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YouTube Test Broadband Connections with Low Bandwidth 4K Video Streams

Monday, January 6th, 2014 (8:11 am) - Score 7,554

Internet technology giant Google has confirmed that its massively popular online video streaming service, YouTube, will soon give consumer broadband ISP connections a run for their money when they join Netflix to begin streaming “lower bandwidth” 4K videos (Ultra HDTV – 3840 x 2160 pixels) using the new VP9 standard.

Movie streaming service Netflix has already touted UHDTV (4K) video quality for launch in 2014 (here), which is expected to require a stable Internet download speed of at least 15Mbps (Megabits per second). But Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, has stated that customers will still need a superfast broadband speed of 50Mbps to ensure a stable stream that offers the best quality and doesn’t suffer from buffering.

Meanwhile YouTube has been playing around with 4K video streams for a couple of years, although many people have struggled to play them due to slower than ideal connection speeds or compatibility problems with some existing software and hardware. A sample of one such demo can be found below – Just play it and then flick the settings wheel up to 4K, although it’s difficult to appreciate the difference without a proper 4K capable display (note: at present this is done via the existing VP8 standard).

The issue of limited bandwidth has encouraged most of the new 4K services, such as Netflix, to be developed using the new H.265 (ITU-T H.265 / ISO/IEC 23008-2 HEVC) video standard, which is so effective that it may allow some 720p HD (1280 x 720 pixels) video streams to play on sub-1Mbps connections without buffering (here).

But this week Google intends to demonstrate its own low bandwidth video streaming technology using the alternative VP9 standard at the annual consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow – CES 2014 in Las Vegas (USA). VP9 is an open and royalty free video compression standard, which is already directly supported via the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome (web browsers).

Much like VP8, which similarly went up against the previous H.264 standard, the new VP9 will be attempting to become a widespread industry standard that can be used beyond Google’s own services. However VP8 struggled due to limited hardware support and opposition from companies that had invested in rival commercial formats, which could also become a problem for VP9. But a number of major hardware developers (e.g. TV, CPU and GPU manufacturers) are already building VP9 kit for release this year.

On the technical front VP9 is understood to have broadly similar capabilities to H.265 and also intends to reduce the bandwidth needed for current clips by around half. Meanwhile YouTube has not ruled out the possibility that it might also add support for H.265 in the future but for now their focus will remain on VP9.

So what does all this mean for broadband ISPs and related Internet connections? Well Internet video, according to Cisco, accounts for over half of all consumer data traffic (here) and growing. As a result it is a major driver of faster connectivity and will surely help to encourage the demand and adoption of newer superfast lines.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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22 Responses
  1. Avatar DanielM

    Works fine here. quality is amazing. it averages around 78Mbps to start then dies down. CPU a little higher though

    Preview: http://ss-v1.serversupportgroup.com/4k%20youtube.png

    • Avatar Bob2002

      I was never impressed by HD, in fact I can often not tell the difference between digital SD and HD(my eyesight is fine). This is much better as far as I can tell from playing it back on my best monitor (2560×1600 30 inch).

  2. Avatar Ignitionnet

    Great. Now I just need a 2160p capable display…

    • Avatar Bob2002

      4K monitors are still fairly expensive but 39″ 4K TVs are being sold for $499 in the US(currently 30Hz until HDMI 2 models released this year). Apparently the manufacturer of the cheap 4K TVs is coming to the UK this year.

    • Avatar CrazyLazy

      Can already be had for dirt cheap…
      http://www.amazon.com/Seiki-Digital-SE50UY04-50-Inch-120Hz/dp/B00BXF7I9M
      Thats about £600 for a 40inch 4k screen by my maths.

      Expect CES 2014 along with googles announcements for Youtube resolutions to also have many well known manufacturers announcing more affordable non curved 4K and OLED screens.

      1080p screens as the norm within 2 years will be dead. Roberto in the linked to news item http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2013/10/netflix-moot-4k-quality-15mbps-internet-movie-streams.html#comment-96888 and his comments in that and the Netflix story is almost scary correct.

