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Netflix to adjust video quality as COVID-19 quarantine kicks up internet usage

/ 05:20 PM March 25, 2020

Streaming giant Netflix will place caps on video quality in the Philippines for 30 days on concerns that telco networks in the country will become overloaded as millions of Filipinos are forced indoors during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Netflix was responding to a March 20, 2020 request from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

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The caps will be implemented over several days.

“Given the crisis, we’ve developed a way to reduce Netflix’s traffic on telecommunications networks by 25 percent while also maintaining the quality of our service,” said Ken Florance, Netflix vice president for content delivery.

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Netlix, known for its vast library of movies and TV shows, maintained that customers will continue to get the quality that comes with their plans, whether ultra-high, high or standard definition.

The caps will be placed on the maximum quality available per stream or what it called the highest bandwidth streams.

Asked to elaborate, Netlflix pointed to a statement where it said users “may notice a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution.”

“The measure will help free-up bandwidth as the increased demand by subscribers may risk overloading network capacity during the quarantine period,” the NTC said.

“Data consumption is expected to surge due to the work from home arrangements as well as increased government, private and education demands,” it added.

Regulators around the world are seeking similar caps as people are advised to stay at home to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

Netflix had implemented similar measures in markets such as Europe and Australia.

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Youtube, a video streaming giant owned by Google, also reduced the quality of videos globally. Internet videos use up large amounts of bandwidth due to the size of the files involved.

“Obviously we have seen all streaming traffic going up because everyone is home, whether for entertainment, video conferencing, education and other uses,” Globe chief technology and information officer Gil Genio said in a text message on Thursday.

“It will certainly help if there is reasonable use of the network so that as many people as possible can use the network,” he said.

“So far we have seen a rise in our mobile data as well as hone wireless broadband traffic, residential much more than [central business districts],” he added.

The move comes a week after the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO) warned that their networks could become “strained quickly” as data usage surges higher.

To alleviate the pressure on their networks, PCTO advised users to stream entertainment content during off-peak hours.

Moreover, users were told to limit downloads to urgent documents and to use sharing services to transfer large digital files instead of email attachments.

They also requested those with landlines to use wired services instead of mobile devices to decongest call traffic.

The NTC’s request to Netflix, however, suggested such measures were not enough.

PLDT Inc. spokesman Ramon Isberto said the company’s network capacity was currently sufficient while it continues upgrades.

“We are adding capacity for both international links and domestic transmission,” Isberto said.

Netflix’s usage likely increased after it slashed subscription prices to as low as P149 per month.

According to Netflix, Filipinos spend an average of 3.3 hours per day watching online content on mobile devices.

This is twice the global average, it said.

The Philippines is fertile ground for streaming companies given the time Filipinos spend online.

According to Digital 2020 report by We Are Social, Filipinos spend five hours and 11 minutes on mobile internet per day—more than any other country in the world.

The same report said that 69 percent of Filipino internet users spent time watching TV content online, higher than the global average of 67 percent.

Edited by TSB

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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