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Netflix Prep 4K Internet Movie Streams for 50Mbps Broadband Lines

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 (8:16 am) - Score 7,968
broadband internet video and movie streaming

Broadband ISPs have only just got over the shock of Netflix’s introduction of a new Super HD (Super High Definition) video stream to their unlimited movie streaming service and now they’re being warned to expect an Ultra HDTV (UHDTV) 4K stream (3840 x 2160 pixels) in the not too distant future.

Last month’s introduction of a new higher bit rate Super HD stream (here), which applied less compression at the existing HD resolution of 1080p, was a good improvement but also meant that customers would need a fairly stable broadband download speed of up to 7Mbps (Megabits per second). In reality we’ve already seen these streams inch up to 9Mbps on our own PC.

But Thinkbroadband, via way of DSL Reports that itself seems to have borrowed its own report from Multichannel, has picked up on an article that somehow slipped under our radar and references Netflix’s plan to launch a new 4K stream that would require a broadband download speed of “around15Mbps (something most UK subscribers would struggle to achieve over existing ADSL and ADSL2+ lines) but you’ll probably need a lot more.

Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, said:

Going forward we’ll see more and more 4K, and that will work really well over the Internet. It’s around 15 megabits per second. It’s not too bad. If you’ve got a 50-megabit connection you’ll be fine.”

So it’s around 15Mbps but you’ll need a 50Mbps connection? Hay.. Wait a minute. What Hastings is really saying here is that some 4K movies may well require an even faster speed than 15Mbps (i.e. video streams are dynamic and some scenes will always need more speed than others) and Hastings is probably just playing it safe with 50Mbps until he knows for sure.

The fact is it would be very difficult to do a reasonable 4K stream at 15Mbps and even the latest H.265 video standard would struggle to achieve that, although the service hasn’t launched yet and technology is constantly improving. In any case most people don’t have TV’s or monitors that could support 4K and that’s unlikely to change for a few more years.

It’s worth saying that Netflix currently uses a proprietary video encoding technology from eyeIO, which is also used by Sony’s own experimental 4K service. Incidentally Sony’s 4K movies come in at around 45-60GB (GigaBytes) per flick! Never the less Netflix expects to introduce 4K before the technology itself becomes mass market and this, claims Hastings, should give ISPs plenty of time to adapt.

But when can we expect this new 4K service from Netflix? Sometime in 2014. It could also serve as an early warning sign for operators. One day even the likes of FTTC will look little different to how we view ADSL today, which will of course happen a lot sooner if you’re currently on a slower/longer line.

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24 Responses
  1. Avatar ShadyCreek


  2. Avatar Stuart

    This is great news. The BBC are also looking at 4K in iPlayer.

    My AV amp already has 4K processing, but i’m holding out for prices to drop on TVs. I saw a 4K TV last month in my local Richer Sounds. It’s like looking through a window. Cant wait for the technology to become more mainstream.

    Going to take Zen up on their unlimited offer, in preparation.

    • Avatar Brian

      your amp has 4k processing at 4k@24hz. when 4k gets ramped up you will need a new receiver that runs 4k@60hz which is hdmi 2.0

  3. Avatar Phil

    It’s will eating up BT FTTC network

  4. Avatar DTMark

    Do ISPs anticipate that providers like Netflix will work in some sort of partnership with them to set these up as “multicast” type services rather than “point to point” streaming?

    e.g. the cable network is, as far as I know, a multicast network, and BT have been putting in something similar (?) at exchanges.

    Without that, I can imagine segments of the cable network collapsing eventually, and people not being quite so happy with an “up to 80Meg” VDSL connection which only delivers e.g. 20Meg.

    I’ve been saying for a while that a 30Meg downstream target won’t be “cutting-edge” for very long for this and other reasons.

    Which in turn will cause attention to move towards actual achieved throughput speeds, not “sync rates” or “up to” speeds, and a call for “fair usage policies” to be banned.

  5. 4K is lovely to look at up close but I can’t see that much point unless you’re sitting far too close to your TV or the TV itself is utterly massive. The best quality HD on a good TV, viewed from a safe (for your eyes) seating difference, looks much the same in the showroom to me as the 4K demos I’ve seen.

    Looks amazing if your face is slap-bang to the screen but that’s a good way to go blind. Past a certain point the eyes struggle to perceive such differences. Now if you reduce the quality of this to make 4K work on Netflix then I’m just thinking.. wouldn’t it simply be better to improve the HD streams even further? Well perhaps but then 4K is better for marketing.

