minimum speed that Amazon recommends for its 4K video streams, according to B A Winston, the global head of video playback and delivery for Amazon Video.

He was on a 4K panel at CES last week, and said that Amazon’s challenge is delivering content over unreliable networks – more bits means more congestion – and working within the limits of whatever connectivity and technology consumers bring to the table. “Our goal from a consumer perspective is it should not matter to them”, he said.

Amazon started streaming, and producing, 4K content two years ago, and now most of its content is shot in that format. The number of subscribers viewing those streams has tripled over the past year.

Winston said that they have to consider the device a viewer is using, the viewing software on that device and their own delivery system in order “to figure out exactly what is the best optimum path to deliver to consumers over that device”.

It doesn’t always work. The quality of online streams will dial down to match the connection, but past a certain point, that means dropping down to a lower quality format. That’s an opportunity for studios that release titles on disc, said Ron Sanders, the president of worldwide home entertainment distribution for Warner Brothers, who was also on the panel.

Figuring out the optimum path includes dealing with quality of service issues, such as network congestion or jitter, that crop up. There’s a limit, though. Amazon and other online video platforms will do what they can, but if your device doesn’t have a connection that will move enough bits quickly enough – 15 million of them every second – then you won’t get a 4K stream in real time.