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Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, other platforms suspend HD streaming on cellular networks in India

Digital players have also decided to lower the bitrates to 480p, to reduce less stress on telecom networks, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement for India to go under a 21-day lockdown

All the Indian OTT platforms, including the big players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and others have decided to act in the wake of the 21-day lockdown in the country, and restrict streaming on cellular networks to only SD (standard definition) content until April 14.

High definition (HD) as well as ultra-HD shall both be suspended effective immediately, and the bitrates shall also be lowered to 480p. This measure has been taken to counter the unprecedented surge in mobile internet consumption as India prepares to spend three weeks at home in self-isolation, to battle the coronavirus spread.

However, this move by the digital players is only for cellular networks and not for broadband.

According to a press release, the decision was taken during a virtual meeting organised by Uday Shankar, chairman, Star & Disney India, which was attended by top industry leaders: Sanjay Gupta (Google India), Ajit Mohan (Facebook India), Punit Goenka (Zee Entertainment Enterprises), NP Singh (Sony Pictures Networks), Sudhanshu Vats (Viacom18), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime Video), Nikhil Gandhi (Tiktok), Ambika Khurana (Netflix), Karan Bedi (MX Player) and Varun Narang (Hotstar).

“The government and the telecom operators are concerned about the total lockdown’s potential impact on the cellular network infrastructure. The digital industry is acutely aware of this challenge, and is committed to ensuring that all citizens are able to access mobile networks whenever and wherever they want,” read the statement.

Earlier last week, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), that represents Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea, had reached out to 12 video streaming platforms to implement measures such as reducing video quality. They had also written separately to the Department of Telecom on the same.

A lot of the streaming service providers, including YouTube, Netflix, MX Player, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Voot and ZEE5 have already announced that they have started taking steps to reduce strain on the Internet works.

Google-owned YouTube had also said in a statement earlier, that it is reducing its default video quality to standard definition across the world.

“We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson added, “Last week, we announced that we were temporarily defaulting all videos on YouTube to standard definition in the EU. Given the global nature of this crisis, we will expand that change globally starting today.”

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