More video devices, over-the-top subscriptions drive broadband demand

25 March 2018 by Steve Blum
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A couple more data points to add to the how fast is fast enough discussion: Parks Associates, a market research company, just published a report showing that consumers are paying for more Internet video subscriptions and buying more devices to watch them on…

U.S. broadband households have on average more than seven video access devices, including TVs, computers, tablets, and smartphones…

“Nearly 40% of U.S. broadband households subscribe to multiple [over-the-top] video services, and consumers expect to access their high-quality content on any platform, at any location where they live or go for work or fun,” said Elizabeth Parks, SVP, Parks Associates.

While most U.S. homes subscribe to either one Internet video – i.e. over-the-top – platform or none, the number buying everything in sight is growing. Combine that with the fact that those homes have the means to watch several different streams at once, and you come to question of how much residential bandwidth is needed now, and will be needed in the future?

Many of those devices will be 4K – ultra high definition – capable. By the end of next year half of U.S. households will have 4K sets. Adding in computers and mobile devices that already have ultra high resolution displays gets you to the reasonable assumption that it’ll soon be commonplace, if it isn’t already, for homes to access multiple 4K streams at the same time.

Broadband service at 25 Mbps download speed is enough to support a single 4K stream, after allowing for nominal congestion and other baseline household needs, such as web browsing or home automation. But given that each stream chews up a steady 15 Mbps, 25 Mbps won’t be enough when – not if – someone wants to watch something else.

Outside of California, the debate centers on the federal standard of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speed – is it enough? Here in the Golden State, though, lawmakers are listening to telco and cable lobbyists, who want to protect monopolies from consumer expectations, and lowering standards, most recently to 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up. That’s certainly not enough.