Wednesday, 08 April 2020

EU seeks to curb streaming services as networks struggle with work from home

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Thursday 19 March 20

With millions working remotely due to the coronavirus, special measures are needed to keep networks functioning smoothly

The huge number of people working from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has sent internet traffic skyrocketing, with some operators struggling to cope.    Operators such as BT and Deutsche Telekom, have notably said that their networks can cope with the additional stress, but many are concerned about spiking daytime traffic.    Earlier this week, EE, O2, Vodafone, and Tesco Mobile encountered a minor hiccup…

The huge number of people working from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has sent internet traffic skyrocketing, with some operators struggling to cope. 
 
Operators such as BT and Deutsche Telekom, have notably said that their networks can cope with the additional stress, but many are concerned about spiking daytime traffic. 
 
Earlier this week, EE, O2, Vodafone, and Tesco Mobile encountered a minor hiccup, with their networks going down temporarily, though this was blamed on “interconnect issues” rather than a result of the additional traffic per se. Meanwhile, in Spain, the local operators have been asking consumers to adhere to best practise including reserving leisure usage for off-peak hours; and in Italy 
 
Now, the EU is urging the CEO’s of streaming services like YouTube and Netflix to take measures to ensure steady connectivity. They asked that the companies consider only providing standard definition, rather than high-definition, to help minimise the data consumption. 
 
Thierry Breton, European commissioner for internal market and services, said streaming companies and network operators must work together to tackle spiking internet demand, saying they have a “joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet.”
 
These measures are all simply advisory, however, since internet neutrality laws prevent telecoms operators from throttling entertainment services. 
 
Netflix has been somewhat responsive to this suggestion, without fully committing to reducing the quality of its service, instead highlighting the measures it already has in place to make its usage efficient for the network.
 
“Commissioner Breton is right to highlight the importance of ensuring that the internet continues to run smoothly during this critical time,” said company. “We’ve been focused on network efficiency for many years, including providing our open connect service for free to telecommunications companies.”
 
It is not just streaming services that are being asked to help alleviate the network burden; gaming services are being asked to coordinate with operators, especially in preparation for online industry events, such as e-sports tournaments and new video game releases, which will produce a fresh boom in traffic. 
 
With the UK scheduled to close schools on Friday, as many countries have already done, the amount of children at home and logging on to play video games will bring a second wave of strain to the networks.
 
Emergency measures are being taken outside of Europe too. Yesterday saw the Federal Communications Commission temporarily grant Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular additional spectrum to meet with increased demand. Additional plans are in place by the various companies, from removing data caps so that customers will not be charged for going over their data limit, to introducing roll-in cell towers typically reserved for use during natural disasters. 
 
 
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