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Work from home clogs bandwidth

About a 20% surge in Net traffic from March 22
While internet will be used for work from home, much of the data capacity is expected to be consumed for the services of the over-the-top (OTT) companies such as Netflix, Hotstar, Voot and Amazon Prime Video by people staying at home.

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 25.03.20, 07:57 PM

The department of telecommunications (DoT) has asked sector regulator Trai to study the telecom operators’ request for additional spectrum to meet the rise in internet demand during the 21-day lockdown.

While internet will be used for work from home, much of the data capacity is expected to be consumed for the services of the over-the-top (OTT) companies such as Netflix, Hotstar, Voot and Amazon Prime Video by people staying at home.

Officials said the regulator has been asked to study the demand based on increased traffic and to come up with an assessment of the measures to help the customers.

In a letter to telecom secretary Anshu Prakash, COAI director general Rajan S. Mathews said, “Due to the lockdown/quarantine measures in various parts of the country, a sudden surge in demand for online video streaming is also expected to rise substantially.”

It said telecom operators have urgently demanded additional spectrum on a temporary basis from the government. Citing about a 20 per cent surge in traffic from March 22, telcos said the move will help them cope “with the unprecedented increase in data usage as a result of work from home and self-quarantine across the country”.

“The recent developments on Covid 19 highlight the universal understanding that duoplies and monopolies are not conducive to ensuring national welfare… operators have dealt with a surge in traffic demand by stepping up to a plate to ensure networks perform at 99.99 per cent uptime even with 20-30 per cent increase in traffic loads, due to work from home,” Mathews said.

The request comes at a time internet traffic on wireless network is likely to rise in the coming days as India gears up for a 21-days lockdown to curb the spread of pandemic coronavirus.

The COAI has demanded additional spectrum for both “access and backhaul microwave” for the short term to augment their capacity and meet growing demand.

“In the US, FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has allocated additional spectrum to the TSP (telecom service providers) to ensure continuity of broadband service. Accordingly, in India, an equal amount of additional spectrum in the 1800MHz band should be allocated to all the TSPs for the short term, to augment capacity,” the letter said.

Mathews added that the additional spectrum should be allocated to all the telecom players—Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd—equally or to no one at all.

Considering the country’s unusually high dependence on wireless traffic, this is expected to put pressure on the cellular infrastructure, the association said.

The COAI has urged the government to issue immediate instructions to streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and others to initiate measures that will ease pressure on network infrastructure.

Meanwhile Prasar Bharti News Service in a tweet said “all companies from THE digital industry have decided upon temporarily defaulting HD & ultra-HD streaming to SD content or offering only SD content, at bitrates no higher than 480p on cellular networks until April 14”.

The COAI had stated that the surge in digital use is straining the network infrastructure of telecom operators and urged the companies to take urgent steps such as temporarily switching to SD (standard definition) from HD (hi definition) streaming, removing high bandwidth-consuming advertisements and pop-ups.

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