Faced with surge in NBN loads, Australian govt asks content companies to impose limits.

Robert Clark, Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

March 20, 2020

2 Min Read
Australian government asks streaming companies to throttle NBN traffic

The Australian government has asked content companies to find ways to throttle their traffic to prevent the NBN from being overwhelmed by a surge in work-from-home demand.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has written to companies including Netflix, local streaming service Stan and gaming firms asking what they could do to reduce the load on the NBN, Guardian Australia reported Friday.

Following a meeting with network operators on Monday, Fletcher wrote to several companies, including Netflix, local streaming service Stan and gaming firms, asking what they could do to reduce the load on the NBN, Guardian Australia reported Friday.

The ability of the much-derided national wholesale broadband network to accommodate the huge wave in additional demand has attracted some inevitable critical attention this week. (See After ten years and $34B, Australia's NBN falls short.)

Analysts note that another source of additional data is the biggest telco, Telstra, lifting all its data caps for its home and small business customers.

NBN Co said data traffic on the network had jumped 5-6% in recent days but it had not experienced any congestion.

It said network engineers were analyzing the data consumption patterns in other countries that had adopted work-from-home rules.

Fletcher said Italy had experienced a 26% increase in fixed-line peak-hour traffic as a result of people working from home. He said NBN Co was experienced in managing periods of high traffic and was confident it could manage the additional data loads in line with patterns seen elsewhere.

For more fixed broadband market coverage and insights, check out our dedicated broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

But the NBN will be more fully tested next week when the additional free capacity offered to retail service providers becomes available.

From Monday NBN Co will allow retail customers to access up to 40% more capacity on the network without charge for three months.

"This is equivalent to the higher end of increased data bandwidth requirements that we have seen in countries such as Italy, which have mandated work-from-home arrangements," NBN Co said.

In a TV interview earlier this week, Telstra CEO Andy Penn said the additional strain on networks "is an issue, but we are working together with the industry and with the NBN to increase capacity and try and mitigate the impact."

He said the industry view was that those working at home would consume most of their data during the day and not the evening peak.

But Australia is not the only country seeking cooperation from streaming companies to ease network loads.

In an agreement just clinched with the EU, Netflix has committed to reducing the bitrate for its 51 million European subscribers by 25%.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech (http://www.electricspeech.com). 

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