COVID-19: How are telcos dealing with the work-from-home demand for data?

While experts raise doubts, telecom providers are confident their new measures to deal with burgeoning user demands will help them tide over the coronavirus crisis

e4m by Anjali Thakur
Published: Mar 31, 2020 8:34 AM  | 4 min read

In recent weeks, did you have to endure heavy buffering while watching your favourite show on an OTT platform? Did you experience video call drops while chatting with your friends? That's the side effect of a sudden rise in data consumption across the country due to a large section of people staying at home practising self-quarantine.

People have been using facilities like video calling and streaming to beat boredom at home during the lockdown, putting pressure on the telecom services. While some believe that the current infrastructure of network providers in the country is not equipped to deal with the added pressure. Telecom providers, on the other hand, say they have adequate infrastructure to deal with the situation if asked.

The government has also come to the telecom industry's rescue. Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has asked over-the-top (OTT) platforms to lower the streaming resolution from HD to SD to lighten the burden on the networks.

In a letter to the OTT players, COAI said that during this critical time, it is absolutely essential for the streaming platforms to cooperate with TSPs to manage traffic distribution patterns which are likely to strain network infrastructure at a time when it is needed for a various critical requirement.

When asked about the situation and what strategy are they using to stay up in the game, Airtel spokesperson told us that Airtel Home Broadband customers are now upgrading to faster speeds and larger quota plans to support work from home and study for home needs.

 “Airtel has built a future-ready and highly secure network with adequate capacity to serve the evolving needs of our customers. Given our massive investments in pan India 4G presence, robust national optic fiber and global submarine cable footprint along with Data Centers, there is sufficient capacity to provide bandwidth on demand to our retail and enterprise customers,” they said. 

Vodafone Idea spokesperson stated, "At VIL, a comprehensive pandemic response plan, with requisite risk mitigation protocols, has been activated while ensuring continuity of mission-critical processes for keeping our networks working as telecom is an essential service.”

He said,“ With COVID-19 forcefully transforming the way we work, our teams continue to engage with our enterprise and government customers to explore how we can partner them better. All our enterprise services continue to be monitored through our own Network Operating Centres and operations to ensure business continuity. We are continuously monitoring the traffic pattern and are confident about handling the growing demand for voice and data services during the lockdown period.”

We asked the industry experts about how we can deal with the current issue at hand. Prashant Puri, Co-Founder & CEO, AdLift said that Telecom players in India are requesting OTT platforms like Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime to lower the quality of streaming in order to reduce the load on the network. “This will help with the current working situation and make work from home easier. At the time like this, bandwidth is better spent on video conferencing services such as Zoom, Bluejeans, Google Hangout, etc vs. streaming content platforms to better work productivity.”

IT experts are of the opinion that before the sudden rise in data consumption, the government must create more WiFI hotspots, allocate fresh spectrum resources and enable fast-track fibre rollout.

Jagdeep Kapoor, Founder Chairman, and Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants said that work requires will, skill and dil (heart or willingness). “Whether you are working from the office or working from home, these three factors are needed for good performance. All other elements -- the internet, landline, Skype, what’s app, SMS, mobile, video conference -- are just accessories, supplements, to help. The current external infrastructure is more than adequate. The current infrastructure is more than adequate if it is for use and totally inadequate if it is for an excuse,” he concluded.

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