The Art of flattening the internet demand curve

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are modifying their streaming service to ease-off the pressure on telecom infrastructure. Why would they do that? And how does it work?

Why

Telecom service providers are very similar to grocery store owners. Grocery stores procure products and sell it to customers. Similarly, telecom service providers buy/lease electromagnetic spectrum bandwidth and make it available for their subscribers’ use. Your voice calling, internet connectivity happen over the spectrum band.

During a global pandemic like the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, the customer demand fluctuates a lot. You are working from home — you visit the grocery shop to buy vegetables, but they are all sold out. Similarly, if everyone uses the internet at their higher bandwidth capacity, the telecom infrastructure will break down. Nobody will be able to communicate. Without the internet, all of our lives will become meaningless.

Most of us resort to sparing use of vegetables at home during these times. But what about the internet? Video streaming accounts for more than 60% of internet traffic. As we spend more time at home, we tend to binge on our favourite sitcom, run the Prime Minister’s speech live and look for the dinner meal recipe on that YouTube channel. To better handle the demand, the video streaming sites have agreed to reduce the bit-rates of their default stream quality.

For example, YouTube’s default video quality is 720-pixel high definition. They have decided to change it to 480 standard pixel resolution. But the higher resolutions are not going away. The users will still be able to change it to 720 pixels or 1080 pixel quality if they want. You may ask, “Then how will we keep up with the demand?”

How

Do you know Google paid $12 billion in 2019 and $9 billion in 2018 to Apple, to remain as the default search engine in Safari browser? They are capitalizing on a fundamental internet consumer behaviour. Among billions of internet users, most are not tech-savvy. They tend to use what comes as the default option. Therefore, it makes sense to Google to be present at the forefront of the millions of Apple devices that run Safari as their default browser.

YouTube, Prime Video, Netflix and Facebook are all counting on this user behaviour to mitigate the surge in demand. Although some people will change the video quality, many are expected to stick to the default option. It will help telecom companies to flatten the curve of internet demand.

The internet infrastructure is a finite resource like any other commodity. During the time of pandemic, if we can make a little compromise on the quality of our video streaming — we all can survive our meaningful virtual life without break down.

Stay at home and do wash your hands often!


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