    • As with any new TV/display technology, give it 3 years to mature then pay a few hundred for top-end technology that some people will pay thousands for today. The only reason the first 4K screens are so expensive is to milk the market and due to lower production volumes. 4K will very quickly become the norm.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      Thanks gentlemen but I don’t regard £600 as dirt cheap and prefer to wait rather than jumping in at a high price point for something that will inevitably become outdated rapidly.

      There won’t be the content for a while to justify the spend either. HD TV is still 1080i even now. Netflix and Google won’t have reams of 4K content at the flick of a switch, gradually does it.

    • Avatar CrazyLazy

      LOL £600 for a 40inch 120hz 4k TV is cheap you can pay double than that for a current HDTV with useless 3D capability. A current 4K TV from the likes of Sony will cost you around £3,000 and upwards for a 40-50 (ish) inch screen.

      Standard Screens at 1080p are going to be dead within the next couple of years. The next real “expensive” screen as you put it will also be all the rage at CES this year and is likely to be 60+ inch ‘curved’ screens which are likely to be around £10,000 as a starting point.

    • Avatar CrazyLazy

      As for content sorry but wrong again it is here…
      http://www.deadline.com/2014/01/ces-comcast-netflix-paramount-directv-and-amazon-will-stream-4k-video-to-samsung-tvs/

      Netflix will have 4k content and will have it this year as someone else previously predicted and tried to tell you…
      http://gigaom.com/2014/01/06/netflix-4k-ultra-hd-3d/

      If you are waiting on a “disc” like format for 4k that is not likely to happen instead you will likely have to buy external streaming devices or a TV with smart 4k features/services built in.

      You would have a hard time producing a affordable optical disc which holds roughly 3 times the amount of data which a bluray does. Its possible and been done but price per film for a consumer would cost significantly more than what they can give you in a digital stream form. Maybe they will do a nasty compressed 4k Bluray format, id pass on that and another format war akin to HD-DVD Vs Bluray though thanks. Optical discs like near 10 year old HDTV is also dead old rubbish.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      I said there wouldn’t be the content to justify the spend for me. I have rather higher priorities than 2160p.

      YMMV.

      Your enthusiasm about the death of 1080p is I suspect misplaced. The drivers will be ultrafast broadband, linear TV and removal of support for 1080p, surely? How much of the move to HD was in part due to linear TV?

      Given the SD content kicking around there is probably a while before 1080p is obsolete.

      Content – have any of the names you mentioned said how much of their libraries will be 2160p? The way you’re speaking anyone would think they are going to have everything in 2160p overnight.

      We all have opinions. Blu Ray and 1080p has some life in it yet I suspect, and 2160p is obviously going to become more available but given the availability of Netflix SuperHD up until recently there is no way it will disappear overnight.

      We will agree to disagree. I think you are way too optimistic over 2160p’s speed of take up. If you want an early model as you like the big number that’s your prerogative, be a while before it is really massive in the UK IMHO. We still use YouTube more than Netflix.

      Again YMMV and indeed does. I am not an HD zealot, but a network engineer and can’t see a huge and sudden migration to 2160p happening but one more of the pace of SD to HD. A super rapid migration would cause major issues.

      For me, I will invest perhaps in 2015/6. I am not going to buy overpriced, low end kit and have 95% of the content I watch on it upscaled.

      Just my own opinion, after all I did start this discussion thread commenting about my own needs.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      Question while I have you though. So Netflix using H.265 to produce 4K streams at 15.6Mb ABR is fine, but a disc format is impossible?

      15.6Mb ABR would be fine on a disc. A single layer Blu Ray disc holds, what about 24-25GB? That’s enough to hold an awful lot of content with an ABR that low. That’s a lower ABR than BluRay. 7.2GB/hour. Using the average from the You Tube test brings up a bit rate around 9.8GB/hour. A dual layer Blu Ray disc is fine, even for a long movie, just needs to run the right codecs.

      New Blu Ray hardware that has hardware decode of H.625 and AC9 and using higher ABR than the streams the same physical disc can still be used, and can deliver a less compressed image.

