OTA HDTV Reception Q&A

Updates on the DTV transition and how to receive over-the-air digital television for free.

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Location: Richmond, IL, United States

Hello there! I created this blog to share the information about over-the-air HDTV reception you have been wearily searching the Web or calling technical lines for, whether you have decided for less expensive means to get your favorite TV shows, or still adjusting from the over the air broadcast DTV transition that occurred on June 12, 2009. After working for a leading antenna manufacturer for almost 5 years, during which time I've shared my expertise with those who asked on the phone and by email at work, I decided to do the same in the Blogosphere! Confused about getting your local HD channels? Just click through the archives, some of the most useful information is in the early posts from 2005-06. If you want to get in touch with me with antenna related questions, just leave a comment anywhere on this site.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

WIRELESS HD INTERNET VIDEO WORKS - WITH THE RIGHT ROUTER

Last summer I posted my experiences with the Roku Internet video player on a 720p monitor via HDMI, and streaming the video wirelessly. Since then, Roku opened up its open-development channel store in late November 2009 to finally bring original Web video to the TV set, and released two additional boxes. One of the new boxes, retailing for $120, is 802.11n WiFi compatible to allow HD video streaming at a longer distance from the router in a house than with the original 802.11g model, which is still available. Roku also released a basic player for about $80 with no HDMI output nor HD streaming, but rather as a set-top box for standard definition TV sets for those who still find a use for them after the broadcast TV transition to digital happened in June 2009.

I have the original Roku player with 802.11g WiFi, and following the opening of the Roku Channel Store, I would discover the importance of selecting the right router to ensure the best possible HD video experience wirelessly. When the Roku Channel Store opened, I added Revision3, Blip.TV, MediaFly, and FrameChannel where I can see news posts, photos from professionals as well as my own pictures I can upload, and pictures sent from friends and family via user-approved e-mail addresses. FrameChannel also lets me see recent Twitter posts from people I follow as well as recent posts related to a search feature.

However since the player software upgrade, it seemed recently that the player was not as able to stream the HD content from Netflix and Amazon with the quality I had before, which concerned me. Additionally, when I configured MediaFly on my PC through my account, I subscribed to a few video podcasts in HD. Streaming the HD podcasts on my Roku player did tend to pause downloading the next segment way too often.

I had thought initially that my problem was my cable modem speed. I had been subscribing to the 5 Mbps tier following the Roku upgrade. From my experience with over the air HD, I was aware that TV stations broadcasting in 720p HD with multicasting tend to have their primary 720p stream between 7-10 Mbps for a solid picture, and 10-15 Mbps for 1080i HD broadcasts. So, I figured that even though Netflix and Amazon uses a more technically advance codec for 720p streaming where you could get a decent HD stream on a Roku, PlayStation, XBox, et al, in the 5 Mbps cable modem tier, to enjoy them more consistently as well as HD podcasts on my Roku in 720p would require upgrading to the 10 Mbps tier. So I gave in, contacted my cable company, and requested the 10 Mbps high speed Internet tier, which was no problem since I have my own DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem, so no installer from the cable company needed to visit my place. The change went into effect about an hour after my call. By the way, those who want to go with the blazing 50-60 Mbps speeds that are now available will need a DOCSIS 3.0 modem since this technology uses multiple channels that allow for the super fast speeds and sharing between multiple devices in a home network.

Yet in spite of the upgrade I did not seem to notice an improvement in my Roku player HD streaming at all, which concerned me. So I brought my player to my router, which was a Netgear WTG624 that I had been using for about four years, and when I purchased it I was subscribing to a 3 Mbps cable modem tier, and I was renting the modem at the time before buying my own after moving to my new place and ordering the 5 Mbps tier. I hard wired the Roku player to my router, and I STILL saw no improvement in any HD content streaming.

So I did a test on my laptop with my existing router by connecting to a Web site that can measure my Internet access speed on the machine I am using. With a hard wired connection my download speed was just over 8 Mbps, so at least I was getting the download speed I had upgraded to. But then when I used the same site on the same laptop via 802.11g, my download speed was about 4.5 Mbps. Well, I thought, that would explain the lack of HD quality on my Roku with a wireless connection since my wireless download speed was less than what is required for broadcast 720pHD, but why the lack of quality with a wired connection?

I did some research, considering an 802.11n bridge at first, but then some further research of electronic store Web site product reviews made me realize the problem was my router. Back when it was new, HD video online was only in its infancy, and new routers have been designed to optimize HD video streaming among other technologies like voice-over-IP (VoIP). Some further research of product reviews led me to a holiday sale purchase of the D-Link DIR-655, which per customer reviews seemed like a top of the line router for home networks using HD streaming and VoIP.

When I got the new D-Link DIR-655 router, although it was intended to be an 802.11n router, my Roku and laptop are 802.11g compatible, so I configured the router to operate only in 802.11g mode. What a difference it made - my laptop WiFi download speed on the same WiFi channel increased to 7-8 Mbps. NOW I was getting the high speed Internet I upgraded to. And as for the Roku player, the HD quality of the Netflix and Amazon content became more consistent.

But there was still one disappointment - the video podcasts in HD that I subscribed through MediaFly. Some of the HD podcasts were streaming more consistently and looking great on my monitor with the new router, but one HD podcast, DiveFilms, was still pausing and downloading segments before playing again. Fortunately MediaFly also lets me access the same content in iPod/iTouch format, which is a widescreen standard definition stream, not as good looking as the HD version, but it was not bad either, and the content does stream without interruption.

I have reason to believe that the Roku MediaFly channel does not automatically adjust for the optimal stream the way other channels do at this time, and the reason being is because MediaFly is a podcast aggregator, the video quality uploaded to the podcast is determined by choice of the content authors. I would think that the DiveFilms HD podcasts are uploaded and meant to be played at maybe a bitrate between 7-8 Mbps, right at the fringe of my WiFi speed with the new router, whereas other 720p HD podcasts may be between 4-6 Mbps. It would seem that the DiveFilm HD podacasts are meant to be downloaded and viewed locally on PCs and set-top boxes with local hard drives, like AppleTV devices, and not so much to be streamed online.

Still I am getting better results with the router upgrade, so if you are planning to enjoy HD video wirelessly on devices such as the Roku Player, AppleTV, XBox, or PlayStation, the right network begins with the right router. Make sure the router is 802.11n with 802.11g backward compatibility, and highly rated for HD streaming. Additionally, the right router is a necessity for those planning to purchase a networked Blu-Ray player, or even a new HDTV with wireless network capabilty with Internet service built-in. These products will likely generate some buzz at the upcoming CES 2010.

One final note on the Roku Channel Store - it will be interesting to see in the new year if content providers will develop Roku compatible channels as well as iPhone apps to provide a direct means to distribute independently produced content, and bypass traditional television or movie studio distribution entirely.

9 Comments:

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Blogger TheMomster said...

hrm...does this mean I ought to change from our netgear MR814 v3? Initially everything was fine. We rearranged furniture just a bit and now get crummy quality and rebuffering of movies CONSTANTLY! Love to know

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