Streaming platforms have come into greater focus ever since the coronavirus began, with entire districts being put under lockdown and everyone apart from those engaged in essential services, being asked to work from home. The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has now written to 12 streaming services regarding measures that can be taken to ensure smooth video streaming and also addressed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) urging the government to issue advisories on this issue.
In its letter to the market players, the telecom industry body noted that in the past few days, government advisories have been issued asking people to stay indoors and work from home, and the role of digital means of communication, transaction and entertainment increases.
COAI wrote to Amazon Prime Video, Youtube, Hotstar, Zee5, Alt Balaji, Voot, Sony Liv, Viuclip, Hoichoi, Netflix and SunNXT.
It noted that due to lockdown or quarantine measures in various parts of the country, a sudden surge in demand for online video streaming is expected and during this period, it is "absolutely essential for the streaming platforms to cooperate with TSPs so as to manage the traffic distribution patterns". It stated that a sudden surge in digital use is already putting pressure on the network infrastructure of the telecom service providers (TSPs).
To manage this, the COAI suggested moving to Standard Definition (SD) from High Definition (HD), to ease the pressure.
Also, during this period, advertisements and pop ups, which usually consume high bandwidth should be removed. “...if required, may be replaced with public announcements on awareness regarding the virus,” the COAI said.
It further added this action was to ease the pressure on infrastructure “to facilitate remote working, online education, digital healthcare, payments and other critical services”.
The letter pointed out that similar measures are being taken by various streaming platforms internationally, especially in the US and Europe, to manage the network traffic.
On Saturday, Netflix in a post stated that the European Union had reached out to them and other companies to ensure that telecom networks are used efficiently. The company said that they deployed a way to reduce traffic by 25% in Italy and Spain, and are implementing it across the UK and the EU.
Zee5 CEO Tarun Katial told MediaNama that they are willing to undertake preventive measures. He further added that their technology aimed to serve quality content in a slow 3G network area, and would continue to provide audiences entertainment “at the most appropriate and minimal bitrate required”, and stated that measures were being taken to ensure that bandwidth was not overstretched.
Amazon Prime Video told Economic Times that it is working with local authorities, mobile service providers and internet service providers. “We’ve already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates whilst maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers,” it said.
Hotstar told Medianama that their video streaming is based on Adaptive Bitrate Streaming, “which ensures that we are lean in internet consumption”. It said that customers are bound by the plans they have, and 300 million customers who are ad-based customers already see SD.
“In the larger consumer and national interest, we are geared to dynamically make changes and are prepared to reduce the bitrate for our HD streams, should the need arise,” it said.