The data and broadband usage has gone up with the country going into a pandemic-induced lockdown. Now, the governments and the internet service providers are grappling with a new problem – one that is quite virtual but real. As millions of people are staying at hiome, there is a surge in the use of streaming platforms. People are watching their favourite programmes on the net and the bandwidth use is very high.
Industry body Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) on Wednesday urged mobile consumers to use data networks responsibly, so that critical services can run smoothly on communications infrastructure.
COAI’s appeal to public comes at a time when data usage has surged nearly 30 per cent over the last few days in the wake of lockdowns, work-from-home and social distancing measures adopted to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday (March 25) announced a complete lockdown for 21 days in an unprecedented move to halt the spread of the pandemic.
Soon after the announcement, the Centre said all road, rail and air services will remain suspended during this period.
COVID-19 has claimed 9 lives in the country and over 550 persons being affected by the viral infection. Fears are also mounting that more could be hit as the global coronavirus toll inches towards 17,000.
“We are asking people for responsible usage of network…to avoid any trivial use of internet and networks…so that remote working, online education, digital healthcare, payments and other critical services, can run smoothly and uninterrupted,” Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General, Rajan Mathews said.
Mobile users can also do their bit by choosing to time their some of their online activities during off-peak hours, say early morning or late evening, he said.
Mathews said there has been a 20-30 per cent increase in data demand just in the last few days, as states and Union Territories imposed lockdowns, and took measures to encourage social distancing and Work From Home to check the spread of coronavirus.
It is pertinent to mention here that video streaming platforms like Netflix and social networking giant Facebook are reducing bit rates for videos on their platforms as part of their efforts to help mitigate mobile and broadband network congestion.
Netflix said it will reduce traffic on telecommunications networks by 25 per cent while maintaining the quality of service for users in India.
Facebook said it will temporarily reduce bit rates for videos on its platform and Instagram in India.
Companies like Amazon Prime Video are also temporarily lowering bit rates – a measure of how much data is being transferred – to ease pressure on telecom network infrastructure.
The move by these firms came after COAI wrote to the government urging issuance of instructions to streaming platforms to initiate measures that will ease the burden on network infrastructure, which is needed for “critical” functions at this juncture.