Adam Hotchkiss

Jul 26, 2016

How Plume WiFi’s Auto Channel Hop makes your 4K Netflix better

Full WiFi bars is the new norm thanks to multiple access point systems. However, we’ve all experienced that full bars doesn’t always parlay into a fast connection to the Internet. That’s because where speed is concerned, so much depends on how WiFi channel and route selection is computed to backhaul the traffic from the back room of your home to your cable or DSL modem located on the other side of the home.

Optimized for speed and reliability with Auto Channel Hop

Let’s look at the case where you have a new 4K TV that you set up in your game room. Like anyone else who buys a 4K TV you immediately:

  1. Launch Netflix, find some 4K content and start streaming.
  2. Press the standard “Info” button to see the resolution setting provided by Netlifx on most streaming players and TVs.
  3. When you reach “2160”, you’ve made it to 4K glory.

Netflix recommends 25Mbps to achieve this, but you’ll want much more in order to buffer up faster and avoid dipping back to regular HD quality. Plume’s Adaptive WiFi algorithm notices this spike of traffic to your TV and kicks into action. Since a WiFi Pod is located in each room, and each Pod has the unique capability to connect to any available number of WiFi channels, the algorithm rolls up its sleeves and computes the performance achieved for every possible combination of route and channel between each Pod, taking into account other WiFi traffic activity, the speed of the connection between Pods and interference from your neighbors’ WiFi (you know who they are).

The figure below shows the possible connection routes in your home to connect the ISP modem with your 4K TV. The multitude of route choices is shown on the left, containing the possibilities of connections made between each WiFi node in the home. Each connection is unique, in that the performance between nodes is affected by WiFi and non-WiFi activity in and around the home. The computed, optimized route solution in the second figure shows the route selected from the cloud. However, the route shown is using a single WiFi channel — as is typical in a mesh system — resulting in only 1/3 of the speed due to self-generated interference.

 
Possible network choices and the selected route for the 4K stream

What is Self-generated Interference?

WiFi is a shared, simplex protocol. That means only one conversation between two devices can occur in the network at any given time, and if one device is talking the others needs to be listening. It’s the same concept as having a conversation at the dinner table. When Mom is talking, everyone is listening. But if multiple people start talking at the same time, chaos breaks out and next thing you know Aunt Margaret is in tears and someone has their fingers in the Jello. That’s self-generating interference. But you have a 4K movie to stream, and you shouldn’t have to wait for your backup to finish to watch it. By using different WiFi channels, multiple simultaneous conversations can happen- one for your 4K stream and one for the backup.

Enter Auto Channel Hop

By selecting different WiFi channels on the links, interference is avoided, keeping your Netflix stream on firehose mode. The cloud automatically configures your Plume Pods in this optimized channel hop solution so House of Cards plays in uninterrupted, gorgeous 4K. The figure below highlights different WiFi channels being used.

 
Channel Hop your 4K

Why Kevin Spacey likes WiFi headroom

While streaming video looks nice and smooth on your TV, to your WiFi it’s a hectic flurry of hurry up and wait activity, pushing WiFi to the limits to fill your player’s buffer. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime monitor these buffers closely. The faster you can fill up these buffers, the better video quality you will be rewarded with, and why wouldn’t you want the best! Based on the speed of your WiFi, the video streaming service decides whether your video quality should be HD or 4K UHD for an uninterrupted playback experience. As the figure below shows, the start of the streaming session requests the maximum bandwidth you can deliver — in this 4K case >80Mbps. After the initial buffers are full, a periodic request for data is made to make sure the buffers are happy and the highest video quality initially selected is maintained. Any lapse of bandwidth kills the deal, forcing you down to a lower resolution.

 

Plume chooses routes and channels for the WiFi system with enough headroom to handle the chaotic needs of streaming video. So, pull out your cell phone, open up your favorite speed test app like Ookla and see what speeds you are getting right now in your home. Do it in different corners of your home. Is your home ready for your 4K streaming needs for today and tomorrow? If not, do yourself and Kevin Spacey a favor and 4K proof your home.

Check out how Plume can give you More WiFi.

tech wifi 4k Video Streaming Netflix