    • Avatar Roberto

      Put a detailed highly saturated with vivid colour scene side by side Mark and i assure you that you will see a difference. Just as you will (or should) with 720p vs 1080p and the rest (IE bitrate etc being equal).

      It is harder to tell on a screen 40inch or under though at a typical viewing distance. The larger the screen the more easily you can tell.

      Colour is what h.265 does better than anything currently out there, so much so the next itteration (probably over 5 years off) will probably need an enlarged visible spectrum added to the colour gamut most screens currently are capable of displaying.

      Looking at content in the store is never a good test, TVs are not configured properly and will be set in VIVID or similar modes to combat all the stores horrid bright fluorescent lighting and make the average punter look at screens (your eye is drawn naturally to some bright bold and flashy than something that is just doing its job well). The picture will be twice as bright as how you are likely to have your screen set up at home and extra brightness and contrast washes out fine detail.

      Of course im assuming you looked at content in a typical store and not a dedicated viewing room at a specialist who should had calibrated the screen properly.

  6. Avatar Slow Somerset

    So FTTC is not going to be good enough for long then is it and will soon be out of date.

    • Avatar Roberto

      Indeed, but any of us with any brain knew FTTC would only be good enough for 2-5 years at best. SO much for BT and its fans 20 year vision LOL

    • Avatar Phil

      Virgin Media will going to bring in 400Mbps by the time 4K is out and FTTC still stuck on 80/120

    • Avatar DTMark

      Virgin really need to start getting some fibre paths from head end to cabs at some point, and looking at something other than DOCSIS or they’ll be forever “resegmenting” local areas. Could start with “hybrid fibre on demand” as it were, but since there’s no need to dig to replace the co-ax it wouldn’t cost thousands to install to deliver e.g. 1Gbps. But the equipment needs to be in place at the cabs first.

      FTTC will probably be “up to 1Gbps” as long as you’re no more than six inches from the cabinet.

  7. Avatar bob

    Going by the compression they use on their supposed super HD 1080p i can see this being pointless, it’ll be 4K for the sake of being 4K and the bitrate won’t be anywhere near high enough to be worthwhile. A headline grabber and nothing more.

    • Avatar Roberto

      You do not understand things bob. H.265 compresses upto around 70% better than any codec currently out there. To a humans eyes a 15Mb stream will look similar to what a current 25Mb stream using H.264 codec appears. That goes without saying looks superb. Some bluray content does not even consistently for an entire film go that high.

  8. Avatar Roberto

    Not a shock at all i predicted this long before and even mentioned a few weeks back 4K was coming. http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2013/09/headache-broadband-isps-netflix-uk-add-super-hd-movie-streams.html#comment-95540
    Told you Ignitionnet 😉 Youtube and the 4k upload option for everyone will not be far behind either 😀

    For anyone confused over the 15Mb quote. H.265 (or rather HEVC) as it is likely to become known as in the main stream is a rate adaptive profile based codec. 15Mb will be the average video bitrate netflix is likely to use for a movie.

    In dark scenes or scenes where only a small part of the colour gamut is being used HEVC is able to compress data upto around 70% more than H.264 currently can. (Movies like Saw and The matrix as 2 examples compress well due to a combo of those 2 things). In cases like that the bitrate will probably drop down to around 5Mb for a good 40-60% of the movie.

    In fast moving and detail packed scenes (Think things like car chase scenes or over the top CGI seen in comic book movies like Iron Man, Avengers etc) the bitrate will ramp up to take care of all that fine detail from buildings crumbling as you fave super heroes punch it out in the middle of the city. In cases like that the bitrate is probably going to ramp up to around the 30-40Mb range, and its there that you will need a 50Mb connection to avoid pausing and buffering to the film.

    The average bitrate over an entire film will probably equate out to around 15-25Mb per film. If you have 30Mb you will likely to be able to watch around 70% of content without seeing anything buffer. Well that is based on video codec bitrate calculations… The fly in the ointment will be what codec/format are they going to use for sound. I hope to god its not rubbish sub 200k stereo like some of their films.

    Time for DTS or at the least 5.1 on ALL their films if they are bringing 4K to the table, and perhaps they are going to do that, which would explain why they quote 50Mb as with a detail packed high video bitrate film with high quality sound that is indeed what you would approach needing.

    Personally i can not wait, im a sucker for movies. My TV within the next year i can see being replaced with a 65inch OLED 4K unit and my projector also being replaced within the next 2-3 years.

