Changes in TV Viewing Habits to Further Push Bandwidth Demands

WASHINGTON – The trend toward obtaining video and audio content via the Internet, and bypassing programming offered by traditional cable and satellite providers, is advancing more quickly than previously believed because of a sea-change in the viewing habits of younger consumers, according to a study commissioned by the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Council Americas.

The Council noted that this trend will further accelerate demands for more bandwidth and faster connectivity in North American households, pushed by wider availability of Internet-connected televisions, growth in the number of simultaneous video streams per household and the development of more robust streaming standards to support high quality HD and super HD video.

Based on its survey of 2,000 U.S. and Canadian subscribers to fixed broadband services – cable, DSL and FTTH – the market research firm RVA LLC estimates that 40 percent are accessing at least some video programming through so-called “over-the-top” video services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and iTunes, as well as through a variety of applications for mobile devices through the Internet. However, for those who are under age 35, the figure jumps to 70 percent.

“It is clear that a fast-growing number of people are looking to the Internet to get the video programming they want – when and where they want it,” said FTTH Council President Heather Burnett Gold. “But this survey shows that the trend is very much a home-based phenomenon, where televisions, tablets, smart-phones and other devices are drawing broadband signal from a household Wi-Fi router that is served by a wireline connection.”

“With younger subscribers driving this practice, the trend toward video over the Internet will accelerate household bandwidth requirements, particularly as broadband subscribers demand better video quality and purchase more devices that connect to their Wi-Fi routers,” said Gold.

Mulitple Devices Used Simultaneously
For example, one-third of survey respondents said they own both a smart-phone and a tablet device, and members of that group reported that they are using at least one of those devices during almost half the time they are watching television. More than 80 percent of these heavy users of mobile devices say they connect them to their broadband service via Wi-Fi when they are using them at home. Survey results showed that the average broadband-connected household currently has five Internet-connected devices.

“This is actually about more than bandwidth,” said Gold. “It’s about having unwavering speed and a noise-free network so that over-the-top services and applications to play flawlessly, without any hesitation or buffering. And on that issue FTTH networks have proven themselves as the consumer’s access technology of choice.”

Gold noted that bandwidth is already an issue, pointing to a recent study in which the video stream optimization company Conviva examined analyzed 22.6 billion streams for some of the largest content owners on the web. The company found that 60 percent of the streams suffered from some quality degradation leading to re-buffering, slow start up or poor picture quality.

Younger Viewers View More Online
The RVA survey also showed that more than 13 percent of under-35 broadband users identified themselves as getting all of their television/movie programming through the Internet and not accessing broadcast or cable programming at all. About half of the people in this group have never purchased programming from a cable or satellite television provider. Across all age categories, about five percent of broadband consumers are now receiving all of their programming from the Internet.

“When you add up the accelerating demand for sharper video, uninterrupted streaming and faster downloads, it is clear that North America will increasingly need the unparalleled bandwidth and super-fast connectivity that fiber to the home networks deliver,” said Gold.

Growing Speed Gap between Fiber and other Technologies

As part of the survey, respondents were asked to test the bandwidth they are currently receiving via speedtest.net and report their findings. The results showed a growing gap between households connected with fiber to the home services and those relying on other access technologies such as cable modem and DSL. FTTH subscribers reported an average of 23.9 Mbps download speeds and 14.2 Mbps connectivity for uploading information, well ahead of the average 15 Mbps/2.8 Mbps that cable customers are receiving and 4.6 Mpbs/0.7 Mbps for DSL households.


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