How Unlimited, High-Speed Internet Affects Your Streaming Experience
Cable is dying. You know it, they know it, we all know it—and yet Nielsen reports that video and media consumption is up. How is this possible? Ok, maybe the answer isn’t quite so mysterious, considering there are about 65 million Netflix subscribers worldwide. And Netflix is only one of several streaming services that continue to dominate the entertainment market thanks to high-speed internet. Is it really a surprise that streaming services continue to show steady growth? No. Video streaming meets the demands of the consumer in a way regular cable never has, and at a better price to boot. But what exactly is video streaming? How much bandwidth does it really use? Do you need unlimited internet? And what should consumers know before they stream?
On the internet, data is transmitted in little bits called “packets”. When you download something, you have to wait for all of the packets in the file to arrive before you can use it. However, with streaming you can start using the packets as soon as they arrive, allowing for real time use.
Can you stream video without unlimited internet? Yes, but there are reasons not to. Netflix, for example, offers bandwidth settings, which allows you choose how much data you want to use in exchange for picture quality. For ultra-high definition, it’s about 7 GB per hour; high definition is around 3 GB per hour, and standard definition is about 700 MB per hour. If you only plan on streaming videos a few times a week, unlimited bandwidth might not be necessary, but if you plan on streaming in lieu of cable, that’s a different story. According to BBM Canada, the average Canadian adult watches 30 hours of television a week. Without unlimited Internet, this could quickly result in costly over-usage charges.
Need for Speed
Another question many people have is about whether high-speed internet is worth it or not—after all, hasn’t it come a long way since the 1990s anyway? Even today’s slowest internet packages are faster than the best ones available 15 years ago. But don’t forget that digital media has grown more complex, too. Let’s look at Netflix again: although the company only recommends a 1.5 Mbps connection, that’s for the lowest quality. For an HD picture that doesn’t lag you need at least 5 Mbps, preferably more. Seeing as the FCC considers anything over 4 Mbps to be “high-speed internet,” you can see how video streaming can be a bumpy ride without it.
Forgoing regular cable for a streaming service to cut down on your monthly bills can be the smart choice—you just need to know what you’re doing. Without unlimited, high-speed internet, the cost of video streaming will add up while the quality remains subpar.