Indian telecom service providers have seen a 10 per cent surge in overall traffic, driven largely by the near lock down that has forced people to work from home as the country in battles Covid-19, and strives to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The demand for data dongles has also doubled during the past few days and many retailers are asking for a week's time to replenish their stocks.
Bharti Airtel on Monday asked Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd join hands and pave the way for intra-circle roaming (ICR) pacts to ensure uninterrupted mobile and wireless internet services amid the surge in data consumption.
In a letter to all the companies, Airtel said the world was witnessing an unprecedented situation and all efforts were being made on the ground by the government to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Broadcasting and OTT (over-the-top) companies are enjoying a bonanza with both, the number of viewers and new subscribers surging on their platforms.
There has been a clear spike in viewership across several over-the-top (OTT) platforms in the past few days. Most platforms have had a 20 per cent rise in viewership, especially in metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Now, people have more time to spend watching video content online. “The usual watch time in the mornings used to be while travelling, and therefore on phones. Now, we are witnessing a surge in content being watched on television,” said a senior official of an Indian OTT platform.
Zee5, for example, has seen a significant jump in the consumption on connected devices, its spokesperson said.
But the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has asked the Centre to instruct the over-the-top (OTT) players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Zee5 to ease the pressure that has arisen on network infrastructure from the increased demand for online video streaming.
Why has demand surged?
It is because of the coronavirus lock down, more people working from home, more digital payments, more healthcare and education services moving online, and quarantine measures.
The COAI has urged companies to take urgent steps. One is temporarily switching from high definition to standard definition streaming. Another is removing advertisements and pop ups that consume high bandwidth and replacing them with public announcements on awareness about the coronavirus.
Rajan S Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, said feedback from its telecom members indicated a 10 per cent increase in traffic, but rejected fears of choked networks.
Well, Telcos currently use 65-70 per cent of the network capacity. In other words, they have enough additional capacity to handle the new pressure without clogging the system, Mathews said.
Demand has fallen sharply in the central business districts because offices are closed. So there is no sudden surge in demand during peak times, which can consume 90-95 per cent of the network capacity. As a result, demand is much more uniform across the city with no sudden pressure on the network.
Now, how telecoms are responding to the demand and encouraging more people to work from home?
Reliance Jio has just introduced a new tariff package for top-ups, offering double the amount of capacity at the same price. So those going for a Rs 21 top-up will now get 2GB, instead of 1GB, with 200 minutes of off-net calls.
State-run telecom firm BSNL on Friday announced free broadband service for its landline and new customers for a month to support 'work from home' allowed by most organisations amid the coronavirus outbreak.
ACT Fibernet too came up with a plan that offers unlimited data at a speed of 300Mbps until March 31, 2020.
Following the trend, Reliance Jio also introduced a work from the home plan at Rs 251 for all its users who are working from home.The Reliance Jio Work From Home plan at Rs 251 offers 2GB data every day and it is valid for 51 days. However, the plan solely provides internet benefits and doesn’t include any calling or SMS benefits.
Jio’s rival Bharti Airtel has seen a spike in its home broadband customers. “Airtel home broadband customers are now upgrading to faster speeds and larger quota plans to support working from home and studying from home,” said a company spokesman.