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Ultra HD on its way to Amazon Instant Video
Thursday 11 December 2014 10:54:19 by Andrew Ferguson

The choice of 30 Mbps as a minimum speed for 2020 may be challenged by the rise of Ultra HD streaming, with the announcement that it is coming to Amazon Instant Video increasing the availability of video at this quality, though it appears to be only for the US currently. Unlike Netflix where 4K and HD content requires a more expensive subscription it appears that Amazon are rolling it out to all Prime members.

Ultra HD content generally requires a minimum of 20 Mbps, but a few Mbps extra are always useful particularly for action based content where variable rate codecs may need to burst higher to cope with complex scenes unless the quality is to be compromised.

While this raises the question over how will the UK cope, we believe that widespread adoption of 4K is still some way off and in fact many who have already purchased Ultra HD televisions are left with sets that cannot play this content since the crucial H.265 codec is missing. A number of 2014 models are expected to support the codec, but even then price may be a big issue for example the Sony FMPX-10 Ultra HD media player that is only compatible with Sony 4K televisions seems to retail for around £800.


Posted by otester over 2 years ago
As long as FTTC is available you can upgrade to 330Mbps.
Posted by ian72 over 2 years ago
@otester - only if you are in specific areas of the country, have lots of money and potentially need to be a business (as a number of consumers have been unable to get FTTPoD). Also, very limited number of suppliers offering.
Posted by adspence over 2 years ago
the fact that there are only a few devices - i.e. only some Smart TVs - that can playback 4K is more of a showstopper than the bandwidth needed. Even Amazons own FireTV box isn't capable of 4K. I have the bandwidth and plan to get a 4K capable projector, not a "smart" TV, so the lack of standalone boxes is the showstopper. My new Hyperoptic link is way overqualified for serving the data :)
Posted by astateoftrance over 2 years ago
@Andrew - I have Netlfix and HD/Ultra HD are included in the standard subscription price. AFAIK there is only one subscription option.
Posted by SaticICE over 2 years ago
@astateoftrance - you are on a legacy product. New subscribers need to plump for a more expensive subscription.

Also my 4K TV for under £700 plays Netflix 4k fine!
Posted by JNeuhoff over 2 years ago
So how of these fake 'fibre broadband' lines delivered through twisted-pair copper wires will axctually be able to cope with 4K video streaming? And what about the bandwidth usages?
Posted by csimon over 2 years ago
"..will actually be able to cope with 4K video streaming?"

Average speed in UK is now 23Mbps so "on average" we can already cope and it will have increased substantially by the time 4K broadcasts and TVs become common. That is, cope as effectively as those of us on lower-than-2Mbps are currently coping and have coped with low-res and pixellated Youtube and iPlayer content for several years, so I'm sure everyone else will be able to cope with pixellated 4K video, stuttering & buffering for a few years.
Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
I fully expect OTT 4k content to be streamed with the h.265 codec in the 15-20kbps region, once the codec development & usage stabilises.

Ofcom nicely told us that, purely within FTTC, 20% of lines get less than 38Mbps; 12% of lines get less than 30Mbps; 6% get less than 20Mbps.

All figures taken from those lines with subscriptions, rather than estimates of availability.
Posted by TheEulerID over 2 years ago
Given the average viewing distance and size of typical screen in UK living rooms any differences are either beyond normal eyesight acuity or marginal at best (most digital cinemas don't do 4K).

Personally I'd much prefer to watch a great film on SD than something mediocre on UHD. Plot, character, dialogue and so on are so much more important than a fairly superficial tech fix.
Posted by TheEulerID over 2 years ago
nb. this is one such test. a 55" 4K screen at 9 feet is perceptible. Whether it is that important is another thing. Note that in comparing 2K to 4K it's important to note that there are many other variables in image quality, and newer screens might be expected to be better.
Posted by astateoftrance over 2 years ago
@SatICE - wasn't aware of that, thanks for pointing it out. I better not cancel my subscription then especially as it's £5.99 P/M with UHD, not that my internet is fast enough for it yet.
Posted by otester over 2 years ago

Most areas have some sort of FTTP option and if you can't afford it then you should probably be working, not slouching at home trying to watch 4K.
Posted by ian72 over 2 years ago
@otester - you obviously know something I don't. FTTP is available in very few places. FTTPoD is not available in that many more and if it was available would cost probably £2K+ install and £200+ a month where I live (36 month contract). That leaves leased lines - not cheap at all. So, what average working person could afford those options?
Posted by inkpen over 2 years ago
But still no subtitles for us hard of hearing, shame!
Posted by merrymouse over 2 years ago
I have four Sony products with the Amazon instant app on and not one of them can play the films in 5-1 sound. Was told Amazon tech working on it but it's been 2 years so I don't purchase any movies from them use Netflix instead. 5.1 sound no problem.
Posted by inkpen over 2 years ago
Netflix, subtitles no problem! (mostly)
Posted by paulmjstone over 2 years ago
Netflix 4k breaking bad, house of cards some 'demos' (oceans, flowers, forests and deserts) and now Marco Polo. Worth £3 extra? I'm not sure, so I'm glad Amazon are bringing competition for no increase in subs.
Plus net fibre ~50Mbs on a Sony TV and I've noticed some films hd or otherwise jittering - which I stops if you pause and go.

If only Sony would support NowTV we might get newer films too.
In fact why can't we have an EU RULING that says all smart devices must support all platforms cf the browser issues on Windows?
Posted by michaels_perry over 2 years ago
I am left wondering whether our internet infrastructure can actually cope with the massive volume of data traffic UHD requires. If everyone has it then the whole internet will desparately need a vast overhaul to be able to deliver a reasonable experience when everyone else is also streaming masses of data for their favourite programmes too! Not only the backbone but also the servers will need a massive investment so everyone gets a reasonable experience at the same time.
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