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40Mbps Broadband Required – BBC to Stream 2018 World Cup in 4K

Thursday, May 31st, 2018 (8:21 am) - Score 10,199

The BBC has announced another UK iPlayer trial of their 4K (Ultra HD) and High Dynamic Range (HDR) video streaming quality, which will cover all 29 of their 2018 FIFA World Cup matches. Unfortunately to get the most out of this they’re recommending that users have “at least” a 40Mbps broadband ISP connection.

This isn’t the first time that the BBC has tested such technology and they’ve continued to refine their approach, although sadly the new trial will still be restricted to offering only a “limited number of spaces available (tens of thousands) for each game” and those will be distributed on a first-come first-served basis. Sigh.

On the upside this will at least limit the capacity impact on broadband ISP networks during the tournament.

Technology and Broadband Requirements

Assuming you actually manage to get on to one of these trial screenings then you’ll also require a better than “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) connection to get the most out of it, as well as a 4K and HDR supporting TV. At present the BBC iPlayer service recommends a download speed of just 2.8Mbps (Megabits per second) for their normal HD video streams, which falls to 1.5Mbps for “standard quality” (SD).

By comparison the BBC are now recommending “at least” a 40Mbps connection to view the best full 4K quality (3840 x 2160 pixels) and if your connection can only deliver 20Mbps+ then you’ll instead be presented with a lower resolution of 2560 pixels (wide), which is still well above full 1080p HD quality (1920 x 1080 pixels) but it’s obviously not 4K. All footage will be shown at 50fps (frames per second).

We should add that the High Dynamic Range (HDR) standard being used by the BBC is known as Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), which the BBC says “provides improved picture quality not only to HDR Ultra HD devices, but to the vast majority of Standard Dynamic Range Ultra HD devices, too.”

HLG can be found on most of the major 4K HDR displays produced since 2016/17 (Bush, Hitachi, JVC, LG, Phillips, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony etc.), as well as Roku’s 4K Streaming Stick+ and the Sky Q platform (although streaming on Sky won’t support HDR). Sadly neither Apple nor Amazon’s latest streaming boxes are able to offer compatible iPlayer apps (NOTE: Netflix and Amazon use different HDR tech – HDR10 and Dolby Vision).

Additional Thoughts

Interestingly the BBC’s own news item on this trial claims that the 40Mbps requirement is “faster than that to which most households have access,” which is not strictly correct unless they’re looking at take-up instead of availability. Otherwise we can only assume that they’ve been confused by the Government’s estimate for 24Mbps+ capable “superfast broadband” coverage (available to 95% of the UK) and wrongfully interpreted the 24Mbps as being a limit rather than a starting point.

Virgin Media’s 350Mbps capable cable network alone covers around half of UK premises and Openreach’s VDSL2 based FTTC platform, which has the widest coverage of any fixed line “superfast” infrastructure, can in theory go up to nearly 80Mbps on good copper lines (signals degrade over distance). Sadly 40Mbps isn’t a standard definition and so we don’t have any solid coverage figures for that but it’s likely to be way.. above the 50% mark.

One other thing to mention, which won’t be a problem if you have a truly “unlimited” usage package, is that the 4K streams will gobble masses of data. For example, even if you are only streaming at an average of around 25Mbps, which is normal for other 4K services, then 1 hour of usage could potentially gobble around 7-11GB (GigaBytes) of data (video bitrates are variable depending on the content being displayed and technology used – hence the range).

Suffice to say, if you have a restrictive usage limit on your connection then you might wish to avoid 4K for now. Lest the dreaded excess usage charges become an issue.

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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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53 Responses
  1. Paul W says:

    I would say that finally my TV licence is actually going to something useful but I would be lying if I said I was interested in football.

    1. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      The downside to the BBC is that because it operates a non profit organization any profits or products it makes are given away (shame because they could do away with the licence if it was to get rid of the silly non profit rule).

      In 2017 alone the BBC had to give away over 160 million pounds because of the non profit rule.

    2. Bob2002 says:


      >The downside to the BBC is that because it operates a non profit organization …

      This is a very charitable reading of the BBC’s position … the BBC is an absolute media Goliath in the UK because it receives about £5 billion pounds a year – around 75% from the licence fee, a regulation that criminalises around 180,000 people a year through the courts and sends dozens to prison. I’m sure many “non-profits” could only dream of drowning in billions under the threat of giving someone a criminal record.

    3. Simon says:

      Same here, it’s like pulling teeth whilst watching paint dry, sat on a pile of spikes bleeding to death.

  2. Rahul says:

    I have a Samsung 4K monitor U28E590D last 3 years primarily used for PC Gaming. Of-course it would’ve been a dream to watch the World Cup in 4K!

