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We address the problem of video quality prediction and control for high-resolution video transmitted over lossy packet networks. In packet video, the bitstream flows through several subsystems (coder, network, decoder); each of them can impair the information, either by data loss or by introducing some delay. However, each of these subsystems can be fine- tuned in order to minimize these problems and to optimize the quality of the delivered signal, taking into account the available bitrate. The assessment of the end-user quality is a non-trivial issue. We analyse how the user-perceived quality is related to the average encoding bitrate for variable bit rate MPEG-2 video. We then show why simple distortion metrics may lead to inconsistent interpretations. Furthermore, for a given coder setup, we analyse the effect of packet loss on the user-level quality. We then demonstrate that, when jointly studying the impact of coding bit rate and packet loss, the reachable quality is upperbound and exhibits one optimal coding rate for a given packet loss ratio.