Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram have all announced that their content will be streaming at a lower quality in India on cellular networks to ease the load on networks, given the dramatic increase in the use of data. They announced that, temporarily, their content will stream in SD (standard definition), instead of HD (high definition) and ultra-HD.
As per reports, data usage has surged by as much as 30% due to people staying home and working from home due to the lockdown.
The heads of OTT platforms had a meeting on Wednesday, led by Uday Shankar, the Chairman of Star and Disney India. The meeting, which was held virtually, was attended by NP Singh (Sony), Sanjay Gupta (Google), Ajit Mohan (Facebook), Sudhanshu Vats (Viacom18), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime Video), Punit Goenka (Zee), Nikhil Gandhi (Tiktok), Ambika Khurana (Netflix), Karan Bedi (MX Player) and Varun Narang (Hotstar).
“The digital industry has decided to act immediately in the larger national and consumer interest and to ensure the robustness of the cellular network. It was unanimously agreed that as an exceptional measure, all companies will immediately adopt measures, including temporarily defaulting HD and ultra-HD streaming to SD content or offering only SD content, at bitrates no higher than 480p on cellular networks,” they said in a statement.
This will remain in place till April 14, and is being done voluntarily by all participants.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ken Florance, VP Content Delivery at Netflix had said: “Given the crisis, we’ve developed a way to reduce Netflix’s traffic on telecommunications networks by 25% while also maintaining the quality of our service. So consumers should continue to get the quality that comes with their plan -- whether it’s Ultra-High, High or Standard Definition. We believe that this will provide significant relief to congested networks and will be deploying it in India for the next 30 days."
Amazon Prime also informed customers on Wednesday that they will temporarily restricting streaming to only SD on cellular networks until April 14.
Google-owned YouTube also announced on Wednesday that it is reducing streaming quality for users in India in order to reduce strain on Internet networks during the coronavirus pandemic. In India, YouTube will temporarily default HD and ultra-HD streaming to SD content at bitrates no higher than 480p on mobile networks, until March 31.
"We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
"Last week, we announced that we were temporarily defaulting all videos on YouTube to standard definition in the EU. Given the global nature of this crisis, we will expand that change globally starting today," the spokesperson added. YouTube has seen little change in the peaks, and has mostly seen changes in usage patterns from more people at home -- expanding across additional hours and lower usage peaks.
Facebook and Instagram also announced lower video quality in India, Europe as well as Latin America.
This comes after the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) wrote to over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms to ensure smooth video streaming across the country as people are staying indoors and taking to work-from-home amid the coronavirus crisis. The industry body also wrote a letter to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) urging the government to issue advisories to the players concerned on this issue.
With IANS inputs