Tuesday, 12 May 2015 13:17

ACMA’s advice on successful streaming Featured

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With all the new legal streaming services in Australia, what are the important things to consider when signing up to a streaming service? Here’s ACMA’s advice.

When it comes to safe and successful streaming, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has some advice for you to consider before taking the plunge.

In Australia, there are paid services such as Netflix, Stan and Presto, and not that ACMA makes any mention of it, there’s also the paid Quickflix service, Foxtel Play and BigPond Movies, as well as a completely free and legal Australian alternative such as Viewlorium with its wealth of mostly (but not completely) B-Grade content.

There’s also free catchup TV services such as the ABC’s iViewSBS On Demand, Channel 9's JumpInChannel 7’s Plus7 and Channel 10’s TenPlay.

And let’s not other free services such as YouTube, Vimeo, Crackle and others you can do a Google search for!

As ACMA states, ‘these services offer an exciting new range of entertainment options’, but it warns ‘there are some important things to consider when signing up to a [paid] streaming service:’

ACMA asks 'is your internet service fast enough to support streaming?’

It gives the example that ‘Netflix recommends a broadband connection speed of 1.5 megabits per second to watch movies and TV shows. Higher quality services require faster speeds—to stream Netflix in high definition (HD), at least 5.0 megabits per second is best.’

There’s also the need to ‘consider the time of day you’ll be watching streamed services, as demand for broadband often peaks in the evenings.’

ACMA asks, ‘does your provider indicate the speeds you’re likely to experience at different times of day?’

Then there’s the question over whether the service you’re watch is streamed for free, or not?

ACMA’s example is that ‘your provider might offer you six months of free Netflix, or free movies with its service, but any data used to watch these might come from your data allowance.’

So, sayeth ACMA, ‘you may have to pay for excess data or have your data speeds ‘shaped’ (slowed down) when you reach your data limit. If you plan to watch a lot, you may need an ‘unlimited’ plan.’

If not, says ACMA, ‘you need to think carefully about how much data you will use. You can expect to use about 1 gigabyte (GB) of data per hour for standard definition streaming or 3 GB per hour for HD streaming. Some plans may even offer you different allowances depending on what time of day you use the service.’

If you are not on an unlimited plan, says ACMA, ‘look out for spend management alerts that will help you to monitor your use.’

ACMA also warns us all to ‘be aware that data allowances on smartphones and tablets can be gobbled up very quickly when streaming on these devices. Use Wi-Fi services where you can.’

Naturally, if you use Wi-Fi, then again, you need to ensure that the wired connection your Wi-Fi is delivered from is either unlimited, has free streaming, or that you’re aware of how much you’re streaming so as not to bust your limit, get shaped, get an excess charge or whatever it is your ISP does when you go over your limit.

ACMA also gives the sage advice that ‘when shopping around for a new broadband plan or provider, take a close look at the critical information summaries, as these include details such as inclusions, exclusions, minimum terms and the cost of using one megabyte of data.’

We’re also told that ‘you should also find a range of information on the provider’s website, such as the key attributes of its products and information, to help you to estimate what capacity you’ll need to meet your usage requirements.’

Of course, if in doubt, ACMA advises that you ’talk with your service provider to clarify its products and understand whether it meets your needs.’

Hopefully when all Australians can access a proper NBN service the worry about fast enough connection speeds will evaporate, leaving you to only truly worry about whether you have enough gigabytes with which to gorge upon the gargantuan amounts of free and paid legal video streams now on offer.

Until then, complaining to ACMA about the lack of any NBN in your area will be largely useless, you’ll just have to wait like most of the rest of us until the NBN gets green lit for your street to truly enable all that glorious video gorging.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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