Optimal internet speed for watching videos in 4K

4K content is becoming more prevalent – YouTube and many streaming services offer high-definition video. Having an appropriate monitor or TV is just one of the requirements. You will also need to make sure the internet speed is good enough to watch 4K videos. So what is the optimal speed for these tasks?

What is 4K
In advertisements and on product labels, we often see the 4K icon, but in fact, not everyone knows what kind of resolution is meant by this nameplate. The problem is that the term conventionally includes any resolution that has approximately 4000 pixels horizontally. In this regard, there are several 4K standards at once:

For most TVs and monitors, the Ultra HD 4K standard is adopted, respectively, the picture has a resolution of 3840 × 2160. However, YouTube also supports full-screen videos with a resolution of 4096 × 3072.

Is the difference so big? In fact, if we compare Ultra HD 4K and full-screen format, then by simple calculations we get that in the first case it is necessary to transmit information about 8,294,400 pixels per frame, and in the second – about 12,582,912 pixels. The difference is almost a third.

However, let’s consider the most popular Ultra HD 4K format, since most of the equipment and broadcasts are focused specifically on it.

Codecs and bitrate
Image information is not the only thing transmitted. In addition, videos usually have an audio track and various metadata that are added to the video stream.

The data is encoded and transmitted in a certain way. The “packing” algorithm directly depends on the selected codec. A codec is a device or software that performs data conversion (in our case, encodes and decodes).

Most streaming services and YouTube use several codecs for video transmission: H.264, H.265 (HEVC), VP8, VP9, ​​AV1.

Since each of them encrypts information in its own way, the total amount of data for transmission will differ. The frame rate is also taken into account in parallel. For example, if you need to transmit not 30, but 60 frames per second, then the amount of information for transmission will, on average, be twice as large.

Thus, depending on the codec, file format and frame rate, each video has its own minimum bit rate – the number of bits transmitted per second. It is this indicator that must be coordinated with the speed of the Internet.

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What bitrate is needed for 4K video
It turns out that the 4K format is far from defining. Video bitrate depends on many other parameters. How not to get confused here? For the convenience of users, YouTube offers a table that shows the required bitrate for each specific case.

If we talk about the most ordinary 4K video without HDR effect, then the following requirements are officially presented:

For video with a frequency of up to 30 fps, a speed of up to 45 Mbps is required. If you want to watch videos with a frequency of 60 fps, then you need to allocate a speed of 68 Mbps. These are not absolute figures, but only service recommendations.

If you have a TV or monitor that supports HDR (10-bit color depth), then there are more stringent requirements for such content:Type of Video bitrate (24, 25, 30 frames) Video bitrate (48, 50, 60 frames)

Thus, for comfortable viewing of 4K videos from YouTube at 60 frames per second without HDR, you will need to provide Internet access from the device at a speed of 70 Mbps.

Don’t confuse megabytes and megabytes. To get megabytes per second, divide megabytes by 8. For example, 100 Mbps = 12.5 Mbps

What about streaming services
Since each of them uses its own video stream transmission parameters, the requirements are different:Streaming service Average video bitrate 4K, Mbps The stated minimum requirements, Mbps

This low bitrate for 4K is largely due to the use of the H.265 (HEVC) and VP9 codecs, which have some of the best compression rates. The problem is that not all devices support these codecs. For example, if the content requires H.265, and your TV does not have the appropriate decoder, then you will not be able to start the video.

Since 2020, for example, at Netflix, content is gradually reoriented to work with the AV1 codec.Knowing what bitrate is needed for 4K movies and videos, you can make a list of requirements for home equipment.

First, you’ll need an Ultra HD 4K smart TV or monitor. You should also pay attention to the fact that each streaming service has a list of 4K-compatible TV identifiers. If your device is not included in this list, then, most likely, you will not be able to switch the quality to 4K. Most of the streaming apps available for Russia can be downloaded from local stores for your TV.

If you do not have a smart TV, but at the same time it has 4K resolution, then you can use a smart set-top box. Note, however, that it only needs to be connected to the TV with a Premium High Speed ​​HDMI cable, which has enough bandwidth for 4K 60 FPS. Both devices must support HDMI 2.0 or later.If there are no problems with playback devices, then move on to the next requirement – Internet speed. According to the Speedtest service for June 2021, the average Internet access speed for Russia is 88.9 Mbps, and for mobile – 27.2 Mbps.

A 70-80 Mbps wired connection is enough for watching 4K content via streaming services, and you can also play 4K videos from YouTube at 60 fps without any problems. Mobile internet is also sufficient for online cinemas, but only if it delivers honest 25 Mbps.

What about satellite internet
There are several operators in Russia that offer similar services. Among them are Eutelsat Networks, KiteNet, StarBlazer Tandem and others. The most expensive tariffs offer speeds of up to 40 Mbps, which is enough for watching 4K movies on one TV through streaming platforms. However, typical speeds for satellite internet are typically 8-16 Mbps, which is not the minimum requirement for most online cinemas.If we talk about satellite TV, then the number of available 4K channels for most operators is usually in units.

Cable vs. Wi-Fi: What You Need to Know
At 100 Mbps, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of watching 4K content on your TV. However, in practice, several devices are connected to the Internet at once at home, and many have two or three TVs in different rooms, not to mention mobile gadgets.

The best way to connect smart TV and set-top boxes to the Internet is via cable. This guarantees the fastest possible access speed. Most modern models of routers have LAN ports with a bandwidth of up to 100 Mbps. With a similar tariff, you can easily watch 4K content on three TVs at once, given the condition that most services require a 25 Mbps channel. Also make sure there are enough LAN ports for all home appliances, including your computer.The 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4) standard provides up to 150 Mbps per transmission stream. In practice, the connection speed is usually 40–70 Mbps, depending on the distance of the device and the presence of interference. These routers operate at 2.4 GHz and are suitable for users who have one 4K TV and several mobile gadgets that will be connected wirelessly.

Standard WiFi 5 (802.11ac) provides for single channel speed to 866.7 Mbit / s (at 160 MHz and modulation 256-QAM). In practice, you can get 100-150 Mbps without any problems. This is more than enough for a couple of 4K TVs and other mobile gadgets. The main problem is the operating frequency of 5 GHz. The signal will be vulnerable to concrete walls, metal structures and even furniture.

If you have more than three 4K TVs and related gadgets, then there are several options. The first is to connect some of the TVs by wired, and the rest via Wi-Fi. This will distribute the load, but at the same time you must have a tariff of 150 Mbit / s.

The second option is to buy a dual-band router that can operate simultaneously at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. However, here you should check what frequencies the wireless modules of your TVs are operating on. If they are all only 2.4 GHz compatible, then buying a dual band router might be pointless.Routers with Wi-Fi 6 offer even higher speeds per channel – up to 1.2 Gbps, but there are still not many TVs, smart set-top boxes or mobile gadgets supporting the new standard.

Also, make sure that the device is within the coverage area of ​​the router , and the signal level is not weaker than -60 dBi.

Thus, for comfortable viewing of films in 4K through online cinemas, the Internet will be enough even at 40 Mbps. If you have several TVs or want to watch videos on YouTube, we recommend taking a tariff of 100 Mbps so that there is enough traffic for all gadgets.