4K resolution refers to display medium or content in which the horizontal resolution is of the order of 4,000 pixels. Several 4K resolutions exist in digital television and digital cinematography. The term 4K refers to the horizontal resolution versus vertical as with 1080p which is currently marketed as “Full HD.”
Netflix offering 4K TVs soon
2013 has marked the first time that televisions of this resolution are available to buyers in the United States for under $1000. With models under this price point, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930), Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) and others are finally seeing its 4K TVs finding their way into the mainstream—and the living room. With that comes a challenge for streaming services like Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) to meet the available resolution offered by these TVs.
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Recently, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings spoke of the challenges facing Netflix with regards to 4K TVs at the Copenhagen Furture of TV Conference. Presently, the highest resolution streaming that Netflix offers is Super HD. In order for users to stream this format without buffering or pre-loading they require an Internet connection between 6-12 Mbps. That speed is not offered wholesale in the United States but rather through only a few select ISPs. While that may sound bad, just wait until Ultra HD comes around, requiring even more bandwidth.
Netflix streaming vs Internet bandwidth
“It’s around 15 megabits per second,” said Hastings at the TV Conference. “It’s not too bad. If you’ve got a 50-megabit connection you’ll be fine. As an overall system load, it will grow quite slowly and steadily, giving people lots of time to build the infrastructure.”
While a 50 Mbps is a realistic solution for some, it’s a long ways afield for the average American whose connection sits at around 7.4 Mbps. Essentially, the average American needs to double their connection speed in order to enjoy 4K streaming.
Suffice it to say, 4K resolution looks incredible but is quite a ways away from a possibility at present for all but a small group of Americans. Additionally, at first it won’t even be a matter of whether consumers can afford a 50 Mbps connection but rather whether one is available in their area.