Video streaming services like Netflix, Hotstar suspend HD streaming on cellular networks

MUMBAI: All video streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and others, have jointly decided to offer only standard definition (SD) quality content on cellular networks, suspending high definition (HD) and ultra HD effective immediately.

The digital services also decided to lower the bitrates to 480p, which will put less stress on telecom networks as India goes under 21-day lockdown and people are confined to their homes. This has caused an unprecedented surge in mobile internet consumption.

The decision was taken during a e-meeting called by Uday Shankar, chairman, Star & Disney India, which was attended by top industry leaders – Sanjay Gupta (Google India), Ajit Mohan (Facebook India), Punit Goenka (Zee Entertainment Enterprises), NP Singh (Sony Pictures Networks), Sudhanshu Vats (Viacom18), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime Video), Nikhil Gandhi (Tiktok), Ambika Khurana (Netflix), Karan Bedi (MX Player) and Varun Narang (Hotstar).

Last week, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) had asked the telecom department and the home ministry to intervene and direct video streaming services to expedite steps to ease pressure on the telecom networks amid a surge in video consumption.

The telcos had called on the video streaming service providers to temporarily migrate from HD to SD streaming, and even dispense with heavy bandwidth-consuming advertisements and pop-ups to ease network load.

The COAI represents Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea.

While the joint decision was taken on Monday, majority of video streaming service providers, including YouTube, Netflix, MX Player, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Voot and ZEE5 said that they have already started taking steps aimed at using less internet capacity without compromising on quality of streaming.

YouTube said that it is reducing its default video quality to standard definition across the world.

“We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimise 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 EU. Given the global nature of this crisis, we will expand that change globally starting today,” a Google spokesperson said.

A Facebook spokesperson added that to help alleviate any potential network congestion, the social network will temporarily reduce bit rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in India. “We are committed to working with our partners to manage any bandwidth constraints during this period of heavy demand, while also ensuring people are able to remain connected using Facebook apps and services during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

The move by digital players is only for cellular networks and not for broadband.

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Written by sortiwa

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