BBC iPlayer will have 4K HDR streams for 2018 Fifa World Cup
For those with fast enough broadband connections and the BBC is recommending 40 Mbps and faster for the full 4K HDR streams to work there is an opportunity to watch the FIFA 2018 World Cup in unprecedented detail assuming you have a TV that supports the correct HDR standard. All 29 matches the BBC will be showing will be available in the 4K and HDR formats.
This is the first time that the BBC iPlayer has offered such a high quality stream but with streams limited in number of a first come first served basis and that a 40 Mbps or faster connection is recommend there will be many who will not be able to see the much improved resolution of 4K and better colour ranges that HDR provide. 40 Mbps may sound a lot more than say Netflix UHD streams and that is because the World Cup streams are live, so optimisation from multi-pass encoding is not available and the detail of the grass on a football pitch is one of the big tests of streaming, i.e. maintaining the visibility of the blades of grass when doing a fast pan requires a higher bit rate.
To help everyone spot whether their connection is up to the task, we have added a message to our speed test that looks at the single stream speed i.e. what video streaming is doing and report on what is thought to be possible. The majority of speed testers only carry out a multiple download test which is good for seeing the maximum speed of your broadband but tells you little about your abilities to watch a video stream.
Another reason why the bit rate is so high is that the BBC footage is running at 50 frames per second. The HDR improvements require your TV and devices to support the hybrid log gamma (HLG) version of HDR but even if your devices don't support this you will see 4K content if in the lucky tens of thousands who will able to see the streams.
If your broadband speeds are below 40 Mbps but above 20 Mbps then while you will miss out on the full 4K experience a better than HD 2560 pixel wide feed will be used and below that you will fall into the clutches of the usual High Definition feed.
With a streaming test (tbbx1) of 16.4 Mbps the connection above should actually support a couple of High Definition streams but will fall short of being able to access 2560 pixel wide stream. For those who have 60 Mbps and faster connections you may assume you will have no problems streaming, but it is a reality of the contended nature of the Internet and your local Wi-Fi experience that the stream test can be substationally lower than the main download test, therefore it is best to double check what your streaming speeds are likely going to be.
The analysis button at the end of our speed test usefully compares your test result to others using the same type of connection technology and if you enter your postcode will let you know how you stand compared to others in your region of the UK, with no postcode we will compare you to the UK wide results.
A word of advice for those who will be streaming the World Cup even if your speeds are good enough, make sure that other devices using your connection do not suddenly go and ruin things with for example downloading a few Gigabytes of software updates.
In terms of the World Cup breaking the Internet, we expect the matches to have a visible impact just as other major sporting events have had, the cap on the number of 4K streams from the BBC iPlayer will avoid everything falling apart, but there is always the risk that some providers who are running very close to maximum capacity will be performing below their best and it may. It is 99% certain that the majority of viewing will be over the traditional broadcast mediums but social media streams will quickly fill up with commentary on the matches.