YouTube, Amazon scale back output resolution to ease network congestion | Infrastructure | News | Rapid TV News
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Two more online video giants, YouTube and Amazon have agreed to a temporary cut-back in the quality of their services to lessen the load on Europe’s residential networks which are seeing unprecedented usage as millions work at home in order to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus.
YouTube AmazonFIresTV 10July2019
On 18 March European Commissioner for internal markets Thierry Breton contacted Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to ask for the subscription video-on-demand service to end broadcasting content in high-definitionbroadcasting content in high-definition and switch to the substantially less network-intensive SD so as to assist the millions of additional workers who have been forced to use home networks and use collaboration and teleworking tools in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Explaining the purpose of his actions, Commissioner Breton said that to secure Internet access for all, it was necessary to switch to standard definition Internet when HD was not necessary.

The SVOD leader subsequently agreed to the appeal and has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all streams in Europe for 30 days, a move it says will reduce its traffic on European networks by around 25% while still also ensuring a good quality service.

Only hours later, rivals Amazon and YouTube have followed suit. Following a meeting between YouTube owner Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki, and Commissioner Breton the online video juggernaut said that it was making a commitment to default temporarily all traffic in the EU to standard definition. The commissioner commented: “I warmly welcome the warmly the initiative that Google is taking to preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the Covid-19 crisis by having YouTube switch all traffic to SD by default.” The decision also applies to the UK which officially left the European Union on 31 January 2020.

Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, a YouTube spokesperson said: “People are coming to YouTube to find authoritative news, learning content and make connections during these uncertain times. While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity. We will continue working with member state governments and network operators to minimise stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience.”

In a statement outlining its position and its move to make similar limitations, Amazon said: “Prime Video is working with local authorities and Internet Service Providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion, including in Europe where we’ve already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates whilst maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers.”

The issue of strategies to maintain smooth working of home networks given the added masses of users has been a matter of some debate over the last couple of days. Extreme Networks CTO, Eric Broockman said asking Netflix to reduce its streaming rates merely alleviates the symptoms of a more fundamental problem, instead of tackling its roots, especially as a lot of other streaming, video conferencing and cloud services will continue to put unusually high volumes of data across networks. Indeed Broockman said that Extreme had monitored that some of the networks it worked with had seen an increase of up to 25% in traffic over the last few weeks, in some cases that translates to an additional 1.5 TB of data that is being transmitted each second.

“In an ideal world, network operators would obviously upgrade their infrastructure and invest in cloud-based solutions to make their networks as agile, resilient and flexible as possible,” he added. “However, the reality is that this is a race against time for network operators that need to find a solution to this problem now, rather than in a few months or years down the line. So, in the short term, what network operators could do to reduce the pressure on their networks and ensure connectivity for all is to deprioritise non-essential traffic coming from applications such as online gaming. This would then free up bandwidth for essential services, including voice and video traffic, and ease the pressure on the network without impacting service levels too much.”

Showing this problem clearly, communications provider Verizon released data on 18 March showing that it was games rather than streaming video that had shown the greatest increase on its networks. The provider said that while video such as Netflix has seen a 12% week-on-week increase, gaming had spiked by 75%.