Online video streaming services like Netflix will not provide HD content for mobile data users under India's Covid-19 lockdown (representational image) | Photo: Bloomberg
Online video streaming services like Netflix will not provide HD content for mobile data users under India's Covid-19 lockdown (representational image) | Photo: Bloomberg
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New Delhi: Mobile data users in India will stop getting high-definition content until 14 April, but broadband users will likely not be affected by the decision, according to a series of tweets put out by Prasar Bharati News Services, the digital news service of India’s public broadcaster.

With the lockdown due to Covid-19 in place until 14 April, streaming platforms and other digital content companies have decided to stop showing mobile internet users HD and Ultra HD content.

The decision, according to the Prasar Bharati tweet thread, was taken at a meeting held Tuesday by Star & Disney India chairman Uday Shankar, and attended by “senior leaders from digital industry”.

A press note issued by the office of Uday Shankar stated: “The meeting, held virtually, was attended by N.P. Singh (Sony), Sanjay Gupta (Google), Ajit Mohan (Facebook), Sudhanshu Vats (Viacom18), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime Video), Punit Goenka (Zee), Nikhil Gandhi (Tiktok), Ambika Khurana (Netflix), Karan Bedi (MX Player) and Varun Narang (Hotstar).”

Telecom companies had written to digital streaming platforms and the government on 21 March that data used by streaming platforms should be reduced to ease pressure on the telecom networks, already stressed by the surge in internet use amid social distancing and lockdown measures.

“Since around last Wednesday (18 March), overall mobile data traffic has increased by 20 per cent as compared to mobile traffic for the seven-day period ending 18 March,” Rajan Mathews, director general of telecom industry body Cellular Operators Association of India, had previously told ThePrint.

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Broadband may not be affected

The tweets by Prasar Bharati News Services only speak of the reduction in content quality for mobile internet users, and not for broadband users. This means a Netflix or Hotstar user watching content on these platforms via a home broadband connection, for example, will still be able to view content in HD and UHD if they have subscribed for it.

Mobile internet service providers like Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone-Idea (through its subsidiary YOU broadband) offer broadband internet packages in addition to mobile internet.

However, most Indians access the internet via mobile or cellular connections, not through a broadband connection. According to a June 2019 report by telecom equipment maker Ericsson, India has the world’s highest monthly mobile data usage at 9.8 gigabytes per smartphone, largely driven by watching videos that consume more data than other content.

Netflix had stated Tuesday it will reduce its data traffic in India by 25 per cent, just like it did in Europe three days before. Ken Florance, vice-president, content delivery, Netflix, had stated: “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. We believe that this will provide significant relief to congested networks and will be deploying it in India for the next 30 days.”

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