Multi-bitrate vs. Adaptive Bitrate

Multi-bitrate vs. Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

The coronavirus pandemic has increased digital adoption at every stage of the user workflow of today. As working from home has become more widespread and OTT consumption across demographics and geographies has increased, the Quality of Experience (QoE) has emerged as a critical parameter for OTT (over-the-top) companies today. Multi-bitrate vs. Adaptive Bitrate comes to mind when the topic will be the Quality of Experience.

The End-User’s Experience 

Users are extremely impatient and expect uninterrupted streaming with TV-like picture quality and an enhanced viewing experience from OTT. Therefore, companies need to balance high picture quality with superior streaming quality. 

Improved technologies enable OTT companies to deliver on both of these fronts, reduce buffering, and improve online picture quality. 

Apart from OTTs, online videos are growing in consumption. In fact, videos have become the most popular consumption choice today, with 9 out of 10 people responding to an InVideo survey stating they would like to see more videos from the brands and businesses they follow

It is also projected that in 2022, an average person is expected to watch over 100 minutes of video every single day!

Needless to say, videos are going to be a very crucial part of brands’ marketing and communications strategies. Quality stream and performance will be key for businesses to succeed with video marketing efforts. 

What Is Video Bitrate? 

Bitrate is a crucial component of video quality that helps companies maintain the right balance between performance and quality. Higher bitrate means more data is transferred every second, and hence in case the available network bandwidth is low, then higher bitrate streaming may not work smoothly.

What companies need is a mechanism that automatically optimizes the bitrate that is suited to the streaming condition and network connection speed available to viewers. 

There are two popular mechanisms within bitrate to achieve this — adaptive streaming and multi-bitrate streaming. 

But first, let us understand this in detail – what does bitrate mean? 

Bitrate refers to the measure of bytes of data that is transmitted over the network and consumed by the viewer on their device within a set period of time. 

In general, videos at a higher bitrate are of higher quality than videos at a lower bitrate. And it is essential to understand that bitrate is not the only parameter that defines the video quality of experience. There are many more metrics, such as resolution (height of video* width of video), frame rate, and others. 

All these metrics are closely related to each other. Take for example, bitrates and resolutionsboth work in correlation with each other. The higher the video resolution, the higher bitrate you will need to make the video look good. 

There are a lot of questions that you must answer from the customer’s point of view, so make the right decisions by considering a range of parameters and factors, not just bitrate alone. 

The Benefits of MBR and ABR

If you’re familiar with the basics of configuring live streams, you may have heard the terms multi-bitrate (MBR) and adaptive bitrate (ABR).

Often, multi-bitrate streaming is used synonymously with adaptive bitrate streaming, but there are crucial differences to consider between both of these concepts. One difference is how OTT companies are using them to deliver improved user experiences with video streaming. 

Multi-bitrate streaming increases video delivery efficiency to maximize the bitrate delivery by adjusting it to the available network internet speed.

You might have noticed this on your favorite OTT platforms — the video automatically shifts from unclear and hazy to a high quality depending on the available network bandwidth and congestion. 

This is Adaptive Bitrate Streaming in action for you — this technology ensures that the entire video plays without buffering or interruptions. This technology makes the video available to you in a variety of different bitrates, and then it performs a continuous test to determine which bitrate is best suited for you, given your network conditions. The stream, over the appropriate bitrate, is then played before you. 

There are several mission-critical infrastructures and applications to handle within a business environment. These will be drawing upon the available bandwidth and can lead to fluctuations in the quality of video streaming. 

These can become complex, and it is not easy to solve these using traditional approaches. Hence, implementing an MBR and ABR approach into video streaming delivery becomes very important to succeed with these important use cases, which are increasingly incorporating videos for business reasons. 

There are additional factors, such as packet loss and bitrate, that affect the quality of the end-user experience. 

There is one crucial difference between MBR and ABR, however. An ABR approach changes the video dynamically by automatically analyzing the available bandwidth at the user’s end and adjusting the video quality. 

ABR streaming is currently supported by streaming protocols such as HLS and MPEG-DASH protocols. These protocols are both HTTP-based, so they’re an effective way to stream progressively downloaded video content as individual parts.

This, however, gives less flexibility and limited available options at the user’s end. This is also resource-intensive at both the source and the user’s point in the network. 

The MBR, on the other hand, encodes, transcodes, and delivers multiple arrays of the video to the user, providing more flexibility to the users. MBR also requires intensive computing.

Today, several software-defined enterprise content delivery platforms are available, which can help your business combine the best of both worlds. Using this approach, you can deliver your video stream in MBR to a selected audience group over a network segment, and ABR to another segment. 

This will help you optimize your content delivery and deal with unpredictable and intermittent internet fluctuations without letting them impact the performance of your video stream. 

To succeed with both ABR & MBR, companies need to have a reliable network infrastructure in place that complements these technologies. 

Content Delivery Networks help to do just that, as they use a network of geographically spread out and strategically located servers to host and deliver content to the user from the closest point of presence (PoPs).

Get a Customized CDN Plan For Your Video Streaming

At Medianova, we provide global CDN solutions and cloud platforms, and we are experienced in streaming, encoding, caching, micro caching, hybrid CDN, and website acceleration. 

With its footprint in 21 countries and 100% SSD-powered anycast network, Medianova is one of the fastest HTTPS secure CDNs in Europe and the Middle East based on Cedexis.

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