No additional spectrum needed to handle extra traffic, says industry body COAI

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

Published: April 1, 2020 5:25:03 pm

Internet speeds in India: COAI says no need for additional spectrum as the existing measures have helped flatten traffic.

The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) has said that there is no need for additional spectrum in order to handle to the increased load as the measures taken by the industry have led to a ‘flattening of traffic demand on networks.” The statement comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on global internet speeds, including in India.

The reason is that more and more people are working from home and video consumption online has also gone up. In India, for instance Ookla’s latest update shows that mean download speeds over fixed broadband had fallen sharply during the week of March 23 compared to the week of March 16. The increased burden on networks has also seen announcements from most major streaming services that they would reduce the streaming quality in order to handle the extra load.

“Some of these actions relate to streaming services reducing their content from HD to SD, local municipalities working with operators to bring sealed towers back on line, some redistribution of traffic on the network, among other things,” COAI Director General Rajan Mathews said in a statement, adding that these measures had worked.

“As a result, operators believe there is no present need to request for any additional spectrum. Based on the present condition of member networks, we believe there is no such present need and operators remain confident the steps they have taken presently can maintain the relatability and quality of their networks and services,” he added.

But Ookla has shown that India’s fixed and mobile broadband quality has fallen in the week of March 23.  Data showed that mean download speeds over fixed broadband fell more steeply in India during the period, while mean download speeds over mobile also decreased in India in the same period. Mean latency over fixed broadband has also increased in India in the week of March 23 compared to March 16. With latency lower is better. 

There’s no doubt that the internet is seeing an increased consumption, especially for video given more and more people are confined to their homes. Last week, YouTube had announced it was reducing default video quality to standard definition across the world, and that for India it would stream at 480p on mobile networks by default till April 14. India is the largest market for YouTube in terms of consumers.

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Other streaming players such as Amazon Prime Video, Viacom18, Zee, Hotstar, TikTok, Sony, Facebook and MX Player also announced plans to stream their content at SD or standard definition to reduce strain on networks. The streaming bitrates are limited to 480p on cellular networks as part of these measures, which will stay in effect till April 14.

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Netflix also announced it would reduce load on the telecommunications networks in India by 25 per cent, while maintaining the quality of service for the next 30 days. It too has reduced the streaming bitrate, though a consumer paying for UHD or HD plans will still be able to stream at these resolutions.

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