Data demand sees a 10% surge as people step up work from home over Covid-19

Indian telecom service providers have seen a 10 per cent surge in overall traffic as more and more offices switch to ‘work from home’ or people go into self-quarantine in their homes to combat the spread of

The demand for data dongles has also doubled in the last few days and many retailers are asking for a week to replenish their stocks due to the spurt in demand.

Rajan S Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, said feedback from its telecom members indicated a 10 per cent increase in traffic, but rejected fears of choked networks. “The networks have enough capacity to manage this increase and there is no reason for worry,” he said.

Telcos currently use 65-70 per cent of the network capacity. In other words, they have enough additional capacity to handle the new pressure without clogging the system, Mathews said.

Also, network usage demand is being reoriented or “flattened out”, rather like the way governments would like the curve to flatten out. For instance, demand has fallen sharply in the central business districts because offices are closed. So there is no sudden surge in demand during peak times, which can consume 90-95 per cent of the network capacity. As a result, demand is much more uniform across the city with no sudden pressure on the network.

Telcos such as Reliance Jio are also responding to demand by prepaid customers for more data capacity on their mobiles. Jio has just introduced a new tariff package for top-ups, offering double the amount of capacity at the same price. So those going for a Rs 21 top-up will now get 2GB, instead of 1GB, with 200 minutes of off-net calls.

Jio’s rival Bharti Airtel has seen a spike in its home broadband customers. “Airtel home broadband customers are now upgrading to faster speeds and larger quota plans to support working from home and studying from home,” said a company spokesman.

Broadcasting and OTT (over-the-top) are also enjoying a bonanza with both the number of viewers and new subscribers surging on their platforms.

“As far as content consumption is concerned, we have seen a spike across metros of 10 per cent for our original content and 5 per cent for our TV content via connected devices like Amazon Fire etc. Our subscription numbers are up by 10 per cent compared to the previous weekend,” said Zee5 CEO Tarun Katiyal. What’s more, the viewership of children aged between two and 14 years grew 26 per cent in GRPs.

Executives with Viacom 18-run OTT channel, Voot Select, said the uptake of subscribers who needed to pay for the platform had been 2.5 to 3 times what they had expected in this period.

Voot Select is putting a host of international content up very soon, apart from three original Hindi and five regional shows that have been shot and are ready for release. This, said Ferzad Palia, head of Voot Select, youth, music, and English entertainment, will only boost the growth of the platform.

Questions are being asked whether this spurt in demand for entertainment needs to be controlled if it goes over the top. After all, video already uses over 60-70 per cent of the networks’ bandwidth. Telcos say that, at the moment, the networks have enough capacity to handle the increase.

In Europe, though, Netflix has already decided to reduce the amount of bandwidth by 25 per cent without comprising on quality.

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