How Do You Watch On-Demand TV On Your Smartphone

Author: Sean

How do you watch TV on your smartphone and does it cost you lots of data?

Yes, you can watch on-demand TV on your smartphone. There was a time when you required a TV aerial to watch live TV on a device. Now you can watch TV on your smartphone. Today you can access and watch a range of live TV, on-demand TV and video on your smartphone. Video on demand has changed the way we view our entertainment.


The evolution of our TV content and the devices we watch them on

Video on demand has changed the way we view our entertainment; smartphones have expanded the devices we can view that content on. We started the journey with the requirement of a TV aerial which was plugged into a hefty TV device. These TV’s were large and certainly not mobile. As time went by, more TV channels, as well as other ways of viewing content, evolved.

Suddenly new devices to deliver our content were released. Video players. Devices that played content from a cassette. They even allowed us to record content from the aerial signal meaning we could watch it at a later date. Suddenly we could take some of our TV viewing content and watch it at our own time – all be it through a device plugged into the TV and as long as we could set up the timers on these devices (some needed a diploma in electronics to understand).

Satellite, cable – new ways of delivering our entertainment to our TV’s. Televisions themselves also evolved into smaller packages. We had portable TV’s which had small aerials attached to the back. Still, these devices were not something we could carry around – and generally had to be plugged into a wall socket for their power.

More portable television devices evolved – taking batteries and giving us smaller 3 inches, 4 inches, 7 inches and so on screen sizes. We no longer were confined to our homes to watch live TV. We could take it with all.

Another evolution was happening alongside this. We started to have phones that we mobile too as well as computer networks. The Internet. Suddenly many technology evolutions were happening. All of which would bring us to today.

Mobile speeds required to watch TV on your smartphone

To watch content on your smartphone – there are a number of factors we need to consider.

The first of these is what mobile data speeds are required for each of the types of video content. Streaming live TV and on-demand content each have their data speed requirements – some services more than others.

Listed below are 4 of the most commonly used streaming services. The first, BBC iPlayer is a live and on-demand streaming services. Netflix and Amazon Prime are on-demand services.

The last, YouTube – you could argue is both an on-demand and live streaming service. It started as just a video content on-demand service – though has many live streaming content channels today.

Mobile data speed required to watch live and on-demand TV content on your smartphone

Depending on the quality of the streaming TV content, different speed requirements are required.

ServiceNon-HDHDUltra HD
BBC iPlayer1.5Mbps2.8MbpsNot Available
Amazon Prime0.9Mbps3.5Mbps25Mbps

For more information, check out this post on CompareTheMarket.

Mobile data – video streaming data requirements – how much data do you use to stream content

From the table above we can see that more bandwidth and data is required to stream better quality content. You can image that streaming Non HD content takes less data than HD.

Following are current estimates of how much data you will use to stream video content to your smartphone.

Low Quality – Non HD – 240p or 320p => 300Mb (0.3Gb) per hour

SD Quality – 480p => 700Mb (0.7Gb) per hour

HD Quality – between 720p and 2k =>

  • 720p – 900Mb (0.9Gb) per hour
  • 1080p – 1.5Gb per hour
  • 2k – 3Gbg per hour

UHD Quality – 4k => 7.2Gb per hour

As you would expect, streaming 4k UHD quality takes the most data. depending on your data plan – you may want to stream just SD quality – or you may have more data and look at HD.

As more smartphones getter higher definition screens – higher HD (2k) and 4k resolutions become available. Combined with more unlimited data plans – your smartphone is becoming a device you may choose to consume your video content on the go – or when away from your home.

If your interested in more information on mobile data usages and the different types of streaming content – check out the following post on AndroidCentral.

Mobile data speeds

Depending on the technology, mobile data speeds vary. Each generation of mobile data has improved in quality, dependency and speed. Below I’ve listed some details about each type of mobile data technology along with listed speeds and what is generally considered as the real world estimated download speeds.

Typical Mobile
Icon On Phone
Technology Used Maximum Download SpeedReal World Estimate
Download Speed
3G3G3G (Basic)0.3Mbit/s0.1Mbit/s
4G4GLTE Category 4150Mbit/s12-15Mbit/s
4G+4G+LTE-Advanced Cat6300Mbit/s24-30Mbit/s
4G+LTE-Advanced Cat9450Mbit/s 45Mbit/s
4G+LTE-Advanced Cat12600Mbit/s 60Mbit/s
4G+LTE-Advanced Cat16979Mbit/s90Mbit/s

We can see from this table that as technologies have progressed; so have the speeds of the service they provide.

If we couple this up with the table for video content streaming requirements – we can see that for HD quality video – we need a minimum of the latter 3G technology – 4G being the best to stream HD and UHD video content.

Can you watch live TV and on-demand video on your smartphone?

As you can see from this post – the data provided – today it is as easy to watch TV and on-demand content on your smartphone.

To do so, most channels provide their own mobile apps. Generally, these apps are provided in both the iPhone and Android app stores for you to download – mostly for free. You often have to have set up an account with the provider – in some cases such as Netflix – a paid account. Others, such as iPlayer (and other terrestrial channels) there is generally no cost for the app or to watch content.

Different countries have different channels, different apps and different rules. Many countries will not allow you to watch channels if your not a resident of that country – though many find ways around this.

Generally speaking though – as we move forward I believe more content will be consumed on your smartphone that any other video playing device you own.

I know my habits have now changed and I watch TV on my smartphone as well as consuming other on-demand content every day.

1 Comment

Leave your comment