    It is reassuring to know that 40Mbps will be enough for 4K live streaming TV when I one day have fibre! That means I won’t be dependent on a much faster connection than that.

    Even ADSL is almost ok to watch 4K videos on youtube. But of-course it struggles with buffering issues when the speed is lower than 16Mbps. Which in my case like I said before my line can’t maintain stable connection at a higher speed on copper without the drop-out issue. So I have to settle for 12-13Mbps for connection stability but then 4K videos are very difficult to watch with constant buffering and pauses. If I drop quality to 2K 1440P then I get a smoother quality experience. At 16+Mbps 4K videos are watchable but of-course it’s not going to work with online live streaming TV especially if other users in the same LAN network are hogging up the connection.

    Plus of-course people who subscribe to 40Mbps packages (particularly with FTTC) may have issues getting 40Mbps in speed test results making them struggle to watch live streaming TV at 4K unless they are lucky to get 40Mbps in speed test.

    For now I’ll watch the World Cup on BBC HD and ITV HD for free on my 55″ TV. 🙂

    1. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      Most of the time the 4k videos on youtube aren’t true 4k and also youtube lowers the bitrate if you don’t have enough bandwidth.

  3. Stephen Wakeman says:

    Rahul – you can’t really compare this to 4K YT streams. For starters 4K on YT isn’t the best. BBC are going to be doing 4K with HDR @ 50fps. A minority of YT videos do this. Usually 4K option is lower framerate.

    1. Rahul says:

      If you have a 4K monitor you will see for yourself that in many of the videos on Youtube it actually offers 60fps not just 50fps. For example this short video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO01J-M3g0U and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1La4QzGeaaQ&t=77s both have 60fps output on 4K resolution.

      I know many 4K videos on YT are even compressed and don’t provide the best quality. That’s not my point. My point was that Youtube videos tend to require less bandwidth than online live streaming TV and I was almost okay to view them with 16Mbps.

      This applies not just for 4K videos but even 1080P HD online LIVE streaming TV tends to struggle with buffering compared to normal Youtube videos where you can wait for the loading bar to complete. But in live streaming the video is constantly being loaded and needs to be constantly buffered or else it will keep freezing. That’s why in this case you need 40Mbps.

      Live streaming TV is a little bit like juggling balls you have to constantly maintain high speed or it will fail to maintain its balance.

    2. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @Rahul One of the main reasons why YT uses less bandwidth is because most of the time the video is upscaled (a trick a lot of youtubers exploit by making people think they are watching 4k video). There are video downloaders which download the raw video that yt provides (not your normal yt downloader) and is a good way to see which youtubers upscale their videos

    3. Rahul says:

      @JustAnotherFileServer I actually noticed that! It does appear that some 4K youtube videos don’t appear to be all that impressive compared to other 4K videos.

      I can differentiate image quality. As a long term 100% PC Gamer I can detect differences even in image quality when changing resolutions. I also notice that some true 4K videos tend to have greater quality even at 1080P compared to other native videos at 1080P HD. It seems like scaling does play a role to fool the user.

      For example at the moment I am playing Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation on PC using dgVoodoo I am able to force 4K 3840×2160 resolution. Yet image quality, textures don’t seem to be that amazing since they are outdated and have little effect on graphical improvements.

      This might also explain why some 4K YT videos load faster compared to the other ones. Common sense will probably explain that the slower loading youtube videos are true 4K quality, while the faster loading 4K videos are upscaled or recorded at 30fps.

  4. Meadmodj says:

    Whilst I understand that the BBC and other content providers need to trial 4K it appears again that we are getting ahead of ourselves. Terrestrial or Satellite broadcasting are the most efficient. What is currently happening is that people are coming in a few minutes late and we end up with 10,000s of streams all working seconds apart. Then pausing and replaying at will which further hits the servers. My daughter was watching The Split the other night and it was buffering like mad despite other Internet use unaffected, confirmed also by speed tests. Or like my daughter who used iPlayer simply because she couldn’t be bothered to go back to the YouView menu. Streaming should be for specific on-demand content on demand, yet it appears to be used for peak programmes which in my opinion is a total waste of bandwidth. If this results in increased cost of the iPlayer delivery, then that is not good use of the licence fee. Nor is it any good to those that want to stream an alternative to the masses. Even if I had fibre it would not reduce basic issues here.
    Please dig out your old HDR for the world cup.

    1. MikeP says:

      That ship sailed long ago, when multicast failed to take off.

      And now Sky have plans to shift from satellite to wired delivery. So, (I suppose much like MonteCarlo modelling) efficiency has given way to brute force, or, in this case, loads of bandwidth.

      And, again I say to those questioning when, if ever, 1Gbps connections will be required – who could possibly need more than 640KB memory in their PC ?

    2. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      Traditional methods of receiving TV has got it’s days numbered. At least Sky are slowly looking to the future, but the BBC are stuck in their ways.

