As India works from home, telcos struggle to maintain speeds and service

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Any given day, a typical home in India during the lockdown there are three sets of heavy internet users -- at least two adults connecting to office servers on cloud; children even as young as five attending ‘remote’ classes online and then there are those who are relatively jobeless - mostly teenagers - live streaming shows and songs.

While their troubles are not as deep as that of medical staff, even internet service providers are struggling to keep up with the excess demand. While a fairly decent broadband connection can handle most of this traffic, few Indians care to subscribe for fixed broadband as they continue to rely on mobile internet. Now, they are stumped.

Internet speeds might not last say experts

In fact only 19 million homes have fixed broadband connection as compared to over 630 million who have 4G/3G users. This lopsided ratio is now hurting telcos.

While broadband companies across the country reported an increase in the demand for new installations thanks to many offers by BSNL and others. But they might be too little too late. The current lockdown and possible curfews will prevent any new installations right away.

However, Indian telcos remained resilient in times of stress and maintained download speeds, according to Ookla’s Speed Test index. This might not last for long as India entered into a complete lockdown only today, say experts .

Internet usage increased by 10%

According to a report by the Bank of America Securities, there has been a 10% increase in internet usage. A lot of companies asked their employees to work from home due to Coronavirus.

That includes large companies like Infosys and TCS that employ over 4 million. A direct impact of people ‘working from home’ is the need to connect to a virtual private network (VPN) to access office apps.

Given the way VPN works, there is a noticeable degradation in speeds. This, combined with the already congested 4G networks and reduced speeds means that the overall experience can be frustrating.

IT as an essential service

In the meanwhile, global giants like UBS Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG and more are working with trade bodies like Nasscom to convince the government to grant essential services tag to IT companies. This will allow some of their employees to go to office and access databases with reliable high-speed internet.

Keshav Murugesh, in an interview with ET said, “Moving millions of desktops to employees’ homes, configuring software to allow for slower bandwidth and ensuring cybersecurity - it’s a mind-boggling physical and logistical exercise that our companies are in the midst of right now.”

Netflix, Amazon Prime movie to reduce telco stress

While work needs to go on, the telecom industry body (COAI) urged the streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, YouTube and others to initiate measures that will ease pressure on their networks. And, they have complied.

“Given the crisis, we've developed a way to reduce Netflix's traffic on telecom networks by 25 percent while also maintaining the quality of our service,” Netflix’s VP (Content Delivery) Ken Florance said, according to a PTI report.

Amazon Prime Video said that it is working to “reduce streaming bitrates whilst maintaining a quality streaming experience for the customers.”

See also:

India goes into a complete lockdown in 30 states and union territories

India can double coronavirus test kits to 200,000 in a week, thanks to Pune-based Mylabs
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