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COVID-19: Netflix, Amazon and other OTT platforms asked to lower video streaming quality

NEW DELHI: With a significant portion of India beginning to work from home in an effort to curb the COVID-91 outbreak, telecom service providers are requesting video streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar to lower video quality in order to reduce the load on overburdened network infrastructure.

In two separate letters sent to the Department of Telecom (DoT) and OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said that the increasing number of people working from home and the rise in digital services usage “is already putting pressure on the network infrastructure”.

“We believe that during this critical time, it is absolutely essential for the streaming platforms to cooperate with TSPs to manage traffic distribution patterns which are likely to strain network infrastructure at a time when it is needed for various critical requirements,” COAI’s letter to OTT platforms said.

Among the various forms of support sought is a request to temporarily switch video quality to “SD (Standard Definition) rather than HD (Hi Definition) streaming”. Streaming HD videos consumes several times more data than SD videos and occupies more bandwidth, making the network slower than desired considering the expected rise in data usage.

“During this period, advertisements and pop-ups, which usually consume high bandwidth should be removed and if required, may be replaced with public announcements on awareness regarding the virus,” COAI added.

The list of companies from whom such measures are being sought comprise Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hotstar, Zee5, Alt Balaji, Voot, Sony Liv, Viuclip, Hoichoi, Netflix and SunNXT.

The association has also requested the DoT to put out a similar advisory Inan effort to buttress the urgency of the request. “We believe this will be more effective if a similar communication is sent from DoT to these companies offering streaming video services,” the COAI requested.