BEREC sets up European monitoring system as tech giants downgrade downloads

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has set up a networking monitoring mechanism as Netflix and YouTube reduce streaming quality.

Jamie Davies

March 20, 2020

3 Min Read
Europe Network

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has set up a networking monitoring mechanism as Netflix and YouTube reduce streaming quality.

Although these are precautionary measures for the moment, networks around Europe seem to be standing up to the strain, it is a logical step forward as the COVID-19 outbreak forces more adults and children to stay at home. BEREC will set-up and manage a bloc-wide mechanism which will monitor the evolution of traffic and user experience.

“BEREC is in the process of establishing a special reporting mechanism and we will clarify how this will work in further communication,” said BEREC Chair Dan Sjöblom.

“We expect this work to be ready soon, as we are not looking to build a completely new monitoring structure, but rather strengthening already existing mechanism for information sharing among National Regulatory Authorities.”

With offices and schools closing across the continent, home broadband networks may start to feel the strain simply because this is a greater concentration of traffic. Video conferencing is on the up, Microsoft recently said it had acquired an additional 12 million users for its Teams collaboration software, while children will either be taking advantage of distance learning or entertaining themselves. Netflix or gaming could prove to be popular avenues.

Some welcome news for the industry will be from Silicon Valley where both Netflix and Google’s YouTube have agreed to downgrade speeds for customers. Considering the intensity of these applications on networks, this will aid the telcos maintain experience for customers.

“We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” YouTube said in a statement.

“Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings – and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus – Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days. We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” a Netflix spokesperson said.

The call for assistance, to downgrade downloads from High-definition to Standard-definition, came from EU Commissioner Thierry Breton as a precautionary measure. Generally, HD streaming consumes 4-5X as much data as SD.

Although networks are standing up to the test for the moment, the longer the outbreak forces adults and children to stay at home, the greater the risk of something going wrong. The telcos are dutifully responding to the call to arms today, though there are some aggressive surges in internet traffic across the bloc.

In Italy, Telecom Italia CEO Luigi Gubitosi said internet traffic across the network in effected areas was up 70% partly thanks to gaming applications such as Fortnite and Call of Duty. Vodafone has said traffic has increased 30% in the UK, though a full lockdown is not in force, and it has seen surges of 50% in other European markets.

With UK seemingly on the verge of a full-scale lockdown, Italy has already announced an extension, France and Spain in the early days of their own, Austria’s hotspot region Tyrol under lock and key, while Slovenia will ban socialising in public spaces from today, the real tests of the networks are in the near future. Downgrading video traffic from HD to SD might not sound significant, but every little helps as the telcos admirably scrap to keep the digital economy flowing smoothly.

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