      I doubt in a few years that anyone will be willing to pay for the TV licence as the young of today prefer streaming and choosing what time they want to watch a TV program and not to be told by TV scheduling when to watch.

    3. CarlT says:

      I’m not entirely sure how you think this works but everyone watching iPlayer isn’t streaming it from the BBC. Most connections to it never leave their ISP’s network.

    4. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @CarlT All streaming sites use CDNs

    5. New_Londoner says:

      On the need for Gigabit speeds at home, the eventual emergence of 8K could justify ultrafast speeds but that’s a long way short of gigabit. And don’t ignore the continuing improvement of codecs reducing the bandwidth required for video over time.

      It remains hard to see a driver for gigabit speeds at home to drive demand. The 640k PC analogy is a poor one because there were already memory expansion cards when the quote was made, so the evidence was already there . (That said, it does encourage remarkably sloppy programming but that’s another story!)

    6. CarlT says:

      The BBC aren’t stuck in their ways. They are a world leader in combining streaming and linear services and are Internet first.

      It’s a reminder that they can’t win though. On just this one thread one person is complaining about their wasting money by streaming too much content while another is claiming they are stuck in their ways and are way behind Sky. Sky were years behind with pull-VoD.

    7. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @CarlT World leading broadcasting companies don’t require public funding in order for it to function, do they?

      Having seen up close for myself how much money they waste and giveaway (including money from developing innovative tech) it sickens me how backwards the BBC are.

    8. CarlT says:

      None of which has anything to do with that they are a leader in streamed content provision.

    9. Rahul says:

      @JustAnotherFileServer I do however, think that traditional methods of watching TV via Aerial and Satellite dishes will still be needed for quite some time!

      I used to watch football via live streaming like over a decade ago, back then my internet wasn’t any better than now, if not somewhat worse. Obviously it’s the same copper service. The streaming would freeze with constant buffering. I also noticed another discouraging issue in football matches. Whenever I compared the timing of football matches on TV compared to online streaming I noticed there was a delay in online matches by an average of 2 minutes behind.

      This is why till this day I still subscribe to BT Sport HD and Eurosport HD. And I also watch many of the Premier League and other football matches via Canal+Sports and Eleven Sports Polish channels via Hotbird satellite receiver. Even though the commentary may be in foreign languages I still prefer that than try to watch online with these constant buffering issues.

      At this stage I feel sports channel subscription for TV is still essential and overall preferable. Maybe with Fibre many of the issues will be solved. But latency and delay is still my concern. I see sports score centres seeing a goal occur while the live stream is 2 minutes behind, makes it look a little boring like watching a highlight match. If it’s a 4K live stream I might consider the sacrifice in match time delay. But overall TV aerial system is still better at the moment.

    10. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @CarlT Also, don’t forget it’s those younger viewers that in a few years time will be the ones who will either pay or not pay the licence. The BBC knows it’s days are numbered, but refuse to move with the times.

    11. Alan says:

      Netflix and Amazon are available world wide… Iplayer is available in the UK only (unless you are in somewhere like Canada and trick things with a VPN which i doubt most of the planet will bother with).

      Hopefully you can understand from that why Netflix has more views. If not then i may as well be as stupid in saying charlie biting his finger for 2 minutes on youtube has more views than any programme on any of the services you mention, so using your logic all we need is youtube and none of the others.

    12. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @Alan I’m not sure if you know, but the likes of Netflix and Amazon are regional based (i.e. Each country has their own content) this means that it’s very easy to compare how many users from the UK are using the service compared to the BBC’s service in the UK.

      BTW the BBC do have an Iplayer service for the US and also BBC America is free to air in the US (without paying a TV licence)

    13. Alan says:

      Your news items are not based on single country figures.

      There is no such thing as Iplayer America. The channel BBC America broadcasts different content to what is currently broadcast here.

      Your comparison as much as you like to argue with everyone on here is thus still stupid.

    14. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @Alan Make sure you check your facts before saying no such thing, please search BritBox on the internet, it’s run by the BBC for the US market.

    15. Alan says:

      I do not need to check my facts………. Again where is this iplayer america you speak of.
      What you point to is a joint venture between the BBC and ITV so not the same in name or content at all.

      How many more posts of dribble this evening will i need to crush?

    16. un4h731x0rp3r0m says:

      Oh its Fred again and now every streaming service is the same even with a different name, region of the planet covered and owners.

    17. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @Alan I think you are drunk or on something. You’ve not crushed any of my posts, only argued on one point, of which you didn’t read my comment carefully as I said in my original comment that the BBC had an iplayer service for the US and not that the BBC allowed access to the iplayer service from the US.

      I’m pretty sure you’re the troll that likes to post under different names on this site

    18. Ian says:

      “….BBC had an iplayer service for the US….”

