Welcome back to our series exploring the nuts and bolts of resolution and how it affects network speed and bandwidth. In Part 1, we covered the road to high definition, and explained why the rise of 8K is putting new emphasis on the need for structured wiring installations to futureproof homes against an inevitable bandwidth crunch.
In this second installment, we’re turning our sights on network speed, throughput, and compression codecs.
Untangling bandwidth, speed, and throughput
When it comes to explaining bandwidth and network speed, we’re all familiar with the pipe analogy: The wider the pipe, the more data squeezes through at once, the higher the network speed.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. A better analogy is to think of bandwidth and network speed like a bridge. Early network connections were essentially a single-lane bridge, where cars would have to take turns travelling in each direction. Later networks introduced full duplex communication, which turned that single-lane bridge into a two-lane one.
Increasing the bandwidth of a network really just means adding more lanes to the bridge, so more cars can travel across at once in both directions. The amount of cars (data) that arrive at their destination per second is known as throughput. How fast those cars are driving is important, to be sure, but consider this: A 6-lane bridge with cars driving at high speed will deliver a higher throughput than a 2-lane bridge with cars driving at blazing speed.
Eliminating network bottlenecks
Continuing with our bridge analogy, let’s imagine that both ends feature a tollbooth. What happens to throughput? It drops—dramatically—as cars slow down to pass through each checkpoint.
In a network, tollbooths are things like routers, modems, Wi-Fi extenders, and even low-latency cable. It doesn’t matter how much bandwidth your ISP is delivering into your home if there are bottlenecks spread throughout your network.
As we move rapidly toward the widespread adoption of 4K Ultra HD as a streaming standard (and soon thereafter, 8K), it’s becoming more and more important to plan for future bandwidth demands in the home. That means ruthlessly eliminating any and all bottlenecks from the network. The most effective way? Structured wiring installations, with fiber optic cabling run throughout the home so more and more devices can skip the tollbooths entirely and be directly connected to the network.
The future of video compression
When we talk about the future of 4K and 8K streaming, it’s also important to include data compression. In the early days of video, we had simple forms of compression, such as run length encoding (RLE). This was a type that was considered “lossless” as none of the original data was lost in the process.
RLE simply records multiples of consecutive values to save data space. This worked fine for monochrome and 16 color video, but as video quality has increased, we’ve needed more complex compression technology.
Today, streaming video requires lots and lots of bandwidth. Compression may reduce the amount of data that needs to be transmitted, but this can lead to a loss in original video quality.
In Part 3 we will discuss “lossy” compression codecs and how video streaming sites are handling bandwidth demands.