Is TV dead with the arrival of Netflix? Maybe not…

posted on April 26, 2012

New figures from wired broadband ISP Plusnet have revealed that there’s been a sharp rise in Internet video streaming since the launch of Netflix in the UK. Netflix, brought from across the Atlantic to rival Amazon’s, has been fighting an aggressive marketing campaign to get us to turn away from the usual entertainment delivery systems (the TV channels) and to move over to streaming programs, films and games using the Internet.

For the user, the key drawback to these kind of services is that to avoid the buffering problem that’s common in streaming video, you need to have a truly fast broadband connection. Up until recently fast broadband via traditional wired means wasn’t possible for many rural and urban users. The arrival of next generation alternative technology like Tooway satellite broadband, which can deliver reliable fast broadband literally anywhere, means that consumers in more remote areas can finally join the Netflix revolution.

Data consumption is also becoming a major issue. Plusnet has said that traffic from sites like Netflix now accounts for more than 60GB p/hour of their overall bandwidth during peak times, which isn’t actually that much. However, the rise and rise of internet streaming is pushing many traditional broadband ISPs ‘unlimited data’ business models to the absolute limit, as each month they are having to deliver more and more capacity to their networks to ensure a quality user experience but are seeing no increase in revenue per user.

Most ISP’s including BT have abandoned the unlimited data model for their cheaper headline offers already. BT are now charging their customers £1 per GB of data they download over their 10 GB per month basic limit.

Its important to understand the broadband numbers

Generally speaking, regular users of these types of streaming services need to be very aware that whilst sites like Netflix offer great flexibility in what TV you watch and where, they consume huge amounts of data.

Research in America by network management house Sandvine found that the networks are literally “teeming with streaming” and that the average US user streams around 30 TV shows per month (around 21 hours of online streaming).

This type of usage equates to consumption of some 6.3 GB (on ‘good’ quality) and 48.3 GB (on ‘best’ quality) of your allocated data allowance every month.

According to their website Netflix UK’s streams come with three different ‘quality’ settings. The basic option (‘good’) requires a “minimum speed” of 500 Kbps (0.5 Mbps) and will consume a minimum of 0.3GB per hour. Their High Definition (HD) stream (‘best’) chews through up to 2.3GB per hour, and will need a constant, stable speed of at least 5 Mbps to ensure no buffering.

Many ISPs fail to mention to customers that streaming video or TV programs also has an impact on the user’s upload data consumption. Whilst most people can relate to the consumption or download of data when watching TV on-line, only technically aware users may be know that there is a corresponding consumption of uploaded data.

This is because of the way networks and the internet work with constant checks going on to ensure that all the data packets that are being demanded by the user have arrived OK, and are in the right order before passing them on and the users’ software turning the data into something the user can consume whether it be a web page, a TV program or an email. This data upload would account for about 2%-3% of the downloaded or streamed data depending on the quality of the connection.

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