    I also hope Netflix or someone with next gen broadband also start offering all the extra content bundled with films you get in conventional formats currently.

  9. Youtube has been doing some 4K videos since much earlier this year, as part of a general demo. Not been able to make them play properly though.

    • Avatar Roberto

      Youtube actually had some 4K content all the way back in 2010/11.

      4K consumer cameras are on the way and that is when you will see content becoming common.

      Some of the 4K demo videos on youtube, stuff like…

      You will have difficulty playing, unless you have a top end video card and flash hardware decoding enabled. (right click the video in a low res mode, click settings, click the first little monitor icon, put atick in enable hardware acceleration, click close) now refresh the page, select the Original HD res, if your graphics card has the grunt it will play smoothly. If not or its marginal it will play but stutter. Regardless its kinda pointless anyway as it will not look much different to the 720p or 1080p versions as you are unlikely to have a monitor capable of displaying 4K resolution.

      Flash is a horrid processor and memory hog (almost as bad as java) expect youtube to go fully HTML5 for 4K content. For some videos (not the 4K stuff at the moment AFAIK) that can actually help now if you have a weak performing computer. Just add &html5=1 onto the end of any youtube video link. OR get a firefox addon which does it automatically…
      SOme videos it will help others it will not. There is also a Youtube beta HTML5 page you can opt into but that link eludes me.

      Chances are currently it still will not help for current 4K content, the format it is currently in is just very processor intensive. That will obviously change and a different codec and format will be used when they make the content common.

    • Avatar Roberto

      More recent content like….

      Looks absolutely stunning even if you do not have a graphics card that is butch or a 4k monitor.

      That video for much of it is pretty static (apart from a few scenes some around the 1.30 mark which do pan a bit) so many can watch it (to a degree anyway) and gives a good idea of how detailed and rich in colour content can look.

      On a real 4K screen there will be no comparison to 1080p content. 4K will muller it, everything will look so much sharper and rich in colour.

    • Avatar DTMark

      I’ve never seen a stream ramp up to 22Meg before 🙂

    • Avatar Roberto

      Hehehe Welcome to the future and the buffering for those stuck at low speeds 😀

    • Avatar Roberto

      I decided to experiment a little with that stream…
      You can download the full version by clicking…
      If you have LAV Video decoder codec installed (part of klite codec pack and many others) and a half decent dual core or better machine with a mid range graphics card you can actuall play that clip back smoothly as a file saved in its original .mp4 container. Gets rid of flash which as i said it the cpu/gpu hog.

      At its peak that actually is higher than 22Mb, full specs for the stream are…
      ID : 1
      Format : AVC
      Format/Info : Advanced Video Codec
      Format profile : High@L5.1
      Format settings, CABAC : No
      Format settings, ReFrames : 1 frame
      Codec ID : avc1
      Codec ID/Info : Advanced Video Coding
      Duration : 3mn 53s

      Bit rate : 22.3 Mbps
      Maximum bit rate : 60.3 Mbps

      Width : 4 096 pixels
      Height : 2 304 pixels
      Display aspect ratio : 16:9
      Frame rate mode : Constant
      Frame rate : 25.000 fps
      Color space : YUV
      Chroma subsampling : 4:2:0
      Bit depth : 8 bits
      Scan type : Progressive
      Bits/(Pixel*Frame) : 0.094

      Left a line space above to show the bitrate….. That vid spec wise is likely to be similar to what netflix will offer (well slightly lower bitrate from netflix 15-50mb variable rather than 20-60Mb variable) oh and expect them to use H.265 instead.

  10. Avatar Roberto

    Gives a good example of detail differences between 1080 and 4K. Switch between the 2 resolutions at the 1.05 minute and onward mark to see how much more defined the white text that appears on the various clips is.

    Of course im assuming people actually have the computer grunt and internet speed to even currently do that when fullscreen LOL

  11. Avatar zemadeiran

    I believe that the tech enablers for 4k resolutions are oled and quantum dots 🙂

  12. Avatar Phil

    There will be next line up 8k next!

    • Avatar Roberto

      8K to start replacing 4K is probably 5-10 years off before you see any real content (id guesstimate 7 years before you see actual screens and devices in any retail case, probably before at trade shows etc). Every 5-10 years in video the next break through always comes. From DVD, to HD, to Bluray to 4K to 8K all have/will have a 5-10 gap between them.

      But yeah 8K will be nice in my later years as i start to get properly old, and blind.

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