ABR vs MBR: Meaning And Differences

The entertainment industry is getting a total roller-coaster ride with all the upcoming developments and changes in the industry. The streaming industry is full of technical jargon that might be difficult to understand by a layman. One of those heavy terms includes ABR and MBR. The more they are simple to read the more they are hard to understand. Let’s make it easy to understand and quick to grasp. 

What is Video Bitrate? 

It will probably answer the long-standing debate of ABR vs MBR. Let’s first understand what video bitrate is. Every portion of digital video is made up of bits. Video bitrate by and large means how many units of data can be transmitted to the end users. Low bitrate might provide a degraded video quality even if the recording resolution was high. Choosing a high bitrate has to turn into an essential need to maintain quality streaming since the Quality of Experience (QoE) can help in standing out in the competition. In terms of video streaming over the internet, it presents the bandwidth a video will consume streamed online. It becomes crucial with respect to the quality and the performance that end users can have. In online space, bitrate is often measured in kilobits per second or kbps. 

Bitrate impacts the performance of the platform and the end-user experience concerning the internet speed at the users’ end. In terms of streaming, adaptive bitrate and multi-bitrate are the most talked about. They often create confusion and many times are used interchangeably. But the main thing is they are not the same. There is a lot to understand and clear why and how they differ from each other.

What is Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) Streaming? 

Adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming is the technology used to deliver video content to end users according to the available internet bandwidth, connectivity conditions, and the device they are using. In short, it adjusts the quality of delivery according to the circumstances at the user’s end. 

To further simplify it, let’s take an example of the video that you watch. Sometimes when your internet bandwidth is low you get a lower quality video while when it gets the pace, it gets better. This is all due to the use of adaptive bitrate (ABR). This fundamentally happens by breaking down each video into several segments (segmented in seconds). The platform detects the internet bandwidth and adjusts the quality of the video accordingly.

Netflix and YouTube are the key platforms that use ABR-enabled technology to stream their content over the internet. Above all, it provides the platform the ability to adopt conditions to bring the best quality of experience (QoE) to the end users.

What is Multi-Bitrate (MBR) Streaming? 

Multi-bitrate, although used interchangeably by many but is a little different from adaptive bitrate. In MBR, streaming of a particular content is made available in different sets, and the user’s rea is required to select the quality in which they want to watch the content. The users have to select the video quality amongst the options available on the platform. With it, a few options with different bitrates are made available to the end-users to choose from. The users need to select the option for streaming the content which includes 144p, 240p, 480p, 720p, 1080p, etc. 

If you start streaming without selecting any of the available video streaming quality, the system will take charge of it and search for the best available bitrate for the network. Thereafter it continues to play the content on the same bitrate irrespective of the fluctuations in the internet connection. 

ABR vs MBR: What are the differences?

ABR technology assesses the viewers’ internet speed regularly and fetches the best video quality for playback and regularly adapts according to the network bandwidth and other network conditions. 

While on the other hand, MBR demands users to manually select the stream quality from the displayed list of streams and it will continue to play the content in similar network conditions irrespective of any improvement or depreciation in the internet bandwidth.

Primarily the difference is all about the end-users experience (QoE). Comparing the content delivery, ABR wins the game since it works according to the network bandwidth and automatically adapts the playback, and brings out the best quality of video delivery according to the network conditions. 

Why Does Video Bandwidth Matter?

The bandwidth of a video is the metric in the streaming that set off the amount of data transferred per time. Bandwidth here refers to the capacity of the server (the stress or load it can take up) and the total data used. In terms of video streaming, the total information in a particular time that the transmission medium can handle is called video bandwidth. It is the data carrying capacity of a transmission medium. Bandwidth is measured in bits per second or bps, kilobits per second or kbps, megabits per second or Mbps, gigabits per second or Gbps, etc. For instance, if the bandwidth is 100 Mbps then the maximum data transferred per second is 100 MB over the internet.

Higher bandwidth capability provides a higher data transfer speed to download, transfer, upload, and stream high-definition content quickly. The bandwidth capability also depends on the internet plan and the service provider that you have opted for. Apart from this, it also depends on the type of activities undertaken with respect to the internet.

Several Metrics That Matter for Streaming

Bandwidth at the surface level might look like an easy-to-understand term yet there are a lot of metrics available that affect the streaming over the internet. At the encoder lever, there are many things that matter in this. Let’s understand these metrics to get the right understanding of the role of bandwidth in streaming. Major metrics that influence the bandwidth include bitrate, resolution, and frame rate of the video.


Video bitrate is the total amount of data transferred over the internet at a particular time. In short, it is the speed at which the video file travels over the internet. It is measured the same way bandwidth is measured i.e. bits per second or bps, kilobits per second or kbps, megabits per second or Mbps, and so on. In streaming online video, bitrate affects the overall quality of the streaming i.e. higher bitrate will bring a higher resolution streaming and uses a larger bandwidth. 

Frame Rate

Videos are no more than images, they are a series of still images or frames that creates a movement if run continuously. Frame rate is the speed with which the frames are shown and are measured as frames per second (fps). 

The frame rate and the bandwidth consumption are correlated with each other. The lower the frame rate, the lower bandwidth is required. On the other hand higher frame rate goes with more bandwidth. 

Video Resolution

The resolution of a video is measured with the pixels used. The different video aspect ratio has different measures. The resolution of the video is determined by several things which include the camera used, encoder settings, and so on.

Streaming game is full of competition, here the major role has to be taken care of by providing a quality experience to the end users. Choosing between ABR and MBR is solely dependent on what segment of the viewers you are choosing or the targeted audience. Although most of the time ABR is considered an ideal choice for the broadcasters. But having a video streaming software that supports both i.e. ABR and MBR will be the best to reach out to the wider audience and provide them with the best streaming experience.