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Home / News / India /  Covid-19 lockdown: Download speed hit as work from home strains networks

MUMBAI: India fell two notches month-on-month to 130 on the Ookla Speedtest Index in March as work from home saw an increase, given the countrywide 21-day lockdown, straining networks.

India also dropped two spots on fixed broadband to rank 71 globally, while mean mobile download speed fell to 10.15 Mbps in March from 11.83 Mbps in February.

Mean download speeds on fixed broadband declined to 35.98 Mbps in the reporting month from 39.65 Mbps a month ago. The mean fixed broadband speed in India has been declining since the beginning of 2020 - from 41.48 Mbps in January to 35.98 Mbps in March.

"When networks are under usage strain, like they are in this unprecedented time of lockdown in India due to covid-19, it is natural that they experience some level of slowdown," said Doug Suttles, chief executive of Ookla. "It is important to note that while the internet itself should handle elevated usage, there may be impacts to speed as people continue to move their daily activities increasingly online. While the core of the internet remains stable, some internet service provider networks may struggle to keep up."

From an infrastructure perspective, there has been a shift in the network load from enterprise connections to residential connections but government and private companies have differed on the extent of increase in the network load since the lockdown was initiated.

While officials from the department of telecom (DoT ) have spoken about a 10% increase in network usage, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has estimated an almost 20% increase.

India has over 630 million mobile (3G/4G) users compared to around 19 million fixed broadband users, indicating that a large part of the work-from-home pressure will be on mobile networks.

According to Ookla, internet speeds on both mobile and fixed networks in China took a dive during the peak of the outbreak in the country.

In a relief of sorts, many video streaming platforms have lowered the quality of their feed to reduce pressure on the networks.

Businesses where employees have been forced to work from home are in discussions with internet service providers (ISPs) to understand if some load distribution can be reconfigured from the enterprise side towards residential areas.

Earlier this week, COAI had written to Do) to clear 20,000 crore worth of dues pending public sector units such as BSNL and MTNL.

COAI represents Nokia, Huawei, Ericsson, ZTE, Sterlite technologies Limited (STL), Indus, Cisco, Juniper, Qualcomm, Apple, Ciena, ECI, Facebook, Google, Amazon and ACT among others who are supporting critical essential infrastructure and network services.

"The situation has become highly critical now with total outstanding dues from these PSUs amounting to approximately 20,000 crore which is pending since long. This is adding to critical financial woes to our members companies who are facing serious constraints in terms of cash flows due to slowing economic activities in the current situation," COAI had said.

The pandemic has hit global supply chains, demand and supply, and most importantly cash flows of companies, with slowing economic activities impacting payments including those meant for employees, interest, loan repayments and taxes.

Representing private telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, COAI has also requested for refund of unutilized input tax credits, low cost funding, rationalization of levies and a reduction in spectrum usage charges, among others.

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