Traffic Growth Decelerates on Flagging 4K Demand, More Efficient Video Encoding

Fiber optic
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The 4K revolution appears to have stalled out. 

According to high-profile streaming technology analyst Dan Rayburn, an executive at an ISP he spoke to said that less than 10% of digital bits transmitted over the company's network are related to 4K/Ultra High Definition video -- roughly flat with 2021. 

Meanwhile, an also-unnamed official for an OTT service provider said that less than 2% of the company's streaming time to customers was for 4K/UHD video. 

Certainly, 4K isn't cheap. A majority of smart TV displays in the U.S. market, for example, support the video resolution standard. But a Netflix customer will pay an additional $4.50 a month over the $15.49-a-month standard plan -- $19.99 -- in order to get the "Premium" tier that offers movies and series in 4K/UHD. 

Reporting on his Streaming Media Blog, Rayburn framed the discussion into the larger context of a sudden deceleration of digital traffic being experienced by both internet service providers and content delivery networks.

“Since the beginning of the year our combined peak ingress internet traffic (IP transit, public and private peering, CDN and caching) has been down more than has been in other years," the ISP source told Rayburn. "It is not unusual to be down or flat till this time of the year, but even with subscriber growth we are down this year. I am thinking our year end traffic growth will be lower this year as we are still negative for the year.”

For his part, Rayburn also attributes the phenomenon to more efficient video encoding on behalf of streaming video service providers. 

"Since the start of the year, many streaming services have focused on doing a better job of optimizing their bitrates and in some cases, reducing their bitrate ladders in an effort to save money," Rayburn wrote. 

It's a major factor, he noted, in why top CDN provider Akamai saw an 11% year-over-year slide in Q2 revenue. 

This article originally appeared on TV Tech sister brand NextTV.