Europe asks Netflix to save networks by restricting HD streams

European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton has been on the phone to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to officially request the streaming service slow down downloads.

Under the hashtag #SwitchToStandard, Breton has asked Netflix to enforce a slow down on customers who might be tempted by HD standard content. With HD content requiring 4-5X more data than SD, the threat to networks is quite apparent as more of the population are forced to stay inside and binge watch any new recommendations.

The issue being faced by the telecommunications industry is the perfect storm for network congestion.

Firstly, video consumption places much more of a strain on networks than any other type of internet traffic. These applications are incredibly data intensive, and while Netflix only requires a consistent 5 Mbps connection to function properly, the consistent streaming over sustained periods of time by millions of customers starts to add up.

Over the first half of 2019, video accounted for 58% of the total downstream volume of traffic on the internet, according to network management firm Sandvine, with Netflix accounting for 15%. Another issue which home broadband networks might face is more people connecting devices to routers.

“People are watching a bit more YouTube than normal (because it is a great source of information from a wide variety of sources) to try and figure out what is actually going on and to learn about what they should be doing,” Cam Cullen, VP of Global Marketing at Sandvine said in a blog post.

“And unlike normal, where their usage is divided between mobile networks, work, or school networks, and random wifi hotspots, it is all centred on home networks.”

With more people working from home, more devices are going to be connected to the home broadband networks as opposed to mobile, public wifi or more powerful work networks. Video conferencing will become much more popular, people skiving will have something on the TV, while kids needs to be kept busy as well. With parents attempting to work, whacking an episode of Paw Patrol or Pepper Pig on Netflix might have to suffice.

Another element to consider is the rise of online gaming, both on consoles and mobile devices, which will also be running off home broadband networks. Telecom Italia has attributed a material proportion of the 70% surge of internet traffic on its networks to increased use of games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty.

Italy, France and Spain are all countries which have gone into full lockdown mode, while it seems it will only be a matter of time before the same happens in the UK. Without the pub, clubs, cinemas, theatres or gigs to distract consumers, more will turn to the endless treasure trove of harmless comedies and rabbit hole documentaries to fill time in the evenings.

BT has already said it builds networks to deal with peak time traffic, therefore it does not foresee a problem, but what could be about to be unleashed is a monstrous amount of internet traffic as children are no-longer distracted by education or adults by alcohol.

All of the telcos are furiously working to increase capacity on networks which are potentially under threat, though whether the work can be done quick enough to mitigate the rise in traffic remains to be seen. It might not seem like a significant change but considering the popularity and increased use of streaming services over the coming weeks and months, downgrading to SD might have an impact if everyone makes an effort.