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

Wednesday, Oct 9th, 2013 (8:16 am) - Score 8,031

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.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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