Cellular Operators Association of India: COAI asks Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, others to take steps to ease network pressure

NEW DELHI: Anticipating a spike in online video streaming demand amid lockdown and quarantine measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, COAI has urged the government to issue immediate instructions to streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and others to initiate measures that will ease pressure on network infrastructure, which is needed for “critical” functions at this juncture.

The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) has also approached streaming platforms cautioning them about surge in digital use straining network infrastructure of telecom operators, and urged companies to take urgent steps like temporarily switching to SD (standard definition) from HD (hi definition) streaming, removing high bandwidth-consuming advertisements and pop-ups, and replacing them with public announcements on awareness regarding the virus.

In a letter to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash, COAI has said, “Due to lockdown/ quarantine measures in various parts of the country, a sudden surge in demand for online video streaming is also expected to rise substantially.”

COAI said that during this crucial time, it is absolutely essential for the streaming platforms to cooperate with telecom providers so as to manage the traffic distribution patterns that are likely to strain the network infrastructure “at a time when it is needed for various critical requirements”.

Citing the “unprecedented situation” due to the outbreak of coronavirus, COAI noted that the governments are taking various measures to reduce social interactions, in order to contain the spread of the pandemic.

“In the past few days, in India too, advisories have been issued by various government agencies including social distancing, restrictions in terms of workplace, also encouraging Work From Home (WFH), online/ digital education, digital payments/ transactions, online healthcare, wherever possible and other critical requirements to be met through digital means. This sudden surge in digital use is already putting pressure on the network infrastructure of the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs),” COAI said.

COAI has also written to a dozen streaming platform including Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hotstar, Zee5, Alt Balaji, Voot, Sony Liv, Viuclip, Hoichoi, Netflix, SunNXT and Voot seeking their “cooperation for joint action to facilitate smooth functioning of data communications services in this critical period”.

“We understand that there are various measures that the streaming platform companies can undertake in this present situation to continue to provide a suitable level of service to their customers at the most appropriate bit rate required,” the mobile industry association said in its communication to streaming platforms.

It said joint action to reduce pressure on infrastructure and to facilitate remote working, online education, digital healthcare, payments and other critical services at a time of region-wide public health crisis, would go a long way in helping the citizens and country at large.

“We understand that similar measures are being taken by various streaming platforms internationally like in the US and Europe as more and more countries enter lockdown to combat the spread of the virus,” COAI said.

The need of the hour is that “companies offering streaming platform service and TSPs (telecom service providers) take joint responsibility to take steps to ensure smooth functioning of the data communication networks to align with other measures being taken in this battle to curb the propagation of the virus,” COAI added.

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