      I will concede one point, however, if done with extreme care cable multiplexes in the USA could have 4k running. They have 38Mb per multiplex so once they install STB hardware capable of H.625 hardware decode they can rip out the 2 or 3 HD streams that were running over MPEG 2 and replace them with 2 Netflix quality streams. In UK each cable multiplex is 51Mb.

      The issue there is the CPE. It needs 4k output and hardware decode of an appropriate codec.

      So there are another couple of things. Due to codec improvement 4k Blu Ray is doable with better PQ than You Tube, Netflix or Amazon.

  3. Avatar Slow Somerset

    That’s great all I need now is so called superfast broadband. Looks like a lot of people will be left behind again.

    • Avatar CrazyLazy

      Yeah Netflix will require around 40-50Mb in places on high detailed content on some films. Typical stream will be around 20Mbps. Even expect youtube with its reduced requirements to still need around double that of their current 1080p streams which would equate to around 10Mbps as a minimum.

      Looking at the current survey on this very site and speeds people are getting this country is screwed. Mind you the government want us all to just use the internet for form filling and sending uncle jack an email so their vision along with BTs is great for another 20 years 😉

  4. Avatar DTMark

    When I posted the hypothetical scenario of moving to a new home and looking at broadband providers, working out that you only need a maximum of three concurrent streams so only about 90Mbps plus a bit for overheads, so say a pretty basic 100Meg connection – nothing fast, this was the sort of thing I had in mind.

    You just need to make sure you live within about ten feet of a VDSL cabinet 😉

  5. Avatar Ignitionnet

    Just FYI here’s the graph of bandwidth usage from my connection while watching it: http://www.fibreformiddleton.org.uk/4K-Video-Utilisation.png

    Average somewhere between 20 and 25Mb I would reckon.

    • Avatar CrazyLazy

      4K content is going to become normal in 2014. The well known media player VLC added 4K support in version 2.1 a couple of months back. Apple and others already have movie trailers in 4K also, its becoming normal. If you want to see some of the insanity some streams get to, right click and save as this (warning it is 420Mb for a short 2 min trailer LOL)…
      http://videos.hd-trailers.net/Elysium_trailer_1-4K-HDTN.mp4

      The standard 1080p version for reference is a tad under 95Mb (4 times smaller)…
      http://videos.hd-trailers.net/Elysium_trailer_1-1080p-HDTN.mp4

      I personally with regards to colour saturation can see a difference on a non 4k screen on a 4k screen i have no doubt the 4k version would look significantly sharper also, especially on a screen 50 inches or bigger. It is seen even more easily in the actual h.265 version of that trailer which i can not currently find online as that has a Chroma subsampling of 4:2:2 rather than the 4:2:0 in both those x.264 versions.

  6. Avatar CrazyLazy

    @Ignitionnet sorry for replying here for some reason the reply button is not showing.

    The content will be here in 2014 to justify it. If you go and follow the CES announcements you will find its not just netflix but actual movie studios releasing 4k content. Paramount (just a little company 😉 ) are even backing 4K digital delivered content, its took them 20 years to wake up but it appears they finally have.

    1080p content is as good as dead. Just because you will still be able to get it does not mean it is not a dead horse. SD content such as DVD is a dead horse and has been for years even though you can still get it. There were actually films this year that got Bluray releases but not DVD, including classic movies and specially restored content The most well known perhaps being The Wizard of OZ, if you have not seen that fully restored you are missing out on how glorious that film was supposed to look. Similar is likely to now happen with 4k content with bluray being neglected. Wizard of OZ was restored from footage FAR larger than 1080 pixels so there is even further room for improvement.

    I am not being optimistic. Bluray upon its release within 6 months films on that format were outselling films on DVD. Today bluray outsells DVD somethinglike 3 to 1. And digital content far outsells bluray.