      Iplayer from the BBC bringing you ITV faves such as Coronation Street all over the planet.

      Who is this idiot?

    19. Meadmodj says:

      My original point was that we share the our broadband connection and our ISP connectivity (via ratios of provision). It is finite and will remain so. They can utilise all sorts of tricks but the basic physics will prevail.

    20. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @Ian I like your comment because it describes someone who didn’t check who owned the service nor did they check what programs are shown on it (Mainly BBC ones, because BBC are the main owners and ITV is a partner).

    21. Alan says:

      “@Alan I think you are drunk or on something”

      “I’m pretty sure you’re the troll that likes to post under different names on this site”

      Rudeness and ridiculous accusations may see you go far in life with me though they will not get beyond the ignored stage, which is now what you will be. Well Done.

    22. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @Alan Well nice to see that you’ve been caught out yet again

    23. ian says:

      “@Ian I like your comment because it describes someone who didn’t check who owned the service nor did they check what programs are shown on it (Mainly BBC ones, because BBC are the main owners and ITV is a partner).”

      They are both owners and equal owners at that you idiot, as you were told to start with…
      “BritBox is a subscription video on-demand service owned by BBC Worldwide and ITV plc.”

      “BBC Worldwide and ITV share an equal majority stake in the joint venture.”


    24. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @ian That really shows your level of education by using the words in it.

      It’s funny that you’re arguing over something that you say doesn’t exist.

      In business, the company who generally instigates the idea is the one who is considered the owner in a joint venture.

    25. Ian says:

      It is owned by both BBC and ITV but because you are an idiot you can not understand that. You was told it was a joint venture from the start, but your mental problems and either reading ability or just pure dumbness prevents you from taking note of linked to evidence of who owns the service.

      Like a typical spoilt, idiot child with mental problems, you may now reply. By god do you like replying, its all crap but you seem to be an expert in talking it. Probably all the poop in your sandpit. I like Alan will not be responding to you any further, dumb little obnoxious twat.

    26. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      @Ian I can see why you’ve been unemployed for a very long time. I’m sure if I come across your CV in the future it will get aggressively filed in the bin.

      I also hope you understand at some point in your life that over 99% of the population of this planet has some sort of mental health issues

    27. un4h731x0rp3r0m says:

      Boring old fred with his troll accusations and his stock cut and paste insults trying to provoke further response. You poor lad what you need to be doing is spending more time on ebay ordering up much needed Methylphenidate rather than waiting on here minute by minute for responses.

    28. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      Now I know ian’s real name, thanks. Didn’t know it was Fred.

    29. un4h731x0rp3r0m says:

      Yes that is correct, of course that is his name. Any luck with the visa payment for your ebay Methylphenidate yet? I hope so as like your mum and dad i no longer have time to baby sit you. Yep sorry im going also, maybe you could play with something highly combustible for the rest of the day.

    30. JustAnotherFileServer says:

      Sorry, I don’t use credit/debit cards with ebay, in fact I don’t use paypal anymore as I use Bitcoin (I was lucky to get mining machines setup way before the boom).

    31. TheFacts says:

      ‘Idiot’ Ian = Carpetburn.

  5. Joe says:

    Perhaps its just me but ‘Meh’. I can’t say i’ve yet seen any sport where 4k makes a difference. I can see a benefit in nature docs where high res give extra detail. but a team kit looks much the same in whatever res really!

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Maybe get a larger / better TV :), but it’s definitely more one for the “nice to have” than “must have” boxes.

    2. Doctor Colossus says:

      If it was just 4K resolution, I might agree with you, but football in 50fps? Oh yes!

    3. Spurple says:

      The blades of grass look nicer when Sky show football in 4K.

  6. Bazz says:

    Sorry,not for profit. It goes to all the fat rats presenters.

    1. mike says:

      Roland hasn’t been on the BBC for 30 years, you can’t blame him.

    2. Alan says:

      He did start on ITV and the TV-AM programme though, before moving to the BBC so i guess the statement is still true 😉

  7. asrab uddin says:

    The currently working name “FVC (Future Video Codec) – or H.266” would be a real helper here, at least when this codec is ready many people may be able to experience 4K at much lower bandwith (15-25 mbits)

    hope this codec is adopted as soon as its finalized,

  8. James Hopkins says:

    Anyone know how to tell for sure you are getting the full 3840 pixel? I am getting it in UHD and HLG (TV pops up with that). Any way to get iPlayer to show the resolution?

  9. Bruce S Rose says:

    I tried the BBC UHD Football,My Download speed was 37.05mbps,The TV was Panasonic TX-55CX802B.The result, unwatchable Mainly due to the speed of the ball,Ok if you can read morse code fast,——–00—-0-== Pity, all other ball games are OK.

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