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COVID-19: Netflix, Facebookto reduce bitrate to help mitigate network congestion

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Video streaming major 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 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Netflix said it will reduce traffic on telecommunication networks by 25 per cent while maintaining the quality of service for users in India, while Facebook said it will temporarily reduce bit rates for videos on Facebook 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.

Consumption of digital content has gone up manifold as people are forced to stay indoors as almost the entire country is under lockdown to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19.

"Given the crisis, we've developed a way to reduce Netflix's traffic on telecommunications networks by 25 per cent while also maintaining the quality of our service. So consumers should continue to get the quality that comes with their plan - whether it's Ultra-High, High or Standard Definition," Netflix VP Content Delivery Ken Florance said in an emailed statement.

He added this will provide significant relief to congested networks, and the measure will be deployed in India for the next 30 days.

A Facebook spokesperson said, "To help alleviate any potential network congestion, we 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 added.

Both Netflix and Facebook have already undertaken similar measures in Europe.

Recently, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had written to the government urging issuance of 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.

Netflix - which has over 167 million subscribers globally - typically has many different streams for a single title within each resolution. This action would result in removal of the highest bandwidth streams, and so, subscribers will continue to have access to the service they have paid for (Ultra-High Definition, High Definition or Standard Definition) depending on the device they use.

In India, Netflix has a significant number of subscribers on the Mobile Plan which is Standard Definition.

Netflix's rival, Amazon Prime Video on Monday said it has begun efforts to reduce streaming bitrates in India.

Bitrate usually determines the size and quality of video and audio files. Higher bitrate indicates better quality.

A Hotstar spokesperson had said the company's video streaming is based on adaptive bitrate streaming, which ensures that it is "lean" in the internet consumption. However, the company said it is "prepared to reduce the bitrate for our HD streams, should the need arise".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, March 24 2020. 17:08 IST