ABR vs. MBR (Multi Bitrate Streaming)

With the increasing demand for quality of experience (QoE) by the viewers, broadcasters are rapidly improving video streaming technologies to compete in the online content creation space.

While applying technical improvements in video streaming, companies need to make a risky trade-off between video quality and streaming performance, which makes bit rate the deciding factor in this. 

Fluctuating network conditions of viewers from all around the world include areas from the most connected ones to the most difficult-to-reach places. This affects video streaming and video downloading, thus, affecting the QoE of the viewers.

To address this challenge, several broadcasters have started adopting multi-bitrate and adaptive bitrate streaming, which helps in the automatic optimization of view quality according to the streaming connectivity of the viewers.

Therefore, in this article, we shall understand why bitrates impact the video streaming quality, and then we will move to the differences between ABR and multi-bitrate streaming.


Why do Bitrates Impact Video Streaming?

Technically, videos with higher bitrates often provide higher quality than those transcoded at lower bitrates. But, the bitrate itself depends on two factors – frames per second/ resolution and degree of video compression. With the higher resolution video files containing more information leading to higher bitrate, the bitrate also depends on the strength of video compression. A heavily compressed video file reduces the video quality as it has a lower bitrate (megabytes per second) than a recording with fewer compression traces having a higher bitrate with the higher video quality.

Therefore, higher bitrate leads to higher video quality, if all the other conditions like framerate, bandwidth, and resolution satisfy each other. If the user’s bandwidth allows for easy playback of large-sized video files, then a higher bitrate offers good video quality. But, if there are bandwidth restrictions, even a higher bitrate and higher framerate video file will experience buffering, slow start times, and lagging experience for the user, affecting the QoE.

There are different video codecs available for compressing the video in a compatible format for easy video streaming on the streaming platforms. While legacy codes aren’t efficient in the process, newer codes like H.264 and H.265 intelligently remove huge amounts of unnecessary data, maintaining the quality of the video.

ABR vs. MBR Streaming

To understand the difference between ABR and MBR, you need to understand their individual roles first.

So, Adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR) is a video streaming technique for delivering the video to the user according to the highest usable quality available to the specific user’s network. The video player adjusts the video streaming quality automatically, considering the available bandwidth, network connectivity, and user’s device performance.

For example, when you use video streaming channels like Netflix, Amazon prime video, etc., you must have noticed that the best quality video automatically starts playing based on your network bandwidth and connectivity. The quality of the video automatically gets hazy or at low pixels when there is network congestion, and jumps back to high pixel quality when the congestion in the network is reduced.

In this way, video streaming giants use ABR technology, which adapts the streaming quality according to the bandwidth fluctuations, changing the bitrate automatically to continue playing the video without buffering.

Whereas, Multi-bitrate streaming (MBR) technology provides the viewers the choice of selecting the best video quality bitrate for themselves manually. The video quality of the streaming video can be altered by the user from the range – 144p, 240p, 360p, 480p, 720p, 1080p. So, you have different streams with different bitrates made available to you for selecting from the list of streams to choose the best quality suitable to your network condition. The catch here is that if you don’t choose the bitrate suitable for your streaming, the system continues to playback the stream even if the network fluctuates. This results in the buffering and lagging of the streaming.

Eventually, ABR allows viewers to automatically adjust and keep adapting the playback video quality according to the player’s internet bandwidth. 

However, with MBR, the user has to manually set the playback quality from the list of streams available, and the stream continues to play even with the fluctuating network conditions leading to buffering and lagging. 

Final thoughts

Finally, it all comes down to the QoE of the users, which ABR technology clearly provides in a better manner than the MBR technology, as it automatically adjusts to the user’s network conditions, providing smooth and easy video streaming.

Uma Nair
Marketing Analyst at Gumlet

Uma is a marketing analyst and leading content strategy at Gumlet. Gumlet has created a cutting-edge media delivery infrastructure that offers low or no-code integration plugins that automate the whole media publishing pipeline. Gumlet handles all media file resizing, compression, format conversion, transcoding, streaming, delivery, and analytics. Gumlet presently serves over 6,000 customers, which include online retailers, news sites, blogs, EdTech startups, travel sites, and crowdfunding portals, and delivers over four billion media files per week.

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