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Understanding Broadband Speed Requirements For Smart TV's 05/06/2015

Growth in connected TV

Before Sky introduced TV services via a satellite dish we all received our programmes via an aerial. Digital terrestrial Freeview services via an aerial are still the most popular way for most of us to receive programmes, but more people are now receiving TV services via broadband and the internet, either directly from Virgin Media or by other broadband providers and then using streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon.

The recent rise in popularity of Smart TV’s, and the ability to view content on a wide range of connected devices such as tablets, phones, and PC’s, means that many of us can now receive programmes in the home via our broadband.

TV via broadband

Catch up TV services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4 on Demand and 5 on Demand have been around for quite a few years and have changed the way we watch television. Originally the content was viewed on PC’s, but with the growth in Smart TV’s it’s now a lot easier to view on your main TV in the lounge.

All these services arrive in your home via the internet and not an aerial. They are collectively known as “streaming” and in recent years have been joined by Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Sky’s NOW TV.

Some of these services can be viewed on a Smart TV that has the relevant “app” available, or via another device connected to the TV, such as the NOW TV Box, Chromecast, PS4™, PS3™, Xbox One, Xbox®360, Roku, YouView box.

Broadband Speed

Most fixed line broadband services enter your home using your telephone line. Different broadband technologies have different maximum connection speeds, such as 24Mb or 80Mb. If a service uses copper telephone cables, then the length of the cable travelled over before entering your home will determine how much your actual broadband speed drops from the maximum speed. The further the distance, in copper cable length, the bigger the slowdown.

For the slower purely-copper services, it’s the distance in cable length from your local telephone exchange to your home that determines the slowdown. For newer services advertised as ‘Fibre Broadband’ (BT Infinity or Virgin Media), fibre optic cables take over for the link from the telephone exchange to the nearest street cabinet, but the final connection from the cabinet to your home still goes over a copper telephone line. As such, Fibre Broadband that enters your home through your telephone line will still have some slowdown from the maximum speed; how much depends on the cable length from the street cabinet to your home.

Broadband Requirements for Streaming TV

BBC recommended speeds for iPlayer:
  • Standard Definition (SD 1366 x 768) - 1.5 Megabits per second
  • High Definition (HD 1920 x 1080) - 2.75 Megabits per second
Netflix recommend the following speeds for streaming TV services:
  • Standard Definition (SD 1366 x 768) - 3 Megabits per second
  • High Definition (HD 1920 x 1080) - 5 Megabits per second
  • Ultra High Definition (UHD 3840 x 2160) - 25 Megabits per second

How to Determine your Broadband Speed

Most broadband providers advertise their broadband services as “up to” speeds, whilst this can give an indication of the maximum speed you can expect it does not give the specific speed at your location.

There are numerous methods of determining broadband speed and the most popular is via one of the recognised internet speed testers via a web browser. Many speed tests are available, including Which (magazine) at , , and many others than can be found via Google.

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