As the people in India are staying indoors due to the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, people are flocking to the Over The Top (OTT) platforms that provide video content over the bandwidth of the internet.
However, due to the unprecedented traffic seen by these platforms, and as since the midnight of 25th of March a further lockdown of 21 days being imposed, the traffic could increase further due to which a decision of reducing the streaming quality has been taken to lower the strain on the networks.
Content that was earlier available on HD (High Definition) or Ultra-HD will be only available in SD (Standard Definition) which has been agreed by companies like Facebook, Hotstar, Netflix among many others.
These measures will remain in effect until the 14th of March.
As the nation abides by the complete lockdown, companies have asked their employees to Work From Home (WFH), this has in-turn added stress on network connections everywhere, as the LAN (Local Area Network) and Wi-Fi networks at homes are now used for office work, entertainment, and much more by people all over India.
Multiple reports suggest that the networks in India could be starting at a complete breakdown, however, the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) continues to place their confidence on their networks saying they are ready for the traffic.
On Tuesday, Star and Disney India’s Chairman, Uday Shankar along with many key stakeholders of the Indian digital industry had a virtual meeting which included Sanjay Gupta (Google), NP Singh (Sony), Sudhanshu Vats (Viacom18), Ajit Mohan (Facebook), Punit Goenka (Zee), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime Video), Varun Narang (Hotstar), Nikhil Gandhi (TikTok), Karan Bedi (MX Player) and Ambika Khurana (Netflix).
They released a statement that said, “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,”.
The Cellular Operators Association of India or also called as COAI requested the government to direct the OTT platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hotstar, and YouTube, earlier this week, to reduce their streaming quality to SD so that if more people start flocking to these platforms due to the lockdown to contain COVID-19 pandemic, the servers and networks do not break down.
COAI has also urged the telecom department to offer added spectrum to the service providers on an interim basis so that they can cater to the increased demand.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson from Google said, “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. Last week, we announced that we were temporarily defaulting all videos on YouTube to standard definition in the European Union (EU). Given the global nature of this crisis, we will expand that change globally starting today,”.
On mobile networks, YouTube (YT) will set SD as its default video quality in India. This decision ill remain in effect until the 14th of April which is when the 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ends.