Recently, Comcast announced only that intends to start deploying his controversial data caps across the country in 2021. It made a lot of people angry and widely considered as a bad move. Among the many reasons this move sucks, there is a legitimate fear that it could kill the burgeoning field of game streaming.
Put simply, will data caps kill services like Stadia and Xbox Cloud Gaming that rely on streaming huge amounts of data? Well, maybe – but maybe not.
What’s the deal with data caps?
For those unfamiliar with Comcast’s data limits, here are the basics: For Xfinity customers who don’t have unlimited plans (more on that below, but that’s a pretty big asterisk), customers will have a soft limit of 1.2 TB of data. Any data used over this limit will incur an overage charge of $ 10 per 50 GB, up to an additional $ 100 limit. During the transition, the company will give users who exceed that limit a “courtesy” credit, waiving the overage fee for one month, but will step in later if customers start over within the same 12 months.
Comcast claims 95% of its customers never reach the 1.2TB limit. But while that may be true, it’s hard to take it as any comfort. Even before the pandemic begins and forces more people to work and play from home, home data use is on the rise. The average home in the United States uses 38 times the data in 2020 compared to 2010. Meanwhile, Comcast has been experimenting with data caps for over a decade, and the company has only increased its data cap about 5 times since 2008.
Unlike utilities like water or electricity, data consumption is a highly variable resource. When a new technology like game streaming comes along, users can end up chewing on a lot more data than before, sometimes without even realizing it. The problem, then, is that charging customers fees for heavy use can stifle demand for growing technologies.
There is also very little evidence that the data cap improve network performance or reduce congestion. Perhaps this is why in recent years Comcast has leaned more toward describing its overage charges in terms of “justice, ”Rather than as a networking function. But whatever the description of the company, the result is the same. Using high bandwidth services costs more, so customers, especially power users, are more reluctant to do so.
The question then becomes: are game streaming services really using so much data?
Game streaming uses a lot of data, but not This A lot
Streaming video games is, without a doubt, one of the most data-intensive tasks that users can do online today, so it’s only natural to worry that it will burn data limits. However, game streaming is not enough the data pig it’s supposed to be. Although it’s big, it would still take a lot of gaming to get 1.2TB of data.
Look at a service like Stadia, for example. The quantity of data used by the service strongly depends on the quality of the streams broadcast by the players. According to Google Support Documents, at 1080p, Stadia uses approximately 12 GB per hour. This would allow about 100 hours of gaming per month before hitting a data cap of 1.2TB, or about 23 hours per week.
Google also claims that 4K games would consume up to 20GB per hour, which equates to roughly 14 hours of gaming per week. However, a Broadband Now study found that 4K games used an average of 15.75 GB per hour, far less than Google estimates. In other words, there is a possibility – depending on the games played and the amount of data that can be compressed on the drive’s path – that the real-world usage will be more extensive than what Google says it will be. .