    With regards to disc format NO a disc format would not be impossible but it is unlikely to use h.265 as its PRIMARY codec. The next touted disc format is 4k bluray disc which will hold in excess of 100gig (again this has been shown at CES this year). The content will likely be expensive and as it is a different organisation involved it is also likely to be snubbed by SOME manufacturers as they will have to pay licencing fees not only for H.264 it will support but HEVC which is a variation on H.265 NOT THE SAME as full H.265 (like i said another format war, codecs this time). Will also likely require some type of license for whatever new fangled laser it uses.

    What you are likely to see now is manufacturers now go the “smart” device route, with streaming features built in to deliver content. You will likely not be able to buy any new device with out “smart” features this year. Even roku are in on the act now going to have basically their own TV (again see CES). Its cheaper to integrate your tech into a bit of silicon than it is to manufacturer clunky old tech with mechanical mechanisms and then also pay licencing fees for such tech.

    The optical disc within the next five years will likely be completely dead, and by that i mean can not buy em. That is not just my opinion but manufacturers. Why do you think Sony as an example and MS suddenly want you to STREAM games? Think of it like floppy disks, nobody uses them anymore they use flash drives. DVD is over 20 years old nobody buys them anymore, at least no half serious movie viewer, that is why they are 5 quid in your local Sainsbury and why places like blockbusters are dead.

    Movies from itunes alone outnumbers the sales of optical discs and have done for some time and even before it was 1080p content…
    http://macdailynews.com/2008/01/17/apples_itunes_store_movies_outsell_hd_dvd_blu_ray_titles/
    Give it up optical disc is a dead horse.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      Your link from Mac Daily News is from January 2008 and covers iTunes versus HD formats only, it ignores DVD.

      I don’t see anything indicating that movies on Blu Ray were outselling the DVDs within 6 months of the release of the Blu Ray format, IE early 2007, do you have a citation for this?

      The link you give is from 6 years ago, and the claim that Blu Ray movies were outselling their DVD equivalents in 2007 is tricky to align with the link’s claim that Blu Ray sold 6 million movies in the first 18 months of release, and during that period the top selling DVD movies were shifting upwards of 10 million units on their own. A single DVD movie was selling more than all Blu Ray titles combined in 18 months according to your own links plus those of official sales figures.

      Nice quote from 2009: ‘”By 2012, around 50 per cent of US and 35 per cent of Western European video disc retail sale volumes will be Blu-ray.”‘

      Sony’s streaming service is for PS3 and, eventually, Vita titles. It doesn’t obsolete PS4 games delivered over Blu Ray but instead is in lieu of backwards compatibility and for ‘virtual console’ functionality. Sony have made no announcement to the effect of streaming PS4 games.

      http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/gaming/news/a542245/playstation-now-streaming-game-service-announced-by-sony.html

      Microsoft are hesitant about it at the moment. They aren’t convinced the Internet is ready yet. They have also said nothing about releasing current generation titles in this way.

      http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2013/11/11/report-microsoft-tempers-expectations-for-xbox-360-games-streaming-to-xbox-one.aspx

      Neither have supplied consoles with enough storage to make downloading your entire game library a viable option, despite that the costs of hard drives are pretty minimal per GB.

      Given I have a 140-ish Mb Internet connection I’m in no way opposed to streaming, but suspect there’s life in optical disks yet, and will bide my time for 4K until it’s more maturity and has properly been in the mainstream for a little while. I’m not fond of early adopter premium price tags.

    • Avatar CrazyLazy

      The 2008 link demonstrates how streaming is the dominate format. If anything since 2008 streaming sales have increased. Obviously in terms of grand TOTALS back then DVD was the dominate format. If you think DVD is still the killer format you would be wrong. It may generate more revenue (cheaper to produce a DVD than a Bluray) it does not outsell (physical units) any more. Streaming is of course even cheaper to provide than any optical disc. If streaming movies didnt make tons of cash you would not have people like Apple and Amazon in on the act.

      Netflix killed off its DVD by mail service and since doing that this has happened…
      http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/21/4862966/netflix-q3-2013-earnings

      Disc formats are a dead horse.

      I should had perhaps been clearer about bluray outselling DVD within its first 6 months of release, that figure is proportionate to hardware owned at the time. Total sales in dollar/pound figures of DVD back in 2007 obviously were higher than bluray for the year.

