4K streaming is here, get ready for it

November 6th, 2014 | by Techgoondu
4K streaming is here, get ready for it

Brought to you by ViewQwest

Gone are the days when a high-definition or HD programme was the sharpest thing you’ll see on the goggle box at home. Today, you’ll probably have heard of something even better – ultra HD or 4K TV – which offers four times the detail and sharpness.

This pin-sharp resolution means two things. First, even if you buy a much larger TV at home, you won’t see the annoying pixels because they are a lot smaller now. Second, you’ll be able to see a lot more minute detail, say, the texture of a piece of wood or clothing.

It’s true there isn’t that much content on 4K yet. But that’s changing fast. Some of the first programmes that are available today are on streaming services such as Netflix from the United States.

Netflix got the ball rolling earlier this year when it first showed its popular House of Cards drama series in sharp 4K resolution. It now also has Breaking Bad and more titles to follow. Rival streaming services such as Amazon are also preparing their lineup of 4K streaming videos now.

To view these programmes, however, you’ll need a fast and uninterrupted video stream enabled by your broadband service provider. Each 4K stream can take up as much as 20Mbps of bandwidth, so it’s a lot more demanding than regular HD videos.

That’s not all. You’ll need a TV set too, obviously. Is there are list of things to tick off before seeing House of Cards or Breaking Bad in all its 4K glory? Yes, here are a few pointers on what you need.

1. 4K TV set
This is the obvious part. You’ll need a screen that can display all the pixels to see the detail. The tricky part is selecting the right 4K TV. If you are in the US, you’ll have to carefully look through a list of TVs supported by each streaming service. Netflix has a list here.

Usually, you have to fire up an app on the TV to watch the 4K stream. This spells trouble for Singapore users because TV sets sold here usually are not configured with the same firmware onboard. Fortunately, you can sometimes change the region setting by simply going through the software menus on the TV.

How do you know for sure? At the shop, check that you can make this change – Samsung 4K TVs in Singapore have been known to allow this – or you might not be able to fire up an app to watch the 4K programmes!

2. An overseas link (that’s fast)
If you have been connecting to overseas streaming services like Netflix, you’ll know that you have to use a VPN (virtual private networking) or DNS (domain name system) redirecting service. This helps you get past the “geo-blocking” that is usually set up to prevent overseas viewers like you from tuning in.
With regular HD programmes, many VPN or DNS providers may be up to the task. But with the much more demanding amounts of data flowing through a 4K stream? It might be a big ask of the US$9.90-a-month service to keep a big pipe open for you alone.

If you don’t get enough bandwidth from your overseas link, the stream automatically goes back to regular HD. In other words, even if you have a 4K TV, you don’t get a 4K stream.

Solution? Go with a broadband service provider that provides a DNS redirection service as part of its offering. Better yet, go with one that has 4K video streaming tried and tested. So far, ViewQwest is the only one to have demonstrated this to journalists in Singapore.

3. No interruption from your service provider
The “last mile” connection to your home is obviously very important as well. Would any 100Mbps fibre broadband service suffice since 4K streams will take about 20Mbps? Not really.

That’s because the 100Mbps on paper that many service providers promise is usually just the top speed. This is subject to network congestion and even throttling by service providers to control the amount of traffic on the network. In many instances, you don’t get 100Mbps. You don’t get the low latency that’s necessary for smooth video streaming.

Your service provider has to be committed to providing a great 4K streaming experience. First, by not throttling such video streams from overseas. Second, by optimising the connection through finding the best route to these video servers providing the stream.

Look for an Internet service provider that has a proven record of not throttling the way users connect. What you also want is an optimised route to the most popular sites online. Not sure of this? Ask your service provider if it offers these important features.

So don’t wait for 4K programmes to come to Singapore in a few years’ time. Get in the action and enjoy the ultra-sharp images today by signing up with the right broadband service provider. Start viewing 4K content without delay.

Find out more at Viewqwest.com

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