Home working and school closures could put networks under strain

The combined impact of increased home working and the closure of schools across the UK could place a severe burden on internet infrastructure, with the EU asking the main video streaming platforms to adapt the way they deliver their service in order to help reduce the load.

Netflix has already agreed to supply its programming at a lower bitrate for a period of 30 days which it says will reduce data consumption from its service by a quarter. Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the internal market had suggested users should consider switching to standard definition when HD is not necessary.

With schools across the country closing today, mobile and broadband networks are likely to see unprecedented demand during the COVID-19 outbreak, with potentially noticeable reduction in speeds and quality of service.

Mike Osborne, non-executive chairman of business continuity specialist Databarracks, said: “When the schools close, we will have a new mix of massive home working combined with the country’s schoolchildren gaming and streaming content at the same time.”

He warns that all the work that has been done in the past few days in securing access, providing devices, and setting up collaboration apps will prove ineffective if staff are unable to connect. Telecoms service providers have already seen a massive spike in internet use across Europe in the past week, with Vodaphone reporting a 50% increase – significantly more than the company’s traditional surges around New Year’s Eve and other key public holidays.

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