      PS4 titles sold in digital format and streamed will obviously out number sales of physical disc. Some titles on that console will not even get a physical disc release but will be digital release only….
      http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/digital-to-significantly-outnumber-physical-on-ps4-release-schedule/0111398

      Digital versions of games also allow smaller software companies and indies to sell their product far more easily and at reduced cost, akin to what has happened with mobile devices and anyone with the skill being able to create an app and sell it.

      Disc formats are old and dated. A dated idea old people in the movie and music industry are clinging to trying to beat every last penny from it, nobody wants it anymore and it is shown in the industry top to bottom.

      Tape killed the record, dvd/cd killed the audio/video tape, streaming and digital has killed the DVD/Bluray. If you have a portal right there on your TV to watch whatever film you want why the hell would anyone go out and wander around shops looking for a disk of their fave movie??? Disc is dead. The likes of Amazon/Lovefilm, Netflix, Apple even youtube are all continuously raking in the cash while disc formats decline year on year. Face it the licensing fee paying, over priced optical disc is over.

      The only thing i will agree with you on is your comment in the Sony PS4 streaming story… This countries internet is far from ready for it.

  7. Avatar Ignitionnet

    We’ll agree to disagree.

    For me comparing SD streaming against two brand new HD formats that had at the time sold hardly any players to speak of is misleading.

    I can easily believe Blu Ray outsold DVD in proportion to the hardware owned – people wanted to try out their new toys. I’ve no doubt the same went for DVD versus VHS and anyone who had the cash for the Blu Ray player and HD TV likely bought more content anyway.

    Consoles have had digital versions of the games for a while. Remind me of the proportion of sales of GTA 5 or the latest in the CoD franchise on PS3 / XBox 360 which were digital sales and physical media?

    I’m more than happy to believe that the physical formats are in decline but we remain a way away from their being completely dead. They’ll hang around a bit longer I suspect.

    When the PS 5 comes out I can believe that, for many of us, the physical disk will be an afterthought. For this time around it’s not given Sony have provided a 16 layer Blu Ray drive.

    In any event we’ve digressed quite phenomenally. Interesting topic but probably better to not further derail a discussion on 4K 🙂

    • Avatar CrazyLazy

      Comparing the Apple thing to HDDVD and Bluray is not misleading. If optical disc was still that popular people would still be buying the hardware. Most of Apples movie downloads i think you will find are now done on an IOS device like an Apple TV. You have to buy that hardware in the first place, people are not sitting round their PC or Laptop screen anymore. If DVD was still as popular people would be buying DVD players just as much as they are Apple TVs. In fact they should be selling better as you can buy a DVD Player for £20. People do not want disc formats anymore. Most people if looking to buy a new device specifically for watching films will be looking for something that streams content in some way shape or form. Thats just what people want now.

      Figures for GTA5 in digital vs disc format were never released AFAIK all we know is it was the biggest selling game and topped PSNs digital download chart and according to some reports “shattered” records, i could find no numbers for that specific game though on numbers sold re: digital Vs disc. I suspect it was a lot closer than you may think as sonys download servers from my memory crashed several times during the release. You could play online but the PSN store was fubar. Ill have a look round to see if i can find some of the news items back then.

      Yes Sony and Samsung (and probably every other) have new 4k bluray drives coming as seen at CES, guess what Sony were working on long before a 4k disc format though and already have available to buy…..
      https://store.sony.com/4k-ultra-hd-media-player-zid27-FMPX1/cat-27-catid-All-Internet-Players

      Yep thats right they did the streaming device first and brought that to market first. If disc is still the money maker why did they bring that device out first then?

      Why are all the manufacturers with their 4k TVs signing Netflix 4K content delivery deals if they are so confident their 4k Bluray players will sell???

      People want stuff built in and on demand, shopping for discs is a thing of the past.

      I do not think we are derailing the subject either we both have our opinions and as far as i am concerned we have are both airing them in a decent manner with neither of us being rude, id actually say we both have good points which is a nice change this sites comments often go south quick.

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