Study: Most Broadband Links Not ‘4K-Ready’

Even if you’re one of the few that has an Ultra HD/4K TV set, there’s still not much content there to take advantage of the eye-popping format.

And considering that most of today’s 4K fare is delivered over-the-top, consumers will also need access to a speedy broadband connection to see that content in all of its pixel-packed glory. Even with the help of more efficient codecs such as High Efficiency Video Cod ing (HEVC), a sustained connection of about 15 Megabits per second will be required to view streams in Ultra HD.

As viewed through the lens of Akamai Technologies, one of the world’s leading content-delivery networks, the vast majority of broadband connections around the globe still fall short of that mark.

In its latest quarterly State of the Internet Report, Akamai found that just 12% of its connections worldwide were considered “4K-ready,” though global 4K-readiness did climb 32% year-over-year.

The situation was a bit better in the U.S., where 19% of Akamai connections were delivering 15 Mbps or more in the third quarter of 2014, up from 17% in Akamai’s findings in the first quarter of 2014. But the U.S.’s showing in the third quarter still was not enough to warrant a spot in the global top 10. Canada also fell outside the top 10, with 14% of connections at 15 Mbps or more, down 15% from the second quarter, but up 62% on a yearover- year basis.

Among individual U.S. states, Delaware was the most 4K-ready, with 39% of connections offering 15 Mbps or more, followed by Connecticut (31%); Massachusetts (29%); Washington (27%); Washington, D.C., New Jersey and Rhode Island (26%); Utah and Virginia (24%); and New Hampshire (23%).

Looking ahead, ISPs will be pressured to deliver more than the 4K streaming benchmark of 15 Mbps. Earlier this month, Multichannel News confirmed that Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has circulated a proposal to change the definition of broadband to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream — well above the current definition of 4 Mbps/1 Mbps.

And the focus on 4K readiness comes as new streaming services emerge. Among U.S. multichannel videoprogramming distributors, DirecTV and Comcast have introduced relatively small 4K streaming offerings. Dish Network outlined its initial 4K plans earlier this month at the International CES confab, noting that its new 4K Joey device will be capable of streaming in 4K but initially will obtain UHD content via satellite for playback on the new device.

Netflix and M-GO have also launched 4K streaming offerings, with M-GO recently unveiling a download service that does not require the same sustained bandwidth requirements of its streaming option.