wordpress blog stats
Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

, , ,

In spite of low traffic spike, Netflix and YouTube suppress video quality on Indian fixed line networks

In spite of the fact that the spike in internet traffic has been lower than expected over the COVID-19 lockdown in India, Netflix and YouTube continue to suppress video quality even on fixed line networks. We found that YouTube does not allow for streaming higher than a resolution of 480p on mobile devices, even when connected to WiFi (85% of Indians access YouTube on mobile). Similarly, Netflix does not stream its highest available bitrate for any title. Patriot Act, for instance, maxes out at 2.9Mbps for 1080p, but goes all the way up to 5.6Mbps in the US. These restrictions are being rolled back in Europe, a continent with much more data use per citizen than India. We have reached out to Netflix and YouTube to find out why these restrictions continue even on fixed line networks. These restrictions first started across streaming services when the COVID-19 lockdown started in India. We are unable to determine the situation for other streaming services because they provide less transparency into their streaming bitrates.

Do wireless networks need lower video bitrates in the first place?

To be clear, these restrictions are not necessarily needed today even on mobile networks. Telecom association COAI director general Rajan Mathews told us that the average spike in data use has mostly been 12–15%. Let’s assume that this growth would have been double that with video bitrates at previous levels. Even so, it’s astonishing that telecom networks, essential services from the very beginning of the lockdown, are unable to handle this kind of increase in traffic, or are unwilling to let streaming videos use a little more bandwidth for whatever reason. Two months into the lockdown, telecom operators have been receiving praise for keeping networks up, but not nearly enough criticism for intransparent measures of unclear efficacy like reducing streaming quality across all streaming services.

If telecom operators can handle this surge, wireline operators with capped data plans certainly can too. A senior source at a leading fixed broadband provider told MediaNama that they never asked for bitrate limitations from streaming providers, and weren’t even aware that they were in place until we asked them. In the absence of valid reasons to uniformly sacrifice video quality several months into a lockdown, all we can point to as the culprit is politics. The telecom secretary personally called up streaming services at COAI’s urging to get them to reduce streaming quality, Mathews had revealed in a webinar I attended.

The end result is streaming services are too timid to cross industry and government to give even a few of their Indian customers the experience they paid for, at a time when most of us are stuck at home. Degraded video streaming, by the way, is a classic Net Neutrality doomsday scenario, where ISPs restrict video quality from companies like Netflix to advance their own agenda — like when Comcast slowed down Netflix traffic in the US until the company coughed up some payments, or when the company also “reluctantly” paid AT&T and Time Warner for the same thing. Here, a similar thing seems to have happened, except the streaming services are unquestioningly participating, and nobody is benefiting, least of all the consumer.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.
Written By

I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



Looking at the definition of health data, it is difficult to verify whether health IDs are covered by the Bill.


The accession to the Convention brings many advantages, but it could complicate the Brazilian stance at the BRICS and UN levels.


In light of the state's emerging digital healthcare apparatus, how does Clause 12 alter the consent and purpose limitation model?


The collective implication of leaving out ‘proportionality’ from Clause 12 is to provide very wide discretionary powers to the state.


The latest draft is also problematic for companies or service providers that have nothing to with children's data.

You May Also Like


Google has released a Google Travel Trends Report which states that branded budget hotel search queries grew 179% year over year (YOY) in India, in...


135 job openings in over 60 companies are listed at our free Digital and Mobile Job Board: If you’re looking for a job, or...


Rajesh Kumar* doesn’t have many enemies in life. But, Uber, for which he drives a cab everyday, is starting to look like one, he...


By Aroon Deep and Aditya Chunduru You’re reading it here first: Twitter has complied with government requests to censor 52 tweets that mostly criticised...

MediaNama is the premier source of information and analysis on Technology Policy in India. More about MediaNama, and contact information, here.

© 2008-2021 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ

Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide

© 2008-2021 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