Why Netflix 4K Matters

Why does Netflix 4K video matter? Because 4K will boost bandwidth consumption by viewers watching 4K video.

Netflix says it now is shooting all its original series content in 4K format. Netflix believes 4K will “completely change” end user expectations for online video entertainment image quality.

Where a standard-definition Netflix stream is designed to work at about 3 Mbps, 4K will require 15 Mbps to perhaps 17 Mbps, as a minimum. That might be an advantage for Internet service providers able to support those rates easily, but will cause some potential issues for ISPs not able to comfortably deliver streams at such speeds.

At peak hours, Netflix accounts for 34 percent of all downstream usage, up from 31.6 percent  in the second half of 2013, according to Sandvine . Peak period is defined as 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sandvine’s reports.

Real-time entertainment is the dominant traffic category in North America, Sandvine says, representing more than 63 percent of downstream bytes during peak hours.

A shift to 4K video, as it grows, will increase the amount of real-time entertainment traffic during peak hours.

As with most phenomenon related to the Internet, “average” or “typical” is misleading.

U.S. consumers who use video streaming as a primary form of entertainment consume about 212 gigabytes of data per month (with 153 GB of that consumption representing the impact of “real-time entertainment”).

“Typical subscribers” had a mean monthly usage of 29 GB.

“Non-streamers,” who are consumers typically streaming less than 100 megabytes of audio or video each month, had a mean monthly usage of 4.5 GB.

While the number of streaming hours consumed by people who fit a cord-cutting profile might seem “shockingly high to some,” Sandvine said it’s “quite easily achievable” when homes have multiple people using multiple screens.

Boosting a significant percentage of Netflix views to 4K format will boost consumption about five times for the viewed content, for the 4K items watched.

And that is why 4K matters for